Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 06/12/24

Above TBN Israel’s Yair Pinto reports on last weekend’s daring rescue of four Israeli hostages in Gaza. Meanwhile…

October 7th, 2023 takes its place alongside December 7th, 1941 and September 11th, 2001 as a date which will also live in infamy. And let’s not forget September 1, 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland.

I last spoke with the noted Israeli-American screenwriter Dan Gordon about his recent theatrical film Irena’s Vow which dealt with the horrors of Nazi Germany in the early half of the 20th Century. That hideous chapter in world history, which included state-sponsored murders of approximately six-million European Jews, led to the establishment of modern state of Israel in 1948 as well as the phrases “Never again” and “Never forget.” Unfortunately, the attack on Israel last October 7th serves as a brutal reminder that Jew hatred remains an all-too-real dark force in this world. Perhaps even more disturbing than the attack itself is the reaction to it – and even denial of it – by many people around the world.

Now, Gordon – who also served reserve duty in the Israeli IDF from 1973 to 2018 – is presenting a four-part documentary series chronicling the crime against humanity and its ramifications for Israel and the world. The aptly titled October 7th, 2023 premieres Friday at 8:00 PM ET on TBN.

JWK: Before we talk about your documentary series, there is some good news in that four Israeli hostages were rescued over the weekend. What are your thoughts about that?

Dan Gordon: First of all, it was an extraordinary operation, an extremely complicated one. Just to give people an insight, it’s as if you take what you saw in the movie Black Hawk Down and then say “Okay, we’re going to send a rescue team into that environment to try and rescue four hostages who are in two separate places in a place that is an Hamas stronghold.” You have to hit them at the exact same time because if you hit one earlier you’ll alert the the others and they’ll kill the hostages. Getting in is not that hard because you can go in disguise. We have units that can blend in and look like the local population very easily. It’s once you have gotten the hostages – especially if there’s a firefight as there was with the three male hostages – now you’ve alerted the whole neighborhood.

Now, because it is a Hamas stronghold, you’ve got Hamas terrorists coming out of every corner and you really have a Black Hawk Down situation where you’ve got a hellacious firefight going on. To give you an example of how bad of a firefight it was, evidently after they extricated the three male hostages the car in which they were driving was hit (and) disabled. They had backup troops which came in with an armored car to extricate them – (and) that got hit and was disabled! Then they had to bring in a third team. All the while that they’re doing that, they’re under fire from 360 degrees with RPGs, heavy machine guns (and) grenades. You’ve literally got Black Hawk Down happening around you.

So, (according to) the Washington Post or CNN (the headline is something like) “Israeli raid turns deadly and kills 270 Palestinians.” I don’t know that that’s the exact number but you had a huge battle going on there so the majority of those people killed are Hamas terrorists…You (have to) wonder why there’s no critical thinking (among) journalists. If you’re Hamas and you’re going to hide four of your most high-profile hostages not in underground tunnels but in two different apartment houses…are you gonna operate in a place that’s hostile to you or from a place that’s very sympathetic to you? You’re operating in your home territory…You’re not operating in a place that’s hostile to you. You’re operating in a place that is of your sympathizers, of people who are complicit, of people who will not raise an alarm and won’t look twice. In fact, they’ll encourage you. This is your home territory. The reason that those Palestinian civilians were killed was A.) Hamas chose to operate within a civilian area but B.) the majority of the people in that area are, at the very least, sympathetic to Hamas if not complicit with Hamas.

The other thing that, again, just kind of boggles the mind (is that) in all the accounts people say “Oh, the marketplace was full at midday (with) people out shopping for food and they got caught in the crossfire. It was so horrible!” Full stop. I thought everybody was starving in Gaza. What do you mean they were in the marketplace buying food? That means two things. Number one, there’s food in the marketplace to be sold and number two, the people have the money to buy it.

JWK: Of course, the figures that they use to provide the death toll are provided by Hamas. Isn’t that correct?

