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An Evening With Douglas Murray

Murray Michael Dickson (left) in conversation with Douglas MurrayPhoto credit: Michael Laurence Photography

Over the past few months, as the world has become ever more critical of Israel and increasingly hostile to Jews, a handful of journalists have continually and clearly called out double standards and spoken in our defense. Prominent among them is British author and political commentator Douglas Murray, so it was no surprise that he was greeted with a standing ovation as he walked on to the stage in a packed Raanana theater last January. Such was the demand for tickets when the Israeli nonprofit education organization StandWithUs announced that it was holding "an evening with Douglas Murray", that a second one was immediately arranged. The rapturous welcome shown to Murray on both evenings confirmed just how rare it is for a non-Jewish writer to visit Israel and then report truthfully and contextually on the situation.

Murray is associate editor of The Spectator, a conservative British political and cultural magazine. The evening was hosted by Michael Dickson, the executive director of StandWithUs in Israel, and he began by asking probably the most pertinent question of all: when, and why, did Murray start caring about Israel? "My political awareness began when I was at Oxford University," he said. "The Second Intifada was happening at the time and then 9/11 happened and I noticed that everybody who was very against Israel, was also very against America and Britain, almost without exception, and the strongest condemnation was always against Israel. I was brought up to know the difference between right and wrong, and when I became a writer and first started coming to Israel, I saw a jarring disconnect between what I saw for myself was happening and what was reported. Fairness is a clear concept for me. I admire Israel as a country and I admire its people and they are horribly and unfairly treated. I call it out and I regard doing so as a duty and pleasure."

He hadn't been shocked, he said, by the world's response to the October 7 atrocity. "I was at my home in New York at the time and by the next day there was a protest in Times Square that had been billed as a pro-Palestinian protest, but in fact it was anti-Israel. There were actually people there with placards praising what had just happened. I was ashamed and disgusted by that. By October 8, Israel had done nothing but it was already about proportionality. War is brutal and ugly as everyone who has seen it knows. It always is. Warfare is never about proportionality. It is about winning. I had an intuition we were going to be lied to straight away, so I came here as soon as I could."

Murray has been to numerous war zones as a journalist, but he was deeply shocked by what he saw and heard here. "If I could put that into a word, I think it is the glee with which the terrorists attacked. I've seen quite a lot of human savagery, but gleeful savagery is unusual. Since I've been here, I've tried to see the conflict in the round: I've spent a lot of time with survivors, and with the families of the injured victims in the hospitals interviewing the heroes of the day. I've spent a lot of time with the families of the hostages. I was at Sheba Hospital when the first hostage children came back that night, which was one of the most moving things I've ever seen or been part of, to the extent I was." He has been to the kibbutzim in the south, the site of the Nova festival, the mortuaries, and he has been to Gaza a number of times.

Another aspect of the conflict that has surprised him is UNRWA. "If you had told me even six months ago, before the war, that an UNRWA employee would be caught with kidnapped Jews in their house I'd have thought, well that's going to be a bit much. But involved in the massacre? Finally, maybe more countries than just the United States realize that there is something rotten with these international organizations. I was at a meeting with the families of the child hostages in November with UNICEF officials. A relative told the officials that UNICEF had just one job – to look after the welfare of children. For over a month after October 7, UNICEF did nothing for the Jewish hostage children."

So, was there anything positive that attendees could take away from the evening with Douglas Murray? He pointed out that while history is full of evil ideas, philosophies and regimes, it is also full of people who helped to destroy them on the battlefield of ideas, so we must believe that Hamas will be defeated, too. He finished with a moving observation that helped lift our spirits and led to another standing ovation. "Israel is a country with a purpose; with a mixture of seriousness and joy. And it has a remarkable young generation that has stepped up unbelievably. I take great hope from that and I genuinely believe that the people of this country – especially its young people - are giving an example to the world."

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Thursday, 13 June 2024

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