Fri 1 Aug 2014
Comments Off on Gaza, and Bibi hath slain…
All eyes in the world are on Gaza or at least they should be. The daily deaths and destruction rival the biblical “fire and brimstone” that fell out of the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. If you think this is an exaggeration, check out this explicit video made by a Guardian crew. Gaza is drenched in biblical symbolism; this is a desolate zone that bleeds tragedy. Here was the ancestral home of the Philistines, an arch enemy of Israel, now transformed into stateless Palestinians trapped in a living hell. Literally trapped, so that there are no safe houses, even those supposedly sanctioned by the United Nations. As you read this commentary, it is likely that somewhere in Gaza someone is being killed, blown to pieces by a bomb (labeled “made in the USA”) or maimed for life, and a short and miserable life at that.
The Bible is a book full of prophecy, but then there are those stories that have such a déjà vu quality that it takes the breath away. Consider this King James Version passage from I Samuel 18:6-7:
And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.
Of course, the KJV is now four centuries old, so it always needs to be translated into contemporary terms. So perhaps this would fit the current Gaza better:
And it came to pass in the press, when Bibi returned from ordering the slaughter of the Palestinians, that the rightwingers came out of all the cities and settlements of Israel, singing his praises and dancing around the ethics of so many civilians being killed, with tablets, with cell phones and instruments of social media. And the warmongers encouraged one another as they played with their ipads: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands, and Bibi is trying to catch up to both.”
Recent opinion polls in Israel, touting a figure of 95% approval of the Gaza campaign, show that the “eye-for-an-eye” mentality, promoted by both Hammurabi and Leviticus (I will not argue about which came first), has been ratcheted up to many-more-of-their-eyes-if-they-take-out-even-one-of-our-eyes.
Bibi apparently does not read the Book of Proverbs for guidance, because he missed this passage from Proverbs 20:22 (NIV): “Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you.” I do not expect an Israeli Prime Minister to consult the New Testament book of Matthew (5:38): “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” He appears to be much more comfortable playing the role of Joshua, who when attacking the Canaanite city of Ai, was told by his Lord:
24 When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed[a] all who lived in Ai. 27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua. 28 So Joshua burned Ai[b] and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. 29 He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. (Joshua 8:24-28, NIV)
But, of course, we no longer live in biblical times, even if it is the Bible that justifies Israel’s ancestral claim to the land of Canaan, controlled over the years by ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Greeks, Romans, and various Islamic regimes up through the British mandate. We live in realist Machiavellian times, where the end always justifies the means for powerful states like Israel and the United States, as well as wannabe caliphates like ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Taliban. So if ending the terrorism of Hamas (and it is indeed despicable terrorism that will never free the Palestinians) takes killing several thousand Gazans, including women and children, so be it; this is the New World Disorder manta. Since the “God” of Abraham is said to be on all sides, it is a no-holds barred family feud anyway. Of course, if the Adam and Eve story and Noah and all those biblical scenarios are myth and we actually did evolve from primate relatives (as Darwin suggested), then there is a different kind of ethical issue. As one species, mislabeled “sapiens,” we are by default all equal and no specific group or race or ethnicity has no God-given right to dominate and abuse another. So it is up to us to define the ethics that will allow us to get along and survive as a species, broadly speaking and locally. How about an “aye” for peaceful coexistence to replace the eye-for-an-eye that blinds us all?