The words behind the deed

August 2, 2006

In News

Gabriel Ash

For those good souls who woke up suddenly after years of sleep, jolted by the din from the latest Israeli massacre at Qana, and are now wetting their face in the bathroom while mumbling how incomprehensible, how dispiriting it all is, their foreheads furrowed with deep worries as they reassure themselves that the morning coffee would soon bring moral clarity, or at least some damn good excuses, enough to dispel the foggy unease of being so rudely denied the continuation of whatever comfortable dream they were in the middle of, for all those I put together — and annotated with a large dose of poetic license — a collection of words spoken or written by Israeli figures in the days before and soon after the moment when an Israeli pilot — the best of the best no doubt, a son, boyfriend, neighbor, perhaps a father, perhaps “a quiet and conscientious young man,” or “an outgoing and generous friend” — collapsed with utmost dedication, precision and, yes (why not?), thoughtfulness that three-story house in Qana on top of the refugees who sought shelter in its basement, killing 54 people of whom 34 were children, in what was the most predictable man made holocaust since Hurricane Katrina exposed the full ugliness of the American class war to the TV cameras. The scattered, disturbed quotes below do not make the massacre’s complete family tree. For that, one would need to go a lot deeper, raking through the muck that accumulated for over a century in the collective psyche of a nation. These are merely a few short brushstrokes added to a portrait to bring forth a neglected something of the subject’s character, a not always pleasant effort that is already more than one usually wants to have with the first coffee of the day. My apologies.

But before we get there, another matter needs to be to dealt with. The “world leaders.” The UN. The Security Council. The journalists. How they jumped! Even Human Rights Watch found the necessary words — after weeks of sucking their thumb — and pointed the index finger at Israel. How they all suddenly discovered those strong words that they were unable to say for all these eighteen days of savage destruction and mayhem! Why? Have they misplaced these words? Have they left them in the pocket of the shirt sent to the dry cleaners? Why did they have to wait for this foretold massacre to occur? Was there anything at Qana that was absent from, or that was done differently from what Israeli pilots did almost every day in the last eighteen days?

If there is a message in the world’s reaction it is that humanitarian law functions internationally as if it were regulating traffic of sorts. What Israel did at Qana was the humanitarian law equivalent of cruising at twice the speed limit. The clamor did not rise because Israel killed civilians. Israel kills civilians every day, if not in Lebanon than in Nablus, and if not in Nablus, in Gaza. But to kill so many people at once, with such frightening efficiency, that deserves at least five points and the driver’s license revoked for three months. It was the bathos of Egyptian PM Mubarak that hit on the most telling description of the offense when he called Israel’s behavior “irresponsible.” In the metaphoric highways of the global order, killing the poor and brown residents of places like Qana is not in itself extraordinary. Keeping the non-consumers in their enclosures is part of the cost of doing business. All is well as long as the unpleasantness is carried out slowly, responsibly enough, retail. When Israel was bombing Gaza, even Beirut, it was perhaps above the speed limit, but not by such a large margin as to trigger the automatic cameras. But when it used its made-in-U.S.A. air force like an intoxicated college freshman racing in his rich daddy’s Ferrari, Israel was suddenly endangering all the other “drivers,” all the serious daily commuters of the global apartheid network, who use their less flashy killing machines “responsibly” to keep the global distribution of wealth safe and flowing in the right direction.

The historical memory of Nazism marks the universal C, the speed of light of killing, which should not be reached. From 1945 on, the speed and efficiency of murdering the excluded must be regulated, speed bumps must be introduced in areas prone to accidents, and stern reprimands issued to representatives of the master races who kill too many too fast. The concentration camps have not been abolished; they have been universalized, grown to encompass whole cities, regions and countries. And the murder inside them hasn’t stopped, although it has significantly slowed down. But there is accountability now. Every murder is counted and investigated. No more industrial utopianism; no more frenzy. In the West we are the heirs of Nazism, but we are civilized and speed conscious. We argue whether the speed limit should be the same everywhere, or whether it should be adapted to “road conditions.” The Right wants the speed limits raised, and even a few special unrestricted highways — free fire zones. The Left wants to maintain standards, even multiply the ‘pedestrians only’ zones, especially in historical districts. The road signs are always in dispute. But all understand that killing brown people is as unavoidable and necessary to the Western lifestyle as commuting. Apropos, how’s the coffee?

And now, as promised, I let the Ferrari drivers speak (mostly) for themselves:

“We are acting there [in Gaza] in an unprecedented manner; we’re firing hundreds of artillery shells, attacking from the air, sea and land and the world remains silent.”
Anonymous aide to the Israeli PM enumerating signs that the Messiah is coming.

“Nothing is safe (in Lebanon), as simple as that.”
Dan Halutz, Israeli Chief of Staff and existentialist, explaining how he vets targets for “precision bombing.”

“Israel will turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years.”
— Chief of Staff and future Halliburton director, Dan Halutz, explaining the link between peace and prosperity.

“Army chief of staff Dan Halutz has given the order to the air force to destroy 10 multi-storey buildings in the Dahaya district (of Beirut) in response to every rocket fired on Haifa,”

Anonymous senior air force officer preparing his “we were following orders” defense line.

“Nasrallah will get such a hit that he will never forget the name Amir Peretz,”
The unforgettable Defense Minister Amir Peretz, unveiling a proposal to put his face on a $20 bill.

“Nasrallah, I think, has pronounced sentence on himself but we will settle the account with him fully somewhere, sometime.”
Ronni Bar-On, Interior Minister and debt collector of the Israeliano Mafia family from Brooklyn.

“[Israel is acting in Lebanon] just as Russia did against the Chechens and the United States did against al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.”
— The minister of Israeli Justice Haim Ramon, explaining globalization to children.

“I waited for this so much, Nasrallah.”
A sweet Israeli girl writing on a U.S. made 100 lb explosive artillery shell about to be lobbed at some village in South Lebanon, where it would kill a brown girl who doesn’t count.

“If you want your air conditioning to work and if you want to be able to fly to Paris for shopping, you must pull your head out of the sand and take action toward shutting down Hezbollah-land.”
Col. Gal Luft, author of “Or Else: How To Be an Effective Bully in Five Easy Steps,” walking journalists through the educational content of Israeli missiles.

“When you go to sleep with a missile, you might find yourself waking up to another kind of missile.”
Foreign Minister and sex therapist Tzipi Livne, warning the people of Beirut about the health consequences of unprotected intercourse with Israel.

“One country cannot destroy another without explaining to the neighbor the logic behind its actions.”
— Jacky Hugi, Maariv columnist and author of the best-selling book Enjoyable Rape, on the importance of communication.

“All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah.”

— Haim Ramon, Minister of Israeli Justice, reminiscing on the moment he made peace with his inner Nazi.

“[A]ccording to Jewish law, during a time of battle and war, there is no such term as ‘innocents’ of the enemy.the discussions on Christian morality are weakening the spirit of the army and the nation,”
— The Yesha Rabbinical Council, commenting on the differences between Judaism and “Islamo-fascism.”