Jordan’s Queen Rania Al Abdullah was offered a chance to express horror at the October 7 Hamas killing and abduction of Israelis.
How did she feel, she was asked in a CNN interview, “as an Arab, as a Palestinian, a human being, a mother?”
The monarch launched into an impassioned denunciation of Israel’s subsequent bombing of Gaza and the West’s “double standard”, juxtaposing what happened in southern Israel with what is occurring in Gaza.
“Are we being told it is wrong to kill an entire family at gunpoint, but it’s OK to shell them to death?”
The interview, greeted with fury in Israel, is part of a growing disconnect between how the Jewish state views the conflict and how it is seen by the rest of the Middle East and many further afield.
Where Israel sees a fight against terror others see occupation and brutality
Inside Israel, a powerful sense of foreboding was evidenced by a new poll showing 64 percent of Israelis now fear for their physical safety. Hamas continues to fire rockets and missiles into the country every day while militants try to sneak in via land or sea. Security officials believe some of those who entered on Oct. 7 may be in hiding in preparation for a second attack. Outside of Israel, many see things differently. On Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said of the Hamas killings that they “did not happen in a vacuum.” He then added, “The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.”
Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, was so outraged at the notion that Hamas’ violence needed this context that he called on Guterres to resign. The sentiment wasn’t limited to those on the right of Israeli politics. “Dark are the days when the United Nations secretary-general condones terror,” opposition leader Benny Gantz posted to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Germany, which has been quick to show its support to Israel in the days since the Oct. 7 attacks, made a point of rejecting its ally’s demand. “The U.N. secretary general has of course the trust of the German government,” said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit in Berlin.
A new poll shows 64 percent of Israelis now fear for their physical safety. Hamas continues to fire rockets and missiles into the country every day while militants try to sneak in via land or sea.
Israelis don’t deny that the events of October 7 — when 1,400 were killed and another 200 people abducted — require context. But for them, that context is not the mistreatment of Palestinians. They see the attack by Hamas as an extension of anti-Semitic assaults through the centuries.
The Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem, known as Yad Vashem, issued a statement in response to Guterres, saying Oct. 7 was different from the Holocaust only, “because Jews have today a state and an army. We are not defenseless and at the mercy of others. However, it puts to test the sincerity of world leaders, intellectuals and influencers who come to Yad Vashem and pledge ‘Never Again.'”
There has been a parade of Western leaders through Tel Aviv offering solidarity and support. This follows a visit by President Biden, who came offering billions in military aid and referred to painful Jewish history.
After that visit, Israelis felt understood. They believed that their plan to destroy Hamas would gain world sympathy as they publicized gruesome videos the killers themselves took of slaughter and abuse.
As Israeli fighter jets took to the skies over Gaza and bombarded it, killing thousands, that sympathy has come with qualifications they did not expect.
On Wednesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan canceled a visit to Israel that was meant to take place later this year and added, “Hamas isn’t a terror organization, but is instead a group of liberators and mujahideen defending their land and people. We will never allow for the killing of children.” Turkey also paused plans for energy cooperation with Israel.
Elsewhere in the Muslim world, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said that no Muslim leader expects the events in Gaza to be resolved easily. Why? “Israel has become too arrogant with the support of the U.S. and Europe,” he said. “It is the level of insanity to allow people to be butchered, babies to be killed, hospitals to be bombed and schools to be destroyed. It is the height of barbarism in this world.”
Israel refers to Hamas as the new ISIS and has vowed to destroy the militant group, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union.
“Saying that Hamas is the new ISIS is not only analytically inaccurate, but also carries the risk of making all residents of Gaza vulnerable targets,” said Lina Khatib, the director of the SOAS Middle East Institute in London. “Arabs and Muslims are widely rejecting this simplistic and dangerous characterization.”
Many world leaders are calling for a ceasefire that would allow for more aid to get into Gaza, although some describe it as a “humanitarian pause.” On Tuesday, eight trucks got in, followed by another 17 on Wednesday, according to Israeli officials, who said every truck was checked by their officers to make sure nothing was going in to help Hamas.
The aid that’s arrived so far is “a drop in the ocean,” said Tommaso Della Longa, spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, earlier this week.
In Israel, as concerns grow that Hezbollah may enter the war from Lebanon to its north, some speak of leaving for the U.S. or Europe, at least for a period. But others say the anti-Israeli demonstrations across Western cities make them feel even less safe abroad than at home.
This is a fight, many say, for the Jewish homeland, a second war of independence. But what that will create internally remains unclear. Gun license applications, officials report, are poised to triple.
Rachel Goldberg-Polin, whose son Hersh was taken captive by Hamas at a music festival, spoke at the U.N. and asked why there wasn’t more agitation over the abducted.
“Where is the world?” she said in anguish. “Where are you?”
– Bloomberg. Edited for style.