There is a video doing the rounds related to Hamas’s barbaric pogrom of 7 October that is difficult to watch. It is making viewers wince and recoil. It shows the madness that can flourish when people retreat from reason. I am speaking, of course, about Owen Jones’s reaction vid to the footage of Hamas’s atrocities; that arch Guardianista’s 25-minute YouTube musing over what he saw Hamas do. It is a disturbing watch. It provides the starkest proof yet of the collapse of moral reason and plain decency that has occurred on the middle-class left these past seven weeks.
To be clear, Jones does not deny that Hamas committed ‘grave war crimes’ on 7 October. He is not an October denialist as some on the viscerally anti-Israel left are. And yet his reaction to the footage is chilling nonetheless. He casts doubt on many of the claims about 7 October. He sows seeds of suspicion. It is a masterclass in moral obfuscation. Yes, Hamas did wicked things, he says, but where’s the evidence for the really wicked things it is said to have done? The beheaded babies. Raped women. Children killed ‘intentionally’. There’s no ‘conclusive evidence’ for that, he says. I am trying my best to understand the mind that can see images of the corpses of Jewish children and wonder, ‘But were they killed intentionally?’. But I cannot. It is beyond my moral bandwidth to understand this.
Even in this era of virtual narcissism, even with the fashion for filming oneself saying and doing all sorts of self-abasing things, Jones’s video stands out for its creepiness. He speaks in clipped, detached tones about the worst act of racist terrorism of modern times. He pores over the largest act of anti-Jewish violence since the Holocaust like the rest of us might ask a waiter, ‘Are you sure this dish has no parsley?’. He looks straight to camera and says the wildest things, like: yes we see a young woman’s burnt corpse with no underwear on, but can we be certain she was raped? This is possibly the maddest thing I have heard a journalist say.
A staggering double standard haunts this video. We have recently come out of the #MeToo era where the cry of the right-on was ‘Believe women!’. Jones himself, in 2014, wrote of the West’s ‘renewed understanding’ of how important it is to ‘believe survivors’ of sexual abuse. Finally, he said, victims are ‘listened to and believed’. Yet on Israel’s claim that women were sexually assaulted by the known misogynists of Hamas, he scratches his chin. ‘If there was rape and sexual violence committed, we don’t see this on the footage’, he says. He cites a Rolling Stone piece that quotes a disappointed attendee of the LA screening of the atrocity film who shouted, ‘Show the rape’.
What can you say? It feels pointless to point out the obvious, which is that Hamas clearly didn’t film everything it did that day. It even feels pointless to criticise the vile hypocrisy where we were encouraged to ‘Believe women!’ when Hollywood actresses said some pervert movie mogul felt them up but we are encouraged to say ‘Show us the rape’ when Israel says its women were brutalised by terrorists. When the well-to-do journalist Kate Maltby said she received sexual advances from a Tory MP, Jones raged against our ‘culture that fails women who speak out’. Yet when the IDF shows him an image of a stripped, brutalised young woman he essentially says, was she raped though? That poor woman can’t be ‘listened to and believed’, of course, because she was murdered by medieval reactionaries.
Then Jones moves on to beheadings. People were beheaded, he admits, but we can’t be sure if they were beheaded before or after they were killed. Even when he sees a dead Israeli soldier with no head, he sows his seeds of doubt. We can’t be sure if he was beheaded while alive as a ‘form of execution’. Call me a soppy old moralist, but I think beheading is an act of savagery whether it’s done before you die or afterwards. Jones refers to footage of an ‘unsuccessful attempt’ to behead a ‘dying Thai migrant worker’. Why mention that the Thai was dying? To emphasise, again, that we can’t be sure the beheading was the thing that killed him? This is sinister stuff. I can read it as nothing other than an effort to defend Hamas from the accusation that it does ISIS-style things like behead living people.
On and on it goes. Question mark after question mark is hung over Hamas’s pogrom. Sure, he doesn’t deny the attack happened. But he must know what the likely consequence will be of his invitation to cynicism about the worst reported atrocities. He must know it will tap into an already existing poisoned well of mistrust towards Israeli accounts of the horrors visited on their people on 7 October. Jones is no racist October-denialist, but I have no doubt that the racist October-denialists will take some succour from his video that asks whether we should believe in the unseen atrocities.
I find it hard to believe Jones has had a Damascene conversion to the old-fashioned journalistic task of always asking for evidence. This is a man up to his neck in identitarian bollocks and trans mysticism. If a 6”5 bloke called Dave were to identify as a lesbian, Jones would believe him instantly. He would say Dave is literally a woman, and literally a lesbian, and only a bigot would say otherwise. Yet when he sees a real woman murdered and burnt and denuded of her underwear, suddenly he wants evidence. ‘Show the rape.’ What a lowlife.
It strikes me that political influencers are chipping away at the historic enormity of 7 October. Some deny it entirely; others, like Jones, question some of its extremities. Many say Israel’s response has been morally worse, certainly in terms of numbers killed. The gravity of 7 October, its position as the worst act of anti-Semitic slaughter in more than 70 years, its standing as by far the worst racist crime of many of our lifetimes, is being eroded. There is denialism, denialism-lite and obfuscation, and all of it has the predictable impact of making people wonder if 7 October was as bad as we’ve been told.
I find it unconscionable. It is historical revisionism in real time, with the naked aim of questioning the victimisation of Israeli Jews in order to sanctify the hallowed victim status of Palestinians. It seems clear to me that the reason so many in the Western left are screaming ‘Genocide!’ and ‘Murderers!’ at Israel is in order that they will not have to reckon with the racist barbarism of 7 October, and the fact it was carried out by ‘their side’, and the truth of their own snivelling failure to condemn it early and forcefully. They rage against Israel to try to wash away the moral stain of their own cowardice and their abandonment of the Jews.
Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer. This article was first published HERE