An appeal to join in solid solidarity with the people of Israel as they battle the spiritual heirs of Nazism

By Gary Kaplan
International Relations officer at the Histadrut- General Federation of Labor in Israel

What is solidarity? That is a question I have been asking myself these last few weeks in light of international protests against Israel after the catastrophe of October 7th.

It is all very well to say we stand in solidarity with you when nothing is really expected of you; however, it is a different story in times of crisis and emergency.

I recall being asked numerous times about our tremendous effort in nurturing our relationship with the DGB (German Confederation of Trade Unions); why do we work so hard in maintaining this connection?

“Never Again”. Nurturing warm relationships between Germany and Israel, the writer (centre) is seen here with an Israeli-German trade union delegation at Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin.

It is because when you find yourself in your darkest hour, your back against the wall, and the world you thought you were a part of ceases to exist, your true friends need to emerge and stand with you, no matter the costs, no matter the odds. That is solidarity.

The war on Hamas is far from over. Israel at the moment is bleeding and fighting. A country that only a month ago was divided and on the brink of civil war changed dramatically in the early hours of October 7th.  Watching live on television, we witnessed our people being butchered, slaughtered and kidnapped. Our society, despite its disrespected and weakened leadership, has transformed itself into a united front, a unified nation, set to battle mankind’s most evil enemy, and together, we shall fight, and together we shall win.

There are many fronts to this war; however, the important one is, first and foremost destroying Hamas and its ability to attack Israel again. You see, for us, the words “Never again” are not a solidarity slogan for a better world campaign. They are still, 85 years later, a constant reminder of what can happen if we ever let our guard down.

What the world doesn’t yet understand is that Israel and Israelis have changed in the course of the last 3 weeks. We are no longer the same people. As we weren’t the same people on May 9th, 1945, when the Allied world celebrated the collapse and surrender of the Third Reich, and we had faced the murder of six million Jews, we that day had nothing to celebrate; we had to gather what remained of us in the death camps and try to rebuild Jewish life.

Never again, and never forget.

It’s Happening Again. This image of General Dwight D. Eisenhower (third from left) viewing the charred remains of Jewish inmates of the Ohrdruf camp Germany, April 12, 1945 was not lost on Joe Biden, who saw fit to be the first US president to visit Israel during a state of war. The scope of the Hamas massacre demanded a personal visit to show solidarity with the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

How does one expect us to think of peace after hearing live on October 7th our pregnant mothers being butchered?

How does one think of living side by side while watching live our daughters and sisters being paraded in the streets after being raped?

How does one try to debate our morality after we have witnessed our babies once again being burned in ovens?

For many years now, I have experienced walking the paths of death that annihilated a third of our people 82 years ago, with groups of Israeli and German union members in the concentration camps in Germany, France and the Czech Republic. What we have witnessed there together is impossible to contemplate, therefore we pledge on the mass graves of the Jewish people that these atrocities must never happen again.

On the eve of October 7th, we realized that not since the Holocaust, have so many Jews been murdered on one single day. Not since the Holocaust, have we witnessed the sights of Jewish mothers and children, grandparents and Holocaust survivors being pushed into trucks and taken captive after the savage murder of their family members.

Death Squads from Gaza. Burnt beyond recognition, an Israeli rescuer carries what appears to be a small body, possibly a child, wrapped in a cover.

Now one must walk through the gates of Be’eri, Kfar Aza, Nachal Oz, Nir Oz and the rest of the kibbutzim and towns of the Western Negev, the once peaceful paths surrounding a communal way of life, to witness once again the strong smell of death that will not go away. The ashes of burned people, destroyed blood-stained homes, the empty chairs in the communal kibbutz dining halls that will remain unseated and silent, the empty playgrounds once animated with noisy children, entire communities – obliterated!

What Greeted Israel’s Warriors. Soldiers on October 11, crying at the sight of a Kfar Aza family dining table on which there is still Challah bread from Friday’s Kiddush.

Once you do, maybe then you will be a little closer to what To those afar, try and grasp what happened here. Imagine the fear of a mother who held the shelter room door tightly from terrorists barging in; a husband who sent a final heartfelt text message to his wife a second before he was shot; see a closet where two siblings hid and kept quiet while their parents were being murdered in their living room.

When you put yourselves in these shoes, in our shoes, then, and maybe only then, will you be a step closer to understanding who we are and who you must be.

Far from us, on different shores and landscapes, we find ourselves fighting as well those who set out to destroy us, those marching down the streets of once great democracies, parading the streets of societies that once fought the battles of Liberté, and fought tyranny no matter the costs, no matter the odds.

I wonder what Churchill would have said today in light of the “surrender” of his dear island to the overwhelming supporters of terrorism and death. And in the light of Europe’s dark past and again the rise of antisemitism in the shadow of only eight decades since the Holocaust, should we not expect more from the leaders of the European Union to be loud and clear in opposing the ugly chanting of hate flooding the streets of their European capitals and cities?

Humanity hangs in the Balance. One can visit the many monuments to the Holocaust like this multilingual “never again” memorial at Treblinka extermination camp but how committed is the world, when once again Jews are butchered and burnt and the world is mostly silent or sides with the perpetrators.

October 7th was a transformative catastrophe that befell not only Israel but the Jewish people across the world. It cannot be overlooked or dismissed with indifference; this is the world’s moral obligation in defending not only Jews but humanity itself.    

Your time is now. Whatever the cost may be, whatever your members think, whatever your neighbour believes in,  whatever political turmoil it may have, your time has come to stand up. Wage battle over evil and darkness that has destroyed the once thriving Jewish communities of the Western Negev, before it strikes upon your shores, your streets, your communities, and your hearts.

It is now or never. “Never again” is now.

What say you?

About the writer:

South Africa-born, Gary Kaplan works in the international relations division at Israel’s national trade union, the Histadrut where inter alia, he manages its youth exchange programme with the German trade union Confederation addressing issues from labour relations to Holocaust remembrance.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

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