|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
12 - 18 October 2000
Issue No. 503
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Sowing the windBy Fayza Hassan
Few people, no matter how unconcerned, have been able to remain indifferent to the drama that tore the city of Jerusalem last week. Even those who shrug off the peace process as an immense farce are horrified by the images flashing past their eyes on television. The murder of the little Al-Dorra boy, shot in cold blood while trying to hide behind his helpless father, who shielded him with his body (for what other means did he have to protect his son?), brought home the reality behind the protracted talks and the satisfied airs pasted on the faces of the Israeli and American negotiators.
As I watched the news, my mind wondered to another scene: that of a campus, anywhere in America, where a "normal" teenager, possibly the grