"Attack on the Jewish population": an interview with Noa Luft
Noa Luft was the Executive Director of the Jewish Student Union of Germany (JSUD) and is now on the board of the Young Forum Berlin of the German-Israeli Society (DIG). She moved to Tel Aviv a year ago.
Trauma for Israeli society
Noa, can you describe your feelings about the Hamas attacks on Israel in recent weeks? What is the situation like right now?
Israeli society is broken – everyone here knows someone personally – or knows someone who knows someone – who has been murdered, kidnapped, or attacked by Hamas terrorists. Our entire society is traumatized. The Jewish people have been retraumatized, because not since the Shoah have so many people been murdered in one single day as were murdered on the day of the October 7 massacre; that has touched a very deep wound in Israeli society.
On the other hand, I have been overwhelmed by the incredible solidarity and social cohesion in this country. Just one day after the attack, the whole of Dizengoff Square, that’s a central square in the heart of Tel Aviv, had already been turned into a collection point for donations. Donations in kind were being collected all over the place for the survivors of the massacre, thousands of people gave blood. Nearly all the restaurants in Tel Aviv prepare meals for soldiers and for the survivors of the massacre on a daily basis. And all of this is done by volunteers. I’ve never experienced this kind of solidarity before.
I think this is what being Jewish is all about: When disaster strikes, or when there is war, people stand together and help each other – completely regardless of their political convictions or personal views. Everyone stands together. And countless reservists have volunteered to fight for their country and defend it. On October 8 and 9, immediately after the October 7 attack, I saw on social media that lots of people I’d been having coffee with or going to bars with a week before had already made their way to military bases to serve as soldiers.
Terror in Israel
How do Jews outside of Israel see the Hamas attack?
The terrorist attacks are perceived as an attack on the Jewish population.
OK, this barbaric attack by Hamas happened in Israel, but you can see the impact it’s had in other countries as well, and it’s being seen as an attack on the Jewish people. People know that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and it’s well known that the only goal of Hamas is the destruction of Israel and the Jewish population worldwide. And that has an impact on Jews in the diaspora too, of course – and on their safety in particular.
No more tolerance of Israel-related antisemitism
Given the large number anti-Israeli protests currently taking place in Germany, how do you feel about the situation over here?
The things we now see happening on German streets are incredibly frightening to me. But at the same time I have to say that the type and more specifically the extent of the antisemitism we are seeing comes as no surprise to me. The Jewish community in Germany has been warning about the high level of antisemitism in Germany for years. The way I see it, it was just accepted for many years, and Israel-related antisemitism in particular was sometimes even hushed up.
Safety of Jews threatened
What does that mean for Jews in Germany?
I’ve been having discussions every day with my Jewish friends in Germany, especially in Berlin, about whether it’s safer right now to walk through the streets of Berlin or to be in a Tel Aviv apartment with a safe room. And I find the fact that we’re even talking about this incredibly frightening. The fact that last Friday [October 13], some of my Jewish friends didn’t dare to go out into the streets, that Jewish institutions stayed closed, that synagogues are being attacked again, that Israeli flags are being burned on German streets – that really makes me ask myself how safe European countries are, how safe Germany now is for Jews. And I also wonder whether it might already be too late to change some of these things.
How can people in Germany show solidarity in response to this situation?
The fact that so many people are staying silent is hurtful. I’ve noticed that a lot of people who normally always stand up for human rights and fight human suffering are keeping very, very quiet right now. Now it’s time to show solidarity with Jews, they’re holding back, and this silence rings very loudly in our ears.
It’s important to me to stress that you can stand up for the Palestinian civilian population while being against the terrorist organization Hamas at the same time. And you can
show solidarity with Jews in particular in the face of this barbaric attack by Hamas against Israel. I think a lot of people need to do some serious thinking and need to start standing up against the antisemitism that’s bubbling up on German streets at present. And when it comes to slogans that have been bandied about for years now, like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” you have to ask yourself what they mean. And the precise meaning of that slogan is the extermination of the Jewish people in this region.
»Now it’s time to show solidarity with Jews, [many people] are holding back, and this silence rings very loudly in our ears.«Noa Luft
Another goal of Hamas is to attract attention to themselves and to spread fear and anxiety throughout society. That doesn’t happen through these terrorist acts alone, through the barbaric massacre that they carried out almost two weeks ago – a lot of it’s also happening in the digital space and through the media. I felt really helpless in the face of the disinformation surrounding the alleged attack on a hospital in Gaza,. I didn’t know what on earth to do. It doesn’t seem to matter any more whether or not it was an Israeli missile. Israel is still being held accountable for the attack, and the only reason for that is that people were spreading fake news – and that’s part of Hamas policy, and it’s working in their favor. That there were even some editorial offices that stopped applying journalistic standards, and that this fake news spread like wildfire in the digital space… You really ought to double check every single piece of information and every sharepic, have a really close look at the source, and think twice about what you share and what you don’t share in the digital space.
The social media war that’s now brewing, or has actually already begun, is incredibly dangerous. Each and every internet user needs to think very carefully about their own internet behavior.