We’ve all seen them in photographs. Swathed in black, standing triumphant but dispassionate over the dismembered victims of their genocidal ideology. No, I’m not talking about Hitler’s SS: rather, the jihadis of ISIS. But you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re one and the same: after all, the similarities are endless, and hideously unsettling.
The second instalment in VICE News’s five-part documentary into the ISIS-controlled Islamic State in Iraq and Syria reveals how children are being groomed for jihad and brainwashed into a loathing of “infidels”. It is unspeakable, almost unimaginable foulness, captured on film by VICE’s videographers. (By comparison, the headstands and oom-pah nationalism of the Hitler Youth seem comically harmless.)
Elsewhere, there are reports that the 7-year-old son of an Australian jihadist has had his picture taken by dad with the caption: “That’s my boy.” What’s that he’s holding? A severed head. Such inhuman cruelty and unrepentant abuse of innocents is beyond our comprehension. The utter vacuum behind the eyes of these men, and the scale of their ambition, is, surely, unknown to modern history outside the Third Reich.
Our understanding of Islamic extremism in all its psychopathic barbarism is the more vivid because, that terrific VICE documentary notwithstanding, we mostly see these terrorists in their own words and pictures, via their own social media accounts. Like the Nazis before them, ISIS are masters of communication, deploying slick social media campaigns to spread the word of radical Islam. So we know what their objectives are. And we know that one of them is the eradication of the Jewish people.
Hitler might have been the master of the radio soundbite and the public spectacle, but ISIS has a fluency with digital technology that gives them immediate and direct access to would-be jihadis. It’s terrifying. And, as we watch on our computers and smartphones, we see history repeating itself, as Christians and Jews are threatened and then slaughtered throughout the Middle East.
This generation of 3G-enabled terrorists is decentralised, fluidly organised and can co-ordinate itself across vast territories, thanks to Western technology. It’s peer-to-peer evil, if you like, and in that respect as unnerving as that Austrian painter and decorator’s feverish, murderous imagination.
I am, strictly speaking – that is, in matrilineal terms – a Jew. But I call myself “Jew-ish” because I have little cultural grasp of the faith or the community or even any connection to it, really. Yet speaking to Jewish friends I feel an instinctive, protective horror.
Because a malaise is descending on the Jews in Europe all over again, as basket case Islamic militants start to win the PR war in Gaza, and liberal morons do their dirty work for them, stoking up resentment, hatred and suspicion of the Jewish people, conflating Israel’s foreign policy with the very fact of Jewishness and making Jews unwelcome in their own countries once again.
People aren’t exactly sleeping with packed suitcases under the bed – yet. But there’s a melancholic inevitability about the way Jewish people are quietly Googling flight prices. The diaspora is once again, wearily, considering its options.
British people don’t realise how they legitimise ISIS, anti-Semitism and Hamas through their well-meaning sympathy for Muslims in Gaza. Because you can say that Palestinians aren’t represented by Hamas, but the data doesn’t show much of a difference in social attitudes. To give just one example of how tolerant and lovely the people of Gaza can be: just 4 per cent of Palestinians think “society should accept homosexuality,” according to Pew Global. Where does this charming attitude come from? I think we know the answer.
Isn’t it telling that any old excuse – this weekend, it was the Gaza march – brings unashamed supporters of the vilest regimes on the planet out onto London’s streets – not to mention a healthy smattering of good, old-fashioned Jew-haters?
“Then they came for the Jews,” reads a line in the famous poem by Martin Niemöller, which skewered the inaction of Germany’s intellectuals during the rise of the Nazis. It’s not a stretch to apply Niemöller’s wisdom to the naïve idiots of the BBC and Guardian, who never miss an opportunity to demonise Israel or to downplay Islamist horror.
We’re told endlessly that Muslims are sick of being tarred with the same brush as their terrorist coreligionists, but is there a single “Not In My Name” campaign anywhere in the Muslim world? Where are the Muslim peace movements? What are the rest of us to conclude, if not tacit complicity in the terror of ISIS and the stated aim of Iran and a dozen Muslim organisations to drive Israel into the sea?
The truth is that “they” have already come for the Jews. One need only look to Gaza, and listen to the anti-Semitic hatred once again being peddled on British streets – and by Members of our own Parliament, no less. How long – decades, or just years – before ISIS sets its sights on Western Europe?
The British have a national genius for embarrassment, self-effacement and understatement. But when you speak half-heartedly about your own accomplishments, you open up the space for inferior cultures and attitudes to take root. And let us be clear: these are inferior cultures. Most of the things that makes the world a pleasant place to live are British exports, as Dan Hannan elegantly argues in his book on that subject.
The only way to fight the unique toxicity of anti-Semitism, which wraps itself like ivy around cultures and overtakes them, is with proud public defence of the virtues of freedom and acceptance, and a zero-tolerance policy toward the originators of hatred.
I hate to ask this, because it’s so macabre. But you do have to wonder what has to happen for our politicians to realise what’s going on in the streets of Bradford and east London and on our university campuses, and to act. After all, the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby evidently wasn’t enough: the BBC gave hate preacher Anjem Choudary screen time the very next night to defend Rigby’s murderers. What do you suppose it will take?