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Survivor vs. Observer

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

October 7 has become a poignant reminder for Israel of the constant threat it faces.

Press Roundup on Swiss Media from October 25, 2023 by Adiel Guggenheim

What’s being said

Swiss media expresses shock at the latest terrorist activities. Even though Israel's intelligence agencies were active, the security department could not prevent the planned Hamas attack on settlements along the Gaza Envelope. This attack marks a significant triumph for Hamas and turns this period into one of the darkest times for Israel since its foundation.

The 20 Minuten has been tracking events in the Gaza Strip with constant live updates since the beginning of the war. But as the conflict continues, the initial event that caused the war falls away into obscurity. Reports increasingly focus on Israel's extensive attacks on northern Gaza, while developments like the release of hostages or possible negotiations between Israel and Hamas are occasionally highlighted.

In contrast, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) offers a diverse range of reporting. Letters to the editor not only address current events but also delve into the historical context of the conflict. Discussions include reasons for Hamas's rise to power and its comparison to other radical Islamic movements such as ISIS. An article comparing Hamas and Russia also sheds critical light on both entities. While both justify their actions by claiming to be victims, they are both unequivocally criticized by both Switzerland and the European Union.

Less prominent this week is the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Despite relief packages already dispatched, there's ongoing debate about the actual use of the resources. An explosion near a hospital in Gaza, initially attributed to Israel, was revealed as an act of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, significantly undermining trust in Hamas as a source of information.

One clear takeaway has emerged: trust in Hamas is dwindling. And concern for Gaza’s civilians is rising. Unfortunately, we don’t see sufficient clarity on how these two circumstances are linked – connecting Hamas directly to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

What’s not being said

Another often-overlooked issue is the humanitarian crisis within Israel. War is more than direct confrontation on the frontlines. It pulls reservists into the armed forces, causing a vacuum in the economy, and with their families. Many mothers suddenly find themselves alone, bearing all responsibility for their children, with looming uncertainty about the fate of their husbands. Stores and businesses lose employees, affecting production. And military expenditures surge, whether for fuel for tanks and aircraft, or defensive missiles against the numerous attacks from Gaza and Lebanon. Every defense action costs money.

Additionally, there's the evacuation of people from war zones, both in southern and northern Israel – now nearing 200,000 displaced persons spread across the country. Affected individuals often leave their homes with little more than a suitcase, uncertain if and when they can return, some after losing everything. Where will these people sleep? What will they eat? Who will care for them? They require a semblance of routine to help mitigate psychological trauma or the tendency to seek revenge.

Violence can be a direct reaction to the loss of all security and prevailing uncertainty – which we want to avoid. Though we see little coverage of this in the media, all these challenges are part and parcel of the war's immediate and future consequences.

What we think

It seems, from the reports we see, that the world perceives Hamas's brutality less intensely than Israel does. While Israel experienced this violence firsthand, and its sense of security has been damaged to the core, the rest of the world sees this merely as information. They are not at war. As the war progresses, the difference between experiencing something firsthand and observing it play out on a screen becomes clearer. Israeli Jews felt the impact in a way that watching at home simply can't encompass. It was an experience that resonated deeply, disturbing their inner balance, and damaging everything they hold dear. Viewers in Europe mostly remain observers. In conflicts like those in Congo or Libya, the outside world strives for objective understanding. In this conflict, the United States and Europe are more than just spectators, but there is a gap between what its leaders see happening in terms of global politics and what people understand to be happening in their homes. This war is challenging many other regional political efforts. This makes it difficult to approach objectively, as might be expected in other conflicts.

October 7 has become a poignant reminder for Israel of the constant threat and danger it faces. It’s true that, in the face of such inhuman actions, certain political considerations have to be set aside, and individual suffering has to be taken into account. This is why humanitarian law exists – to protect people who are not directly involved in the political or military conflict. Still, whereas there's much talk of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, few are speaking about the crisis of humanity that has been forced upon Israeli civilians.

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