DG: Absolutely. The so-called Gaza Health Ministry is a branch of Hamas. Do think that people who beheaded babies, burned whole families alive and raped their victims before murdering them and beheading them would draw the line at lying or exaggerating – especially when Hamas admits freely that one of their goals is to increase the number of quote-unquote “martyrs” so it will stir the revolutionary fervor? That’s not me saying that. That’s Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the political wing of Hamas who has said (as much)…Their calculus is If (they) shoot rockets and kill Jews that’s good. If the Jews respond and kill Palestinians that’s even better because then (they), as terrorists, get to wear the mantel of victimhood. (That’s) their entire war plan, their game strategy. Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas, has said as much. All they have to do is wait and, they believe, the international community will force Israel to withdraw from Gaza, Hamas will still be in power, then the world will pour in billions of dollars of aid as they have before, Hamas will rebuild and, as their own leader said, there will be an October 7th, an October 10th, an October One Millionth. They will do it again and again and again until they succeed in their goal which is to wipe out the State of Israel as a stepping stone to their eventual goal of killing every Jew on the face of the Earth and establishing a caliphate – no less than what ISIS wanted to do.

JWK: I watched the first episode of October 7th which airs Friday night on TBN. I must say it was gripping throughout but there was one story that was especially personal to you.

DG: On October 7th – which was October 6th at night in the United States – I had just sent to my adopted sister who lives in a place called Sa’ad, which is a little farming community three-thousand meters from the Gaza border, a text saying “Happy Holiday.” Because she’s religious, I knew she wasn’t going to respond. The minute I got a response I knew something was wrong.

She said “Very happy” sarcastically, “they’re shooting rockets at us.” She said she’s never seen a barrage of rockets like that. Then a while later she said that her husband could hear small arms fire. That’s when I said “If you can hear small arms fire you’ve got terrorists inside your community. Lock the door and have your husband get his weapon.” She said “He doesn’t have a weapon and the lock on the door is broken.” So, I stayed up with her till about four or five o’clock in the morning my time. She was eventually evacuated late at night on October 7th. What she didn’t know – until she was evacuated – was there was a pitch battle between the terrorists and the kibbutz security team which consisted of about seven or eight guys holding off about fifty terrorists. They were down, literally, to their last magazines of ammunition. A tank appeared out of nowhere, killed a bunch of terrorists and drove the others off.

Unfortunately, the ones they drove off went into the community literally across the street – a place called Kfar Aza – that became a horrendous killing field. Members of her kibbutz security team went across to help their neighbors. Several of them were severely wounded but, happily for my family, my sister and her family came out of this without any casualties. I thank God for that. Just down the road in a place called Nir Oz literally one-fourth of the population was either killed or taken captive.

JWK: Some of the footage is disturbing to watch. It reminds me of some of the black and white footage from the Holocaust that I saw in school growing up.

DG: What people don’t get is they think of Hamas as a terrorist group. Israel left Gaza – withdrew 100% – in 2005. Hamas ruled Gaza. They were elected in a very democratic election. Gaza really is a de facto terrorist state. It’s not just a group. It is a de facto terrorist nation. It enjoys all the characteristics of a state. It has defined borders, a stable population, a strong functioning central government, an impressive military force and an independent foreign policy. Contrary to what what everyone says…it absolutely controls its own borders. Between Egypt and Gaza, on the one side was Hamas, on the other side was the Egyptians. The reason Egypt periodically closed the border with Hamas is Hamas allied itself with ISIS in Sinai and tried to overthrow the Egyptian government. So, they’ve been a cancer not just in terms of Israel but Egypt has also been their victim.

