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“Player’s grandma is angry”
is the current headline on Yahoo News, but it can easily be about Britney Spears’ latest hairstyle or Brad Pitt defending Jennifer Aniston “over an uncool Jolie diss.” While enjoying the perks of empire, with its preemptive strikes, regime changes, torture and billions of bombs sold and delivered, we traffic in trivia and bad jokes. A week ago, Tahseen al-Khateeb, whose translations of Arabic poetry I’ve featured on this blog, circulated an understandably outraged email:
It’s very obvious– without a single thread of doubt– that the “conscience” of the Western intellectuals (if there’s any!) is in a deep COMA! As if the Palestinian blood is water and what’s happening in Gaza is some kind of a video game! What a shame! SLEEP WELL!
After I posted it on my blog, a young “poet” left a mocking comment: “There are also only three ‘boating enthusiast blogs’ that have mentioned it too. Shame.” It’s all a big joke, right? Just blurt any idiocy to get your name noticed. Other people’s suffering is just pornography and a chance to flaunt your hip sense of humor. Remember Kilgor in Apocalypse Now, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like… victory.” Kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out! But not everyone is so callous and nihilistic. Some do manage to wring their hands and mutter, “It’s insoluble because life is tragic and war is a part of life. Only the dead have seen the end of war, blah, blah, blah.” John Berger, for one, doesn’t think that’s adequate. As Israel started its latest bombardment of Gaza, he circulated this email:
We are now spectators of the latest – and perhaps penultimate – chapter of the 60 year old conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. About the complexities of this tragic conflict billions of words have been pronounced, defending one side or the other.
Today, in face of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the essential calculation, which was always covertly there, behind this conflict, has been blatantly revealed. The death of one Israeli victim justifies the killing of a hundred Palestinians. One Israeli life is worth a hundred Palestinian lives.
This is what the Israeli State and the world media more or less – with marginal questioning – mindlessly repeat. And this claim, which has accompanied and justified the longest Occupation of foreign territories in 20th C. European history, is viscerally racist. That the Jewish people should accept this, that the world should concur, that the Palestinians should submit to it – is one of history’s ironic jokes. There’s no laughter anywhere. We can, however, refute it, more and more vocally.
Let’s do so.
Berger is no idle spectator. According to David Levi Strauss, “[Berger] was in Gaza until [the last week of December, 2008], working with the children who comprise more than half the population of the region. This is a humanitarian catastrophe. Over 300 dead, more than 1500 injured, so far. And these are our F-16s and missiles doing the damage. If we will not condemn the Israeli government’s actions now, when?”
The death toll is now nearly 700. Schools, clinics and ambulances have been bombed, a relief boat carrying Cynthia McKinney rammed by the Israeli navy. This, on top of a two year economic blockade that had crippled the territory. On September 22, 2007, Pepe Escobar wrote in Asia Times: “It is one of the most scandalous instances of collective punishment anywhere in the world in recent times. And what is the response of the high-minded ‘international community’? It’s the standard ‘three monkeys’ – willfully deaf, dumb and blind.”
But it’s never too late to pay attention. Consider, for example, the testimonies of Richard Falk, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, or sit through this video, Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority: