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ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR
Columns
Opinion articles written in the style of their author. These texts are to be based on verified facts and must be respectful towards people, even though their actions may be criticized. All opinion articles written by individuals from outside the staff of EL PAÍS shall feature, along with the author’s name (regardless of their greater or lesser renown), a footer stating their office, academic title, political affiliation (if any) and main occupation, or the occupation related to the topic being assessed

Israel-Hamas war: Terrible and hateful revenge

When support is given to a racist and invading government, when the Holocaust is used to spur the escalation of violence, these acts soil everything that the wonderful Jewish culture gave us

A man contemplates among the ruins of the Twin Towers after the 9/11 attacks.
A man contemplates among the ruins of the Twin Towers after the 9/11 attacks.DOUG KANTER (EPA)
Elvira Lindo

How can we not remember the sweetness of those autumn mornings in 2001. Like animals that, even when fearful, sense that they can now stick their snout out into the open, people dared to step onto the street again. With no tourists, New York seemed to recover the essence of an old provincial city, one that encouraged a slow paced and reflective walks. The pain gave way to city bustle and, although traces of the spirituality seen in the squares of Manhattan after September 11 still remained, sooner rather than later, pedestrians quickened their steps and good intentions were buried by a furious nationalism that invaded the sidewalks. A wave of flags covered the city. They were displayed everywhere, in a wide range of places: shops, bars, banks, baby carriages, children’s sweaters, caps, dog leashes, marquees, pubs, churches, schools, balconies, on the torsos of big men proud to belong to such a huge country. At night, fear lurked again as the sirens of firefighters and ambulances broke the silence, even though it was known that no one was going to be rescued.

I remember that Sunday in October hanging around the market on the then peaceful Columbus Avenue. The shopkeepers followed the news on transistor radios that hung from their stalls. Not without reason: they were attentive to the movements of the government of George W. Bush, which had been mulling its revenge for a month. It was then, that morning on October 7, when the news came from a now-defunct radio: the United States was invading Afghanistan. There was a whisper of deep desolation. The military objective: dismantle Al-Qaeda. Just as the non-existent weapons of mass destruction would be the goal for the invasion of Iraq, which America’s shameful European allies helped to wage, inaugurating the new century by expanding a disaster that still continues till this day. Lies and revenge allied themselves to design military feats that left a trail of death and debris in their wake.

These days, I remember my old neighborhood, the Upper West Side, an area where you can still feel the echoes of old New York. This network of streets that follows the course of the Hudson River served as inspiration for Jewish musicians, comedians, filmmakers, teachers and writers who fled certain death in the Second World War. My house was near Isaac Bashevis Singer Street, which was named after the novelist who remained faithful to his mother tongue, Yiddish, and wrote great works of exile literature, including Shadows on the Hudson.

I remember one of his unique phrases: “There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is.” Singer, endlessly curious about human psychology, wrote about a tormented man who flees from the religious precepts that embittered his childhood in order to get rid of guilt and achieve pleasure. Under the influence of Jewish writers who turned drama into irony, we feel the heartbeat of that Jewish emigration that fed the culture of the 20th century.

To many of us who have learned from Singer’s compassionate and gentle look at the flawed human race, it seems obscene to violate his good name by defending the legitimacy of revenge. To label someone anti-Semitic just because they are calling for a Palestinian state and an end to a war that massacres innocent people is to stray very far from that noble tradition. When — with no shame —they show their support for a far-right, racist, invasive government; when they even use the Holocaust to make their hateful contribution to this escalation of violence, their words soil everything that the wonderful Jewish culture gave us. The Bible says: “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” They are neither of those things.

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