On October 7th the terrorist State of Gaza invaded the State of Israel. They invaded. They held territory – as well as massacring, torturing, beheading, mutilating, burning (people) alive and taking hostages. So, on October 8th – while that’s still going on – there were demonstrations in New York, London, Paris, Toronto – at some of the most elite universities in the world – not calling for a ceasefire – because, at that point, Hamas was winning. They were in solidarity with Hamas. To the Students for Justice in Palestine – if ever there was a misnomer that’s it – that was a brilliant “counteroffensive” against their “colonial settler oppressors.” That’s how Students for Justice described murder, beheadings, burning families alive, dismemberment, capturing men, women and children ranging in age from nine months to almost ninety years of age. That was their description of those activities…So, I knew at that point that the narrative would change from Israel having been the victim of the most horrendous massacre in the Middle East since ISIS attacked the Yazidis. It would change into “Israel is guilty of genocide” – and that that would happen within a matter of weeks.

JWK: You point out that per capita Israel lost more people on October 7th than America did at Pearl Harbor and on 9/11 combined. When we responded to those events, there were plenty of civilian casualties. When a country is attacked and responds, unfortunately, there are going to be civilian casualties.

DG: Let me just give you a figure no one ever talks about. The number of American civilians killed in the totality of World War II by the Imperial Japanese and the Germans combined was 74. 68 were killed at Pearl Harbor and six people were killed in Oregon by a Japanese incendiary balloon. The number of Japanese and German civilians who were killed in World War II by the Allies was roughly two million. Does that mean that we are supposed to dig up Adolph Hitler‘s remains, apologize and say “Sorry Herr Hitler, we got it wrong. It turns out you were the innocent victim and we were the ones committing genocide.”? The logic of that is insane.

Are we gonna say “I’m gonna count the number of people dead and whoever has more dead on their side is the victim and whoever has less on their side is the aggressor.”? No, that’s really not what happens when a country is attacked. The only way you can defeat the people who attacked you is by using force. Unfortunately, civilians get caught in the crossfire. In this case, these civilians elected Hamas knowing exactly who they were, what they were and what their designs were – and they cheered them on.

Terrible things happened to the German civilians and the Japanese civilians but that’s because they made the tragic mistake of supporting the likes of Hitler and Tojo. I just wonder when this notion of people not being responsible for their choices struck – because, at some point, people have to be accountable for the choices they make in the governments they choose to represent them and in the aims of that government. If you count the amount of money that Gaza has received since Israel withdrew in 2005 you are in the tens of billions of dollars. The Palestinians are very capable people. You take a look at that metro of terror that they built. That’s 500 miles of concrete reinforced tunnels underneath Gaza creating a subterranean terror state. That’s a massive undertaking!

JWK: Imagine if they actually used that money to just build a subway.

DG: They could have turned Gaza into Dubai, into the Singapore of the Middle East. Instead they turned it into Somalia. That was with the support, encouragement and participation of the majority of the civilian population. The latest poll says that 70% of the people of Gaza, to this day, fully support what Hamas did on October 7th. So, my heart goes out to the 30% of the people there who say “We want no part of this war. This has been forced upon us” but when I hear about the “innocent Palestinians” I know, having been in Gaza many, many times – and recently as well and having talked with Palestinians in Gaza – yes, there are some people there who just want to be left alone, raise their kids and have a decent life but the overwhelming majority are fully supportive of Hamas, their aims and their methods – to this day! At some point they have to be responsible for the disaster they’ve brought down about their own ears.

JWK: On the one hand though, I do feel sorry for them. They’ve been raised since infancy to hate the Jewish people.

DG: Absolutely. Look, I can tell you I was in a place called Al-Atatra in 2009 (during) that war. I was there attached to airborne. I was in the military spokesperson unit. Because of my advanced years and my gray hair, a Palestinian farmer thought I was actually the commanding officer of the whole operation. So, he came up to me. He spoke fluent Hebrew. He was of that generation that used to work in Israel and make a very good living there. I lived in Israel when, under the so-called “cruel occupation” there was no fence. There was no control. Gazans came in and shopped in Israel. Israelis went to the beach in Gaza. It was a very peaceful coexistence between folks under the quote-unquote “occupation.”

