By Andrew Adler
Last week I had the unenviable privilege of attending a closed showing of a 46-minute video compiled by the Israeli government, displaying scenes of atrocity and brutality that, in my contemporary experience, has no parallel. The subject was the Hamas attack of October 7. The cast included terrorists in various guises, wielding automatic weapons, knives, and other implements of destruction.
There has been abundant description about various elements of this video. Many Hamas terrorists wore body cams, gleefully recording their murderous rampage, punctuated by shouts of “Allahu Akbar!” and an especially perverse phone call home: “Mom, Dad, your son is a hero! I killed 10 Jews with my bare hands!”
The official presentations of this video compendium, which are not open to the public, are being coordinated in this country by the Israeli consulate, which in the Southeast Region is represented by Atlanta-based Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon. There were two sessions on Jan. 17, both in Frankfort. The first took place at the state capitol, attended by approximately 60 state legislators and a number of guest observers. The second, which I attended, was held at Kentucky State University for members of local media. Sultan-Dadon gave a contextual introduction, alongside a uniformed Israeli Defense Forces Lieutenant Colonel.
This official video was compiled out of hundreds, of hours taken from captured body cams, mobile phones, intercepted phone calls, etc. Some excerpts lasted only a few seconds; others a minute or more. Each segment was accompanied by a terse explanatory caption.
I’m not going to go into detail about what I saw. One, because there are sufficient descriptions available elsewhere; and two, because nothing can take the place of seeing and somehow, in some way, trying to make sense of what is beyond sense.
I used the word “gleeful” earlier, because I can’t think of an adjective that better describes the declarations of pride, joy and accomplishment these terrorists had in murdering civilians and soldiers, be they infants, elderly, the disabled, whomever. Many who escaped death were hustled and dragged, often severely injured, to be taken into Gaza and paraded as trophy hostages, alongside the corpses of fellow Israelis who did not survive that short drive from what they thought was heaven into what became their collective hell.
I was struck by the quietude of many of these horrific scenes. Most heartrending, for me anyway, was video taken by first responders who came upon the aftermath of the Nova music festival, at which Hamas gunmen slaughtered more than 300 Israeli civilians. “Signs of life, signs of life?” the emergency personnel shouted, hoping that somebody – anybody — might answer. But there was no answer, only ravaged body after body, sprawled muted in the dirt.
A friend of mine asked me why this video is being circulated, and why would I subject myself to the abject misery of sitting through it. I thought back almost 80 years ago when Buchenwald was liberated at the end of World War II, and officials, from supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower on down, got a firsthand look at what the Holocaust had wrought.
Bearing witness to such atrocities, speaking for victims who no longer can speak for themselves, is necessary and proper. There will always be those who deny that these atrocities occurred, or that what happened was exaggerated and manipulated, or that it was best to relegate it to a corner of one’s memory and move on.
That of course is grossly insufficient, and indeed, insulting. As Sultan-Doron remarked at KSU after the video ended, it is not enough to mouth platitudes of “never again” and walk away, self-satisfied, that all will be well. Because we have seen, in Bosnia, Rwanda, and now at the hands of Hamas, that it can and will happen again. Somehow, we must find the means to go beyond those platitudes. Otherwise, all that we’ll be left with are the scarred and silent dead, lying motionless on the cold and unforgiving ground.
Andrew Adler is Managing Editor of Community. To contact Andrew, email him at email@example.com.