“May I Burn Like the Cigarettes”

by mgopin on December 28, 2008 · 10 comments



From Ynet News in Israel:

Israeli aircraft dropped over 100 tons of explosives on the Gaza Strip throughout Saturday as part of operation “Cast Lead” launched in response to the ongoing rocket attacks on Israel, but Gaza’s inhabitants worry that the worst is yet to come.

The strikes caused widespread panic and confusion in Gaza, as black clouds of smoke rose above the territory, ruled by Hamas for the past 18 months. Some of the Israeli missiles struck in densely populated areas as children were leaving school, and women rushed into the streets frantically looking for their children. Most of those killed were security men, but civilians were among the dead.

Said Masri sat in the middle of a Gaza City street, close to a security compound, alternately slapping his face and covering his head with dust from the bombed-out building.

“My son is gone, my son is gone,” wailed Masri, 57. The shopkeeper said he sent his nine-year-old son out to purchase cigarettes minutes before the airstrikes began and now could not find him. “May I burn like the cigarettes, may Israel burn,” Masri moaned.

In Gaza City’s main security compound, bodies of more than a dozen uniformed security officers lay on the ground. One survivor raised his index finger in a show of Muslim faith, uttering a prayer. The Gaza police chief was among those killed. One man, his face bloodied, sat dazed on the ground as a fire raged nearby.

I will not forget this father.

Two people I respect very much had signed offers from Hamas in their briefcases, for Gilad Schalit and a ceasefire. I realize that this is election season, and I realize that the rockets were intolerable and Israelis were sick of them, sick of impotence before them which is one feeling Israeli Jews hate above all others. I realize that Barak is best at war not peace and that this was his big chance to show his brilliance, which he did.

What is so hard to accept here is the deeply emebedded psychology of all war zones, namely the inability to see the relationship of cause and effect, of action and reaction. For the average cab driver and the average politician the conflict began with the rockets. There is no siege of millions of people in Gaza, no permanent state of prison, there is no elaborate prison and land theft in the West Bank–what could have been Palestine–there are no refugees, there was no 1948. There are the Kassams rained upon innocents in the South, and we are all them, to which we Israelis must respond.

This destines Israelis to a state of war forever unless there is a radical intervention by the rest of the world. This is the sickness of war. Anyone who knows war as well as those of who have seen its results in so many places knows the symptoms well. In this case, Israel is so rich and powerful and successful that we cannot imagine it needed advice on how to get out of its problems. But it needs help.

Israel just destroyed alot of the infrastructure that Iran bought. But that is just oil money. Has it made any friends in Gaza? Has it made allies? Does it have a future in this region? Is there any plan, any brilliant stroke of genius of command and control that Barak and Ashkenazi have to create a shock and awe of alliances throughout the region? A legion of middle class people thirsting not to burn them but do business with them? Is there any ingenious plan of coordinated incursions into the heart and soul of Islam to generate a hundred sermons across Gaza appealing for peace? No, the generals would laugh. And that is the point. The rest of the world is not laughing. In much of the world those are precisely the skills that are keeping countries together, many countries with diverse ethnic groups that used to be in conflict with each other.  They understand the scourge of extremism or terror, but they look in awe at Israel’s impotence before peace, not its strength in war. And they wonder where is the Jewish genius? Why is it only for war? And the answer is that Jews are no different than anyone else, they get locked into war just like every group with guns on the planet. And they need help.

© Marc Gopin

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