Monday, November 13, 2023

I have seen the faces of evil, and they’re smiling

I have seen the faces of evil, and they’re smiling


A version of this was published November 12, 2023 in the Waterbury Republican-American.

I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. I didn’t want to accept it; my wife asked whether I was sure I wanted to go and told me to try not to throw up if I went; my daughter bluntly said, “Don’t go.”

The offer was to screen the footage compiled by Israel from GoPros worn by the terrorist perpetrators of the Oct. 7 Simchat Torah Massacre, videos from dashcams and cell phones of the terrorists, rescuers and victims and videos from drones.

It wasn’t something I wanted to see, but I owed it to the memory of the victims, those who were murdered, those who were maimed, those who were dragged into Gaza and are being held hostage there by Hamas.

So I went. Security was strict at the Israeli Consulate in Boston. We had to leave behind all electronics. We were to respect the privacy of the victims and not say or write anything that would reveal their identities or in any way compromise their privacy and dignity.

I sat in a room with the only five journalists who had accepted their invitations. Maybe those who declined had other commitments they couldn’t change; maybe they were too squeamish; maybe they didn’t want to see atrocities that would force them to question their biases and prejudices.

The others present were the executive director of Boston’s Jewish Community Relations Council, and Israel’s Consul General and Assistant Consul General for New England.

Meron Reuben, the consul general, gave a brief introduction, but his most important remarks came after we viewed the video, when he noted it’s “very difficult for someone who lives in a tranquil neighborhood in Greater Boston to understand what went on.”

The 43-minute long video started. I saw. I cringed. I felt drops forming in my eyes.

Here’s a snippet of what we saw and heard.

Near the start, we saw evidence of the depravity and the cruelty of the terrorists, most apparently from Hamas but some from Palestinian Islamic Jihad and even from Fatah, the group led by Mahmoud Abbas, who’s supposed to be Israel’s “peace partner.”

The terrorists see an empty, parked ambulance. They shoot out the tires, lest Israeli medics later use the ambulance to bring mortally injured civilians to a hospital.

They see a lone dog in a field. No humans in sight. They shoot the dog. At least three times to make sure it’s dead.

We hear a recording of conversation between one of the terrorists and his parents. The call is made using a phone taken from one of the Israelis he murdered. He tells his father to be proud, that he’d killed ten Israelis with his bare hands. And now he’s going to find more Israelis to murder.

A phone call is made to a Hamas official in Gaza, who tells the terrorists to play with the heads on the ground. One of the terrorists then took a hoe and repeatedly struck a corpse on the ground in order to separate head from body while shouting Allahu Akbar. This was the one part where I looked away; I don’t know if he succeeded.

We saw a trail of blood in a video that must have been taken by one of the rescuers, since the trail continues from one room to another, getting bloodier and bloodier, until it reaches the spot where the murder must have been executed. Where did the terrorists drag the body? Did they add it to a collection in the kibbutz? Did they drag it to Gaza?

We saw hoards of burned and charred corpses. Some were without heads. We saw videos of bodies still aflame.

We heard another call, with the Hamas official in Gaza giving the order to “bring him” and “hang him” and “let the people play with his body.”

We see a body — maybe the same body, maybe a different body — being dragged out of a car in Gaza while a crowd, some terrorists, some ordinary civilians who are now being provided with “humanitarian aid,” joyously celebrates.

Most chilling was the similarity between the joy on the faces of Israelis as they sung and danced at Nova music festival just before Hamas turned it into a killing field and the joy on the faces of the terrorists as they reveled in glorious atrocities.

I have seen the faces of evil and, without the brutalized corpses of their victims scattered around them, I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from ordinary teenagers.

Which brings me back to the observation made by Meron Reuben, that it’s difficult for someone living a normal life in a country like the United States to understand the nature of many in the Middle East, including enemies of the West. Since in Western democracies we would never behave the way they do, some imagine the terrorists must have horrendous grievances and blame the United States for 9/11 and Israel for 10/7.

This has led to decades of misguided policies that have strengthened the forces of evil and led to numerous wars, terror attacks and other disasters.

These horrors will continue until we stop fooling ourselves and recognize terrorists’ values are not our values. We must stay united with Israel and others who are on the front line of the war, not only for their survival, but for the survival of our values and our civilization.

Alan Stein, Ph.D., was formerly a long time resident of Waterbury. He and his wife Marsha currently split their time between Netanya in Israel and Natick, Massachusetts. He is President Emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting) and the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel.

Editors’ note: As a companion to this op-ed, we suggest readers view the 1956 film “Night and Fog,” available on several streaming services, which documents similar atrocities committed in Nazi Germany.

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