by Gilles d'Aymery
"Nationalism, at the expense of another nation, is just as wicked as racism at the expense of another race."
—William Sloan Coffin
(Swans - August 14, 2006) A FRIENDLY, AND USUALLY CHARMING, READER asks why I did not answer Dr. Amir's letter in the last issue. For good measure she wonders why I did not kick his "unholy ass." Well, I was very angry and there is an old French saying, la colère est mauvaise conseillère ("anger is a poor advisor"). I did not want to lash out at Jacob (yes, we are on first-name terms). Had he been my guest here, or me his in Jerusalem, I suppose I would have shouted at him: Shame on you, Jacob. Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame. And he would have shouted back at me that I was utterly insensitive to his plea and that of the Israeli people. But at least we would have confronted each other personally with our respective emotions. Attacking him by e-mail, however, would not have served any purpose other than choosing a fight that needed not be in the first place, especially in light of the horrendous situation that his side created. It may not make sense to most people, but to some of us, lurching insults and attacks at the other from the comfort and safety of one's keyboard and monitor is viewed as counterproductive and the very model of what one should avoid doing -- create an enemy. Jacob is not my enemy. He will never be my enemy. Nor is Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. I shall not let myself fall to this lowest common dominator. I shall not dominate. I shall not subdue. I shall not demonize.
I AM DAZED, dumbfounded, numbed by his attitude and thinking. Actually, I am so numbed that my upper back, my two arms, and my wrists barely function anymore. I thought it had to do with carpal tunnel syndrome, but it may well be psychosomatic. I wake up in the midst of most nights with nightmares about Iraq and Lebanon. I can't stand the immeasurable violence that we, in the so-called civilized world, are inflicting on the rest of the world -- all the lives we destroy, all the hatred we create, all the ravages we wreak, to enrich the few and stock the shelves of our big-box stores to which we drive to in our big-box cars and SUVs. I call my aged mother repeatedly and I weep, asking her: "why maman, why maman?" and she has no response.
HOW CAN A GOOD DOCTOR, who once upon a time must have taken the Hippocratic oath, condone the unjustifiable agony of another people in the name of the "never again" narrative? A doctor condoning killing... A doctor saying coldly that the only thing "Arabs" understand is overwhelming force... A doctor who, unbeknown to him, his own conscience, has lost all humanness and applauds murder in the name of tribalism... How come?
I WAS ASKING my mother how come my father could be so violent, he who had survived the horrors of Buchenwald -- how come? This is not mere speculation on my part. It pretty much screwed my entire life. How come? According to her, it's in the genes. It originated long before the inhuman experience of the concentration camp. It ran in the family. I once saw my older brother slap his wife's face for no reason in the midst of dinner. How come? In the genes? How? Is there a Jewish gene? Is there an Israeli gene? Is there a gene in Jacob's family tree that fostered racism and cold-hearted justification for vengeance and mayhem? Of course not. Of course not. Of course not. Of course, absolutely not.
PEOPLE LIKE former IAF pilot Yonatan Shapira, a member of the Combatants for Peace, Daphna Baram, Ran HaCohen, Daniel Levy, Gideon Levy, Tony Judt, Ze'ev Maoz, Meron Benvenisti, and many, many more are proof positive that it does not need to be thus; that the world needs dialogue, not rubble; that friendship and cooperation cannot be earned through bombing campaigns; that, that, that...
BUT WHY GO ON? I shall not let Jacob Amir debase my humanness. I'll leave him in the company of his friends and allies, the Pat Robertsons and George W. Bushes of this world and find refuge in the company of this 78-year old woman in East Hampton, Silvia Tennenbaum, who wrote a most eloquent and touching editorial for Newsday on August 4, 2006, "Why doesn't Israel work for peace? Holocaust victims would decry the slaughter of innocent children during attacks on Hezbollah."
No matter what great accomplishments were ours in the diaspora, no matter that we produced Maimonides and Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn and hundreds of others of mankind's benefactors - not a warrior among them!
I am heartsick, and still I see a glimmer of hope (there must be that glimmer, to go on at 78 years).
