Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bob Schieffer in a World Gone Mad

Bob Schieffer has been gravely misunderstood and misquoted by Palestinians and their sympathizers when in actual fact the ones he maligned were the Israelis: If you listen carefully to the man ( you will find him concise and to the point, delivering his message clearly in the best of CBS sound-bite traditions. Here is the main message for which he has been maliciously faulted:
“In the Middle East, the Palestinian people find themselves in the grip of a terrorist group that has embarked on a strategy to get its own children killed in order to build sympathy for its cause - a strategy that might actually be working at least in some quarters.”
And yet many listeners think he is speaking of Palestinian self-abuse despite the clear giveaway. After all, who holds the Palestinians in his grip but Israel? Obviously Bob is talking about Israel. And you think he is slandering the Palestinians! No wonder he thinks that “we are in the midst of a world gone mad.”
Let me now guide you through the man’s statement a word at a time: To contextualize the message for Americans, whom we know are all pro-Palestinian, he starts with a familiar concept, the Middle East. That should be sufficient, Bob in his wisdom-fraught mind must think, to arouse their interest and set their senses on edge for the coming blitz. After all, who but our Palestinian allies have gotten us involved in our glorious crusades in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and the Ukraine? [Are all these countries in the Middle East, I wonder? Who is going to bother asking anyway? Let us just finish the thought.] Think of how profitable it all has been for our energy moguls. And the mere mention of “the Middle East” will undoubtedly evoke tender sentiments of sad longing for the lost millions of lives in those crusades. So much life has been wasted that Bob hasn’t slept well for years, and he looks it. So what if the lives are mostly those of non-Americans? That is Bob’s central message: We all are human brothers and sisters. The life of a Syrian farmer in the Beqa’a Valley, of an Afghan shepherd in Peshawar or of a Palestinian fisherman in Gaza, of any Moslem anywhere for that matter, is equally dear to Bob’s Orient-soaked heart.
Now that he has put his millions of mesmerized audience on edge, Bob has to sooth their nerves with a calming image they all love, that of “Palestinians.” What better word to arouse his American viewers’ tender sentiments. He knows his central message will be appreciated by the multitude of anti-Semitic pro-Palestinians across the land. Every American across the wide spectrum of Jew-haters and self-hating Jews viewing him on TV will be tantalized by the expectation of what comes next. Now is the time for Bob to release his heavy dose of venom against Israel and its backers.  Bob calls the entire pack of Israelis and their financial and weaponry backers “a terrorist group.” True, he doesn’t call Israelis by name. But he leaves no doubt about whom he means: He exaggerates of course: He accuses Israel and its backers of holding the Palestinians in their grip for the mere act of controlling their land, sea and air space even when the Israelis go to the trouble of calculating the Palestinian children’s caloric survival requirements and permitting that to seep across the borders. He then claims that Israel “has embarked on a strategy to get its own children killed in order to build sympathy for its cause.”
With what more can you accuse Israel, Bob? Israel has built the most moral army in the world, as we all know. It sends its children to defend its innocent citizens. True some of those children die. But they take their revenge at a high rate, thanks to the testing of the new weaponry that their fighter-bombers with their sulfur payloads, their helicopters, their gunboats and their tanks spew. The Palestinian death rate in 2008-09 ran at one hundred to one Israeli soldier. And currently it is averaging some 20 Palestinians to one Israeli soldier. The high rate of collateral damage of civilians including children of 80% should be sufficient to let Bob realize that Israel’s children are not sent to die simply “in order to build sympathy for its cause.” You can’t level such an accusation against Israel when it passes no chance to levy a heavy price for the killing of its children. I will forgive you, Bob, for pointing accurately that Israel does willfully send its children to die on occasion. But it does its utmost to guarantee their safety, witness its Aldahiya principle by which any area, residential or otherwise, from which its boys are fired at will be considered a military target regardless of the consequences. The principle is not even debated anymore. It simply is given as the justification for its repeated elimination of whole families, a dozen or two relatives at a time, and for targeting playgrounds, mosques, clinics, hospitals and UN schools. Bob, what more atrocities you want Israel to commit before you stop making your fowl accusation against it?

You know what Bob? I think you are full of shit.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Arrabeh’s Eid in Gaza’s Shadow

 Shortly after an unremarkable Galilee summer’s sunset the ‘Allahu akbar’ cries of half a dozen muezzins confirmed the sighting of the new moon and the commencement of celebrating Eid Al Fitr ending the fasting month of Ramadan. I perked my ears attentively straining to pick up any special announcement marking the 22nd day of the ongoing massacre in Gaza. I didn’t have to wait for long. When the young man leading the prayers in the mosque closest to the household hosting our breaking of the fast reached the end of the fifth and last formal prayer of the day he waxed inventive in asking for God’s favors on our collective behalf. He started with the usual requests of forgiveness of our transgressions and shortcomings in performing our duties toward Him and for mercy on all of us and on all of our parents “for tending me in childhood.”  He then progressed to ask for God’s punishment of our oppressors specifying two by name, the Zionist enemies and their Egyptian collaborators. He needn’t be more specific. He must have assumed, correctly I should add, that all his flock knew what sins General Sisi had committed: Banning the Moslem Brotherhood and sealing the Rafah border with Gaza. Still, the young imam saved the harshest of curses for the Zionist infidels: “Please God, dry up all of their women’s uteruses!” he pleaded. I broke out laughing at the anatomically specific ill wish. My communist host objected. He didn’t quite agree to the cursing of General Sisi but he would like to allow the drying up of the Zionist uteruses.

