"Human kind cannot bear too much reality."
T. S. Eliot.
I arrived at the Haifa District Court with a deep sense of foreboding. On my way there, as I drove through Arrabeh’s sleepy streets (It is Ramadan and most fellow Moslem villagers go back to sleep after their dawn meal and prayer.) I saw clear signs of trouble: Two police cars with their lights flashing entered the village just I was on my way out. Stopped in my tracks by the daily traffic jam on the outskirts of Haifa, I turned the radio dial from my usual BBC morning news to the local Arabic FM station and heard the name of my village on the news: A seven-month pregnant young woman whose name I recognized had been slain by her mentally-ill husband in full view of her four children. She bled to death in the bathroom from her seven stab wounds before the husband escaped.
“The man is mentally ill,” I imagined the mayor explaining away our collective shame.
“We all are to blame; it is a symptom of an ailing society in the throes of disintegration,” I could hear Toufiq, my village friend since childhood, arguing back.
At the entrance to the new and imposing courthouse complex, built over the cleared area of an entire neighborhood of old Haifa, I greeted the few members I recognized among the group of mostly Jewish ‘peace junkies’ holding signs of solidarity with Rachel Corrie’s family and cause. Rachel’s rather spry-looking parents seemed duly impressed, thanking people for their good sentiments and expressing their hope to a couple of journalists that finally here was their chance to show the formal investigation of the IDF of their daughter’s death for the hasty slipshod cover-up that it actually was. The small crowd of demonstrators and media people were cordoned off against the wall to the side of the spacious entryway to the courts complex so as not to affect the security processing of arrivals. Except that the parking area elevators emptied out on the cordoned-off side of the yard. My wife recorded visually and communicated to me a ratio of ten to one who crawled under the red plastic tape rather than bothering to take the extra dozen steps required to get into the queue at the entrance. Two women dressed in lawyery black and white clothes belonging to the latter variety, the minority of upright and obedient citizens, shouted insults at the demonstrators.
My wife and I introduced ourselves to the Corries and exchanged visiting cards with them. Rachel’s mother wore an appropriate brooch on the lapel of her light summer coat, a mother-of-pearl peace dove. I used to give the same dove, handmade in
As we lined up to go through security, the young officer asked the usual “Do you carry any weapons?” and I shot back a comical “Nooo!” She explained in a rather plaintive tone of voice: “A knife is a weapon, you know!” She caught me off guard. Was she referring to the murder in my village, I wondered? How did she know I was from Arrabeh?
We cleared security, stopped at the cafeteria for a quick cup of coffee, chatted with a couple of other Palestinians of similar convictions and made it to the sun-drenched courtroom on the sixth floor.
In the court I sat next to the American consul who used the waiting time to study Hebrew from a phrasebook he must have downloaded to his I-phone. He looked so Semitic I had to resist the urge to give him a hug: We Semites have to stick together in the face of the alien hordes. The Corries sat in the front raw and a translator leaned forward from the second row to whisper the translated proceedings to them. They were so obviously Nordic-looking that a touch of hostility almost snuck into my heart. Awaiting the judge, another fellow Israelite, to commence the proceedings, I busied my head with assessing the relative inequality of the resultant triangular configuration of relationships: the consul, the judge and the Corries. I fantasized a world of peace and stability in which a level of international solidarity and cooperation is attained in which the diplomatic corps representing one state, say France, to another, say Saudi Arabia, would be drawn almost entirely from citizens of the host country. That is the level of trust and understanding that has been reached between the
Soon the start of the Corries vs, the State of Israel case was announced and I prepared for the full engagement of my senses and intellect in absorbing the details of all that was going on around me. I was aware of the tremendous potential the Corrie’s case had in blowing
I shifted back to observing the judge. I had been warned in advance that his record is most lean on rulings in favor of human rights defenders. Is that why he gave such clear signs of so much mental anguish? I returned to my observations of his neuromuscular oddity. Readers may think this a crude comment on a judge of justice. Yet we all do this all the time. All drivers rely on observing the lights in the back of the car in front of them to pick up the indications of its driver’s intentions. That is how a physician relates to the physical signs of those ‘cruising around’ in his vicinity. So, please, excuse this casual attitude to what you may consider to be a sensitive issue. Overall, the tic was quite frequent, perhaps once every one and a half minutes on average. But it was not regular. First I noticed that it did not occur during the rare occasions when the defense team of lawyers from the State Prosecutor Office spoke. It also occurred very rarely when the witnesses spoke. One witness made a clearly outrageous statement he should never have made: “In war there are no civilians,” he declared. The good judge strained his neck so vigorously and stuck his head out so far he nearly swept the computer screen in front of him off the table. At another juncture, the judge had a cascade of successive neck-stretching exercises as he admonished the Corrie’s lawyer, Hussein Abu-Hussein, to abandon the line of questioning he was pursuing with the witness. It was irrelevant, the judge decided. I felt the lawyer was treading very close to the red line sequestering the truth behind it. Obviously, the witness was being bamboozled.
Suddenly, the judge cut my intense inner hilarity short: He had to leave the court early for a physician’s appointment. Was he seeing a neurologist? I could certainly assist the physician with my professional observations, I thought. Or perhaps he had something more serious, a terribly bad heart or a nasty brain aneurism? Don’t rush to conclusions about possible wishful thinking on my part, please! At
In a ten-minute break in the court proceedings, I strode to the back of the spacious hallway to feast my eyes on what I could see of
I looked at Rachel’s parents and they seemed tired, worn out, no doubt, by the rigors of the intense delving into details of their late daughter’s death. I felt like offering them my sympathy and physical support as they ambulated out of the court. Till I went to the bathroom and took a good look at myself in the mirror: I should have asked the Corries to help me to my car, I decided.
Heading home I was elated by the prospect of my impending rise to fame in medical circles by virtue of my forthcoming first-ever report of two consecutive cases of the instantaneous onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. To rest my mind and gain some emotional respite from the excitement of it all, I turned my car radio on: The dial had been left on the local FM station. Arrabeh’s stabbing murder case was still dominating the free-for-all call-in program. Callers were speculating about what could have irked the presumably insane husband to act in the murderous way he did. For a moment I entertained the thought of calling in and alerting the program’s host, whom I knew personally, and his audience to the Corries versus the State of Israel case. I wanted to let everyone know that here was another case of murder by way of insanity. Except that here, a whole nation had gone insane.