OpinionOctober 7

‘I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby’

Emmett Till’s mother expressed the necessity of bearing witness to savage horror, and we must bear witness to the atrocities of Oct. 7.

Destruction caused by Hamas terrorist on Oct. 7 when they infiltrated Kibbutz Be'eri and slaughtered civilians, Oct. 17, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Destruction caused by Hamas terrorist on Oct. 7 when they infiltrated Kibbutz Be'eri and slaughtered civilians, Oct. 17, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Kevin Jon Williams
Kevin Jon Williams, M.D. is the proud father of two current day-school students, as well as a professor of cardiovascular sciences and a professor of medicine.

As soon as many of my friends and I learned of the savagery that Hamas-led terrorists and “ordinary” Gazans committed in southern Israel on Oct. 7, we resolved not to look at any photographs or videos of it.

We were wrong. We must bear witness. Here’s why:

Images of the atrocities were quickly available online from many sources, such as internet postings by Gazan terrorists. Some were posted by the killers on the social media accounts of Israeli victims after the killers stole their cell phones to torment the victims’ close family and friends. There was footage from the terrorists’ body-cams and dash-cams, surveillance videos from on-site security cameras, and images taken afterwards.

The written descriptions of these horrors remain powerful and sickening. We read of beheadings and burnings of babies, gang-murder rapes of Jewish women and girls, murders of Jewish children in front of their parents, murders of Jewish parents in front of their children, and abductions of hostages. Including, we must presume, after so much time, holding raped hostages to force them to complete their unwanted pregnancies.

The written descriptions were enough, I thought.

Then the IDF assembled its own compilation and invited select groups of people to watch it. For the sake of dignity, the screenings have been private and require a written promise not to take photographs. Accordingly, when I saw it, we had to leave our cell phones outside the auditorium. The presentation included remarks before and after from an IDF spokesman. During his remarks and the film, I openly took notes on paper.

It has been called the “worst 45-minute film you will ever see.” But the IDF spokesman made it clear to us that it isn’t. Out of respect, he told us, the film does not include rapes, nor babies and children being murdered. He also explained that the footage shows the murders of 138 people, which is only a small fraction of the 1,200 murder victims.

In case you have not seen the IDF film, here are just a few of the horrific scenes:

During an attack on unarmed civilians, a father ran with his two boys into a shelter. The terrorists saw them and threw a grenade into the shelter. I have to assume that the father bravely shielded his boys from the explosion and was killed. His boys staggered out, wounded. Next, the terrorists entered the house and casually raided the family’s refrigerator while the two wounded boys watched and cried. The boys are heard saying: I can’t hear, my leg is wounded, aba (daddy) is dead.

Shouts of Allahu Akbar—our God, Allah, is the greatest of all—while terrorists played with decapitated heads as if they were soccer balls.

A terrorist shouting Allahu Akbar while using a garden hoe to try to chop a man’s head off.

“Mom, your son is a hero!” exclaims a terrorist on a stolen Israeli cell phone, bragging to his parents of killing 10 Israelis, including a husband and wife.

Over and over, terrorists stepping and rubbing their feet on the exposed faces of dead Israeli soldiers.

“Ordinary” people in Gaza celebrating, abusing a dead Israeli and a bleeding woman taken and bound, with more shouts of Allahu Akbar.

The attack on the Nova music festival. There is random shooting at concertgoers; shots fired through the door of every portable toilet to murder each person inside whom the terrorists could not even see; videos of happy, gleeful terrorists; the whole stage and bar full of bloody murdered young people; the wreckage of the cars of victims who tried to flee; burned cars with dead bodies inside; burned bodies on the ground outside, some tied up; terrorists taking photos of dead bodies.

These are horrific images. Yet here’s a sample of what the IDF purposefully left out, one of hundreds of rapes and mutilations. This one was described in first-hand eyewitness testimony to the United Nations:

“I remember how [one attacker] shifted [the rape victim’s] position, then passed her on to another person. … She was alive. … She was standing. … She was bleeding from her back. … She had long hair and he was pulling it. … She wasn’t dressed. … He cut [off] her breast. He threw it on the road and they played with it.”

I serve on the board of a Jewish day school that has arranged a mission to Israel later this month. The rabbi, our principal, said this mission must include bearing witness to the destruction in southern Israel. We will visit southern Israel, but don’t we know enough already?

I am reminded of the wise imperative of Ms. Mamie Till-Mobley after her son, Emmett Till, was brutally lynched in Mississippi almost seven decades ago. For her son’s funeral, Ms. Till-Mobley insisted on an open casket. She said: “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.”

In early September 1955, tens of thousands of people attended Till’s funeral in Chicago. Jet magazine and The Chicago Defender, both African-American periodicals, published photographs of Till’s mutilated body. Some have made the connection between the visual shock of what violent bigots did to Emmett Till and what violent bigots did to thousands of victims—dead, maimed and kidnapped—in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

I have a particular demand.

It was the image of Emmett Till, not any written description, that changed America’s attitude towards the mistreatment of his minority group.

In the face of ongoing worldwide public displays of Jew-hatred inspired by the atrocities of Oct. 7, the same must happen for us now. We should expect no less. Everyone—Jews and non-Jews—is obligated to bear witness to the savage horrors that Hamas and “ordinary” Gazans committed on Oct. 7 and to change their attitude.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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