“How is that different from ‘Death to Arabs?’” he wanted to know.

“But the young man is an employee of the Ministry of Religious Affairs,” I argued. “He collects a monthly salary from the Zionists’ treasury, for God’s sake!”

“So do members of the police force protecting fascist gangs attacking Arab civilians for no reason except their race. It is Israel’s version of democracy and balancing of the forces of evil.”

The cacophony of loudspeakers exploding one after the other from seven different directions ended the dawn’s bucolic peace waking me from a fitful sleep. For a moment I almost understood the attitude of a colleague, a Polish immigrant physician as I recall, who informed me in my Ministry of Health days that she had encouraged officials of the Jewish city of Upper Nazareth where she lived to run their collected sewage refuse openly down the valley to the Arab village of Reineh because of the latter’s disturbing of the Jewish resident’s sleep with their dawn time calls for prayer. My two children at markedly divergent time zones around the globe were text-messaging us throughout the night. Israel’s deadly incursion into Gaza and the ensuing air travel confusion in and out of Israel’s own airport had thrown a monkey wrench in our family’s scheduled annual summer get-together in Arrabeh. But my outrage quickly dissipated.

I decided to take advantage of the morning’s cool weather to pick some dew-washed figs and cactus fruits from my orchard. But first I had to check the Internet: The death toll had exceeded the magic figure of one thousand. Somehow, that wasn’t as sad as my friend Ramzy Baroud’s pained status on Facebook decrying his family’s fate. They were on the run again, refugees from their shelter as refugees in Gaza. I wanted to advise patience, forgiveness and magnanimity. Then I wondered how magnanimous I would have felt if I and my family had been driven out of our home in Arrabeh to have a Polish or a Brooklyn immigrant family live on my father’s land, collect its olive crop and enjoy its figs and cactus fruit, and then to have them now send their son in an American jet fighter bomber to chase me further away from ‘their homeland?’

As I picked my daily supply of summer fruit, the sudden silence that descended on the empty village streets after the end of the morning prayers in the mosques had a deadly quality. There were no children with toy guns out celebrating on the streets, no flares and no firework. I went for a stroll on the newly paved desolate street in our neighborhood risking the likelihood of a village rumor about my sanity. The neighbors had lined the entire sidewalk with a thousand candles in memory of Gaza’s martyred children. The butcher sat on a chair and twirled his moustache. A lone skinned lamb hung by the door. Usually on a day like this he would have two or three of his children helping him out. He offered me the standard sip of black coffee:

“No family gatherings to celebrate the Eid today,” he said more in apology than in anger or dismay. “Men coming back from the mosque look like a snake had spewed its poison in their faces.”

I agreed. I realized that none of the neighborhood’s children, including the dozens of grandnephews, had come dressed in their new clothes to knock at our door for the usual Eid treats and monitory gifts.

The first and only holiday visit I made on this sad Eid morning was to an octogenarian former patient of mine. He is terminally ill and needed help with an injection. After the usual but subdued formalities of exchanging Eid greetings I asked for his opinion regarding what was going on in Gaza.

“I am dying anyway. I wish someone would take me back there and give me my old English rifle,” he responded, tears rolling down his leathery cheeks.

As a young man he had enlisted in the British Mandate border police and served in Gaza training young recruits in marksmanship. Desperation, at the personal and national level, fueled his wish for martyrdom, he explained.

As I returned I checked my email again. Someone had posted a moving poem in English beautifully recited by its animated Palestinian author, Rafeef Ziadeh, declaring her body “a TVed massacre.” I couldn’t hold my tears of sadness and pride in her concluding line: “We Palestinians wake up every morning to teach the rest of the world life, Sir!”
I watched the video. Twice. The second time I cried more. Then I saw it a third time, then a forth, a dozen times. And I cried more each time than the last. At first, as I sat with a pair of tweezers to pick the few tiny thorns from my hands I pondered the adaptive defense mechanism of the cactus. Then I switched to more distressing thoughts: Even if they hadn’t taken over my home and though they had left me some of my land, those foreigners had stolen my culture, I realized. They had claimed my cactus fruit, the Sabra, as the simile for their children who were born on my land.

Let us join hands Ramzy! We all are in this together.