At any rate, he said to me “Commander, why don’t you go in there and kill them all?” I said “Who are we supposed to kill?” He said “Hamas!” I said “I thought Hamas was your guys.” He said “You see this field that we’re standing in right now?” I said “Yep.” He said “This used to be my farm. I used to grow the best sunflower seeds in the entire Middle East. He said “Hamas came, took it from me and now it grows rockets. How am I supposed to feed my family with rockets? Go in there and kill them all!”

So, yes, I have met (and) interacted with Palestinians who my heart absolutely goes out to because they’re caught in between Hamas terrorists and Israelis who are bent on not committing suicide and defending ourselves. I can also tell you that the vast majority of people in Gaza elected Hamas knowing exactly who they were, what they were and what they wanted to do. They have brought the same disaster down about their ears that the German folk did who elected Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party knowing who he was, what they were and what they wanted to do.

JWK: Do you feel that President Biden avoided the subject of Israel and October 7th during his D-Day address? Considering the similar goals of the Nazis and Hamas, there would seem to be a connection to be made.

DG: Well, since he didn’t mention a word about it, to my knowledge, I think he assiduously avoided it. As you say, it’s kind of hard to miss one of the central features World War II – which was the genocide of the Jewish people and, by the way, gypsies…and homosexuals.

(Note: A White House  transcript President Biden’s D-Day speech shows that he did mention the Holocaust but made no reference to October 7th or Hamas.)

JWK: So, following this weekend’s rescue of four hostages, where are we now? What happens next?

DG: Israel is going to do everything it can to withstand the immense pressure that is being brought against it.

Again, think of the difference between ISIS and Hamas. There’s nothing that ISIS did that Hamas did not do as well. They murdered. They mutilated. They burned people alive. They beheaded. They took captives. Sexual assaults took place and were commonplace. There are still ISIS hostages to this day who haven’t been recovered. Hamas did the exact same things. It’s no different. ISIS did it against a religious minority in the Middle East called the Yazidi people in Northern Iraq. Hamas did it against a religious minority in the Middle East called the Jewish people.

In the case of ISIS, they were deemed to be so abominable that the United States led a coalition of 86 nations who fought for nine months – people forget this – to wipe out ISIS in Mosul. Kurdish Intelligence, which was the most reliable intelligence of all, estimated that at least 40,000 innocent people in Mosul – not Hamas, not ISIS – were killed in that operation. People in Mosul were not supporters of ISIS. They were being held hostage by ISIS. There were 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul. They didn’t have 17 years to build 500 miles of underground tunnels and to create the most complex urban fighting environment in the history of warfare – which is what Gaza is. I mean I’ve been there in the past few months and can attest to that. I was embedded with combat engineers whose job was blowing up that infrastructure.

So, what is the difference? ISIS did the same things as Hamas and yet 86 nations were joined together to defeat them in a much easier campaign that lasted far longer and took more innocent lives by far. Israel has stood alone, hasn’t asked anybody to help it but is facing this constant false narrative (that) we are the perpetrators of a massacre. That narrative is baked in…The most glaring example is this. Israel stages a raid to free hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas who embeds itself in a civilian area full of their supporters (and) engages in a Black Hawk Down scenario firefight. Any person…who’s been in the military will tell you that is your worst nightmare – to be in urban warfare like that in a Black Hawk Down situation where every alleyway comes alive with people (armed) with RPGs and machine guns, who are not wearing uniforms and look exactly like civilians rushing out of every space 360 degrees (around you) to kill you.

JWK: That’s a nightmare, to be sure.

DG: And we are the guilty party? I’m sorry, we didn’t say “Come kidnap our women and children and take them into one of your civilian areas.” Why would you think that they would operate above ground? These people weren’t held in tunnels. They were held in apartment houses in a neighborhood. They knew that this was a sympathetic neighborhood – not one that was hostile or even apathetic to them. This was an area of Hamas supporters where they felt safe.

(Note: The rest of my conversation with Dan Gordon will run next week. Episode One of his four-part documentary series October 7th, 2023 premieres this Friday at 8:00 PM ET on TBN.)

John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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