A capacity audience of nearly 1,000 heard the journalist and commentator Douglas Murray in defiant mood, after the Technion fund-raiser event was moved at the last minute from the Apollo Theatre in the West End to a north London synagogue.
In conversation with actress Louisa Clein, Murray, who has spent the last two months in Israel interviewing politicians and victims of the October 7 Hamas attacks, was pugnacious, calling Israel’s opponents, particularly in the UK, “moral buffoons”. He was particularly contemptuous of those he called the “lunatics” of the “Jews for Suicide Groups”, despising them as “the gay Neturei Karta”.
Murray, who has won a reputation for trenchant, hard-line defence of Israel, received sustained applause from the packed synagogue audience — who included the actor Kevin Spacey — throughout the evening.
He noted that “it seems that if you support Hamas openly on the streets of Britain, the terrorists of October 7, the streets are yours. If you are on the side of the Jews, they are not. That is a generational failing, by politicians, by police and others. It should never have come to this. But I, at any rate, will not be bullied into silence.” He insisted: “I’m not shutting up or going anywhere”.
The commentator’s trademark is a waspish mocking of Israel’s enemies, saying scornfully that “there are loads of people in London who have just learned about the Houthis: they discover a new terror group every week and they’re on their side in no time. Fantastic! These guys are shelling British and American ships, what’s not to like?”
In later remarks he said that the “people who call themselves anti-fascists are actually calling for the eradication of the Jewish state, they would finish the work of Adolf Hitler”.
He said that when he first started travelling to Israel at the time of the 2006 Lebanon war, he had been “stunned by the disconnect” between what he was seeing and what was reported. Particularly, he said, “I was stunned by the unbelievable lack of empathy for Israel. Most people, if you fired a rocket at them, they’d respond, and that would be regarded as a perfectly legitimate thing to do. But it was only Israel which was described as ‘retaliating’”.
Murray asked, rhetorically: “What were they retaliating for? How about reporting the first rockets and who fired them?”
He described Israel today as a country with “millions of stories every day”, and shared details of many painful conversations with survivors of the Hamas attacks and with released hostages. He concluded that “the feeling of unity in Israel is very strong. The country is full of people who know what they need to do [in defence of the Jewish state]”.
In the diaspora, however, Murray was highly critical of the way opposition to Israel was policed, and said that the Jewish community should be doing more to protest.
Describing the climbing on to war memorials during anti-Israel protests as “very sinister” for Britain as well as the Jewish community, Murray said that “the British police have this view, which is not to escalate things. This is different from the view of the French police… in France, the president is allowed to ban protests.
“Macron banned the [anti-Israel] marches, and in the first week, they happened, the police intervened and they didn’t happen again. The police in the UK believe, don’t make a fuss, record it and maybe go in afterwards. But here’s the problem with that. This is something that the Jewish community can bring to the attention of the Metropolitan Police. The problem is that nobody notices when you do a morning arrest at a house in east London. What they notice is people standing in London calling for a Muslim army… and that footage goes around the world”.
“People need to tell police this is utterly unacceptable and that no community should be put through this,” Murray said. “If it was any other community, that community would raise hell”. He agreed with Louisa Clein that the police were fearful of being denounced as Islamophobic, but maintained that “police are meant to step in if they see people breaking the law”.
He added: “There’s not enough noise from the Jewish community about precisely this”, noting that the police were unlikely to fight harder for the community, if the Jewish community itself were not urging action.
Asked by Clein what she should say to her friends on the left, about how to balance their political beliefs with what Murray was saying about Israel and Hamas, the commentator was in no doubt: “Ask them to tell the truth. Look frankly at what is actually happening. I don’t care if I’m thought of as right-wing or not”. He urged those on the left to “listen to the testimony of those on the kibbutzim, who were far to the left of those you are talking about…
“If you go round the sites, you can see Peace Now stickers on what remains of somebody’s fridge. You speak to the people. I spoke to a man who had been on kibbutz all his life, total leftist, peace activist. He was in his safe room on October 7 with his wife and teenage son and daughter”.
The family had shut themselves in their safe room but were unable to lock it. Murray described how the father had held the door closed for a long time, but the terrorists had set fire to the house. The family opened the air vent and were attacked. “They killed his wife, put a Kalashnikov through the shutters and shot his 14-year-old son who bled out in front of him and his daughter”. The dying boy asked to be buried with his surfboard.
“He said to me, I’ve been a leftist all my life. But now I want nothing but potato fields from here to the Mediterranean. We can’t live with these people”. Murray said there were “hundreds” of stories like this. And he asked those on the left: “Have some empathy and understanding for the people who can no longer afford to dream the dreams you dream.”
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