‘Belfast Newsletter’ – Today’s Editorial

Here is the ‘Editorial’ from today’s ‘Belfast Newsletter’.

I believe it is worth a read!

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Ivan Foster

Ben Lowry: Sinn Fein ambivalence about Hamas and its refusal to condemn the terror group does not make the return of Stormont any easier

People round the world who have been troubled by the Hamas mass assault on Israel will have had their own most upsetting moments.

By Ben Lowry

Published 14th Oct 2023, 04:42 BST
Updated 14th Oct 2023, 11:55 BST

SF could have said it had sympathy for the circumstances that gave rise to Hamas but contempt for what it did

It might have been the news about slaughtered Jewish babies. It might have been the young Israeli woman, bundled out of the back of a Hamas vehicle on her arrival in Gaza, then being pulled by her hair into the front of the vehicle, her trousers soiled with apparent blood, seemingly dazed by an unfolding nightmare.It might have been the glimpse of other kidnapped women, briefly seen inside a car surrounded by screaming Islamic fanatics, also looking delirious with fear. Those going to Gaza face probable torture and/or death.

It might have been the young Israeli woman screaming in fear, being held down on a motorbike towards captivity in Gaza, as a her desolate boyfriend is led off on foot by young men.

Dancers at Nova music festival, above left, at dawn in Israel on October 7 2023, at around 645am, just as gliders with Hamas terrorists were gliding in, barely visible behind as dots in the sky. The man on the right was captured on a car dashboard hunting for more victims to kill hours later, around 930am.

Or it might have been one of the more subtle moments of horror, when you see tense Israelis drained in fear in their homes as they are carefully grilled by Hamas about the whereabouts of their family.

Perhaps the moment that has had most impact on me is the Nova music festival, where almost 300 bodies of murdered young people have been found. It encapsulates so much of the horror of that day, which Jews are calling their worst since the end of the Nazi terror in 1945.

You can see above stills from videos of the festival, held in southern Israel, within about four miles of the border with Gaza. The person who took the footage on the left ranged around the young people dancing, at dawn at around 640am, as the ‘party for peace’ was ending. The video maker then seemed to notice moving dots in the sky. It was Hamas killers coming in on gliders.

Shortly after that clip there is another piece of film which shows police urgently trying to move the dancers, realising that something is badly wrong. They can’t easily get the young folk to move, and you can see a happy young woman, languidly waving to her friends to follow.

Within minutes the Hamas killers were shooting at the festival goers, sending them fleeing across the desert. There is footage of burnt out cars of festival goers, as the escapees were attacked, and reports of people hiding in the woods.

Some internet researchers have pieced together bits of film of the Nova massacre from sources including phones, drones and the dashboard cameras in abandoned cars. It transpires that Hamas were roaming around the site looking for people to kill, or taking money and personal possessions off corpses, six hours after the attack began. The image above right shows a gunman at 930am, hunting for more prey. And dashcam films show they were still there three hours after that.

We know from reports of Nazi and other mass shootings in history that some people escape being killed by falling down and playing dead. Imagine lying at Nova still amidst dead bodies (there were piles of them in parts of the site), no doubt hoping that the killers would move on, and that the Israeli forces would be there soon, in a country normally so adept in its security. Anyone who did that would have had to lie still for six or more hours, presumably turning over in their head every eventuality and hoping that the killers would not set fire to the music festival tents or move between bodies shooting them to be sure. When I first heard of the Hamas raids on Saturday I assumed they would have been brought under control within a couple of hours. In fact it was Monday before order was restored in all locations.

This weekend was an outworking of the stated Hamas to wipe Israel off the map and remove Jews from the region, if need be by genocide. It is one of the worst moments in European history in decades. Everything has changed for Israel and its sense of its own vulnerability.

As it happens I don’t like the Irish republican view of the Middle East is ugly and they don’t like the views of supporters of Israel such as me. There is no space in this column to debate the merits of de-merits of Israel, which I think a state that is a living manifestation of the Jewish genius, surrounded by semi failed states which have medieval attitudes to social issues.

Sinn Fein, indeed most of nationalist Ireland, has a pro Palestinian view of the region. The Republic of Ireland is one of the most unfriendly states towards Israel in the EU. But SF has gone further, and some of its leaders have met Hamas.

It is what happened since Saturday that has been telling. Some intelligence experts have said they badly misread Hamas, that for all its fiery rhetoric it had merely seemed happy to consolidate its control of Gaza, which Israel evacuated in 2005. SF could have said that it had sympathy for the circumstances that gave rise to Hamas but contempt for what it did. Instead it has barely mentioned the terrorist group since the slaughter, but SF politicians have pointed to the Palestinian flag which, at this time, seems a subtle endorsement of the Hamas attack.

On Sunday Gerry Adams, as the scale of the massacre of Jews was becoming clear, posted on X (formerly Twitter) an image of the Palestinian flag in West Belfast and wrote: “The Mountain Speaks! Free Palestine.”

When it turned out an Irish-Israeli woman was murdered at Nova, Mary Lou McDonald wrote: “Thoughts and prayers with the family and friends of Kim Damti as they endure the heartbreak of the loss of her young precious life. A trauma that should not be inflicted on any family”

No mention of Hamas. The same form of wording could have been applied if she had died in a flood. Ms McDonald later said of an Israeli action: “Barbaric. Act of criminal aggression.” Her specific criticisms are of Israel.

The X timeline of Michelle O’Neil, who proclaims herself first minister for all, nowhere condemns Hamas.

This could not have happened at a worse time amid bids to restore Stormont. It is an almost perfect illustration of how political opposites have to share power in NI at all times – unless the rules are changed to exclude unionists (they would certainly never be changed to exclude nationalists).

And while UK ministers are showing the world their full support for Israel and contempt for Hamas, they are piling pressure on the DUP – amid an Irish Sea border – to return to power with a party that has reacted as Sinn Fein has done to this immense Jewish trauma.

Ben Lowry is News Letter editor.