The time is long overdue for Jews to return to their role as the world's conscience, who come to the aid of the dispossessed, the wretched of the earth. Once again, we must join those who demand the end to unjust wars -- in Iraq as well as Lebanon -- and an unjust occupation in Gaza. We must honor the example of American civil rights workers Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, not that of the mass murderer Baruch Goldstein or Yigal Amir, killer of Yitzhak Rabin.
And perhaps the day will come that we will be counted - by Jew and Arab alike -- as among the Just, perhaps even given a place at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, for the lives we helped to save in a lawless, savage time.
THANK YOU, Mrs. Tennenbaum. Thank you Michael DeLang. Thank you, Milo Clark and all those fine human beings who contribute to our collective work. THIS is the company I want to keep.
CITATION FOR THE AGES: "In the last analysis, terrorism is an idea generated by capitalism to justify better defense measures to safeguard capitalism."
--Rainer Werner Fassbinder
I FOUND THIS citation in Lewis H. Lapham's essay, "Lionhearts" (Harper's, September 2006.), in which he shows with some historical details the business of making war, the immense profits made by the very few through savagery, destruction, devastation, and ruin. But to get a wider perspective of the New Middle East as envisioned by the US-British-Israeli gang of mercenaries, one must read the analysis of Aijaz Ahmad in the July 29-August 11, 2006 issue of FRONTLINE (India's national magazine), "Empire comes to Lebanon."
BE PREPARED to be shell-shocked, if not particularly surprised. You'll learn that the Agence France Press, the Associated Press, and the The Hindustan Times all reported that the Hezbollah capture of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of three other ones, as well as the subsequent destruction of an Israeli tank resulting in five additional Israelis dead, occurred NOT in Israel, but in Lebanon. Here is the Hindustan Times report (both the AFP and AP reports can be read in the article):
The Lebanese Shi'ite Hizbollah movement announced on Wednesday that its guerillas have captured two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. "Implementing our promise to free Arab prisoners in Israeli jails, our strugglers have captured two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon," a statement by Hizbollah said. "The two soldiers have already been moved to a safe place," it added. The Lebanese police said that the two soldiers were captured as they "infiltrated" into the town of Aitaa al-Chaab inside the Lebanese border.
SO, EVEN THE GIVEN REASON to launch that savage Israeli campaign was a lie. How more debased, how more cynical can it be?
THEN YOU HEAR from a patronizing Dan Gillerman, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, who calls the other -- those Arabs who are not them Israelis -- "ruthless indiscriminate animals," that they the Israelis are doing this to them the "animals" for us, the "civilized world." They Israelis have to do this job in defense of civilization.
COUNT ME OUT, Gillerman. Count me out. You are not speaking in my name. My kind of civilization does not entail wars; the subjugation of other peoples by brutes; the pilfering of national resources; the stealing of land and water; the burning down of ancient libraries and the wreckage of historical sites; the bombing of civilian infrastructure; the destruction of hospitals, food and milk factories, towns, villages, cities, roads, bridges, airports, ports, fishing boats, fuel depots, petrol stations; cluster bombs; phosphorous; killing, maiming women, children, the elderly, terrorizing entire populations, enslaving them to your diktats -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza and the West Bank, now Lebanon -- before marching on Damascus and Tehran. Always based on lies, and deception. No Gillerman, NO! I reject with the deepest contempt I can gather this "civilized world" that you and your American partners/sponsors/enablers are "defending." It's hell you are creating.
NOT IN MY NAME, NOT IN MY NAME, NOT IN MY NAME.
BOONVILLE NEWS: We have a new addition to our little household, a dog we adopted on August 5 from an animal shelter in Lakeport, California. More on him in two weeks.
ALSO, though not news per se, I was amused by a small event at our Credit Union in Ukiah. Steve Heeren, who wrote a couple of letters to the Editor, finally made it to his Canadian bank and arranged for an International Money Order in US dollars (merci beaucoup, Steve), which "cost him nothing extra except a trip to his bank!" (in his words).
The Credit Union's tellers were so puzzled by the International Money Order that it took them a good 10 minutes to finally accept it. I watched and heard in amazement the teller asking a colleague what "U.S." in front of "dollars" meant. "Do you think it means United States?" she asked.
Those fuckers can bomb states out of existence, I thought, but can't even recognize an International Money Order from a reputable Canadian bank! What a world -- "civilized," mind you.
Ç'est la vie...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can. Supporting the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.