You didn’t have to be in the roomful of international journalists to understand the sheer horror of what they saw. For all of the grisly, stomach-turning images posted online, nothing compared to the 43 minutes of torture screened for reporters on an Israeli military base Monday. Afterward, many, including Breitbart’s Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollack, could only lean against a wall and weep. Replaying the victims’ terrified screams in his mind, he writes, “There is no moment of redemption in the footage. We do not see the end, when the good guys arrive and save the victims.” The only comfort, Pollack admits, “is the knowledge that the footage, at least, was retrieved from the terrorists after they were killed or captured.”
Like so many Israelis, government official Eylon Levy is appalled his country has to prove that terrorists brutalized innocent Jews when the evidence lies in morgues across the country. “I can’t believe we as a country are having to do this,” he shook his head, “… [but] we are witnessing a Holocaust denial-like phenomenon evolving in real time as people are casting doubt on the magnitude of the atrocities that Hamas committed against our people and, in fact, recorded in order to glorify that violence.”
With just pen and paper, dozens of journalists sat frozen through the raw and agonizing scenes from October 7 — videos Levy called “gruesome and as yet unseen.” Pollack was ready to quit 17 minutes in. “Make it stop,” he heard a reporter whisper, as others openly cried. In one of the most heart-wrenching moments, a boy whose father was just butchered by Hamas sobs, “Why am I alive?” — a haunting echo Pollack couldn’t shake.
In stunned silence, reporters filed out of the room to retrieve their laptops, phones, and other electronic devices they weren’t allowed to bring in. Pollack kept replaying the moment two sons became fatherless in front of their very eyes, one wailing, “Daddy, Daddy.” The killings were savage enough to make one journalist heave. It was, as The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood wrote, “pure, predatory sadism … an eagerness to kill nearly matched by eagerness to disfigure the bodies of the victims.”
Incredibly, Pollack pointed out, what these reporters witnessed is “just a small part of what the IDF still possesses.” And while Major General Mickey Edelstein admitted the government has evidence of brutal rape, “we cannot share it,” he told them somberly.
Still, the question that lingered in everyone’s minds was Defense Forces Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari’s: “Why does a person take a GoPro [to such an attack]?” he asked the press later. “Because he’s proud of what he does.”
As difficult as the decision was to play the footage for reporters, Hagari believes it was important, because “we want to understand, ourselves, what we are fighting for.” It is their duty, he said, to build a “collective memory,” so that when Israel is challenged, it can point back to these atrocities.
Already, the global pressure is on to back off the ground invasion that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been preparing. “Israel’s the only country that has a stopwatch on it when it needs to defend itself,” CBN News’s Chris Mitchell warned from the ground.
But, as Chuck Holton reported from Israel on Friday’s “Washington Watch,” the fighting “really has not stopped in the last two weeks.” “It’s not like they just attacked on October 7th and then nothing’s happened since then. The Hamas terrorists and Hezbollah terrorists have been attacking Israel nonstop every day since then.”
While so many international outlets are focused on the Palestinian casualties, Holton explained that the Israel’s enemies are actively shelling innocent people. “There was just a massive rocket attack in Ashdod and Ashkelon out on the coast — and that’s quite a ways from Gaza. So they are still firing rockets and they’re firing them out of civilian areas.”
In talking to IDF soldiers, Holton says that every one of them agrees that there is only one option at this point, “and that is to go in and to absolutely demolish and dismantle the entire organization of Hamas.” Of course, Hamas “is working very hard to hide behind the civilian populace, to weaponize the civilians against Israel and the West, and to weaponize whatever aid comes in there so that they can continue to fight.”
As to whether the ground campaign is imminent, “that is one of the most closely guarded secrets,” the freelance correspondent told guest host and former Congressman Jody Hice. “But I’ll just say this. This is going to be a massive, absolutely massive, combined arms operation on the scale of the Shock and Awe campaign into Iraq in 2003. We’re talking about up to a half a million troops that will likely be engaged in combat before too long — and this is not planned over a course of years or even months. This is going from a standing start just two weeks ago. The logistics alone behind this kind of an operation are absolutely mind-boggling.”
As to why more boots aren’t already on the ground in Gaza, Holton explained, “You’re talking about having to coordinate all the moving parts of aviation and armor and artillery and infantry and signal and intelligence — and figure out what targets to hit and figure out who’s supposed to hit them and figure out how they’re not going to shoot each other in the process. This is an absolutely unbelievable undertaking that they’re about to do. And they realize that the more time they spend preparing, the less time they’ll have to spend fighting.”
In the meantime, fears of an even bigger conflict are spreading with the news that China is sending six warships to the Middle East. In the U.S., Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is prepping the troops for possible deployment. “What we’re seeing is a prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region. We’re going to do what’s necessary to make sure that our troops are in that position and they were protected and that we have the ability to respond,” he said over the weekend, adding, “We won’t hesitate to take the appropriate action.”
“If any group or any country is looking to widen this conflict and take advantage of this very unfortunate situation that we see. Our advice is don’t,” Austin warned. “We maintain the right to defend ourselves…” If that happens, Secretary of Antony Blinken echoed, “we’re ready for it.”
For now, Israelis struggle to cope — not just with the nightmare of such enormous loss, but with the world’s perception that they are somehow to blame. “I can tell you that we are already used to it, unfortunately,” Idan Rakovsky said regretfully. Still, “seeing the coverage outside of Israel is very, very hard,” he admitted.
Maybe what Pollack and others saw will help change minds. But even if it doesn’t, “At the end of the day, we know it’s a war between the light and the darkness,” the former IDF soldier insisted. “And we know that life will prevail — even though people might say differently.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.
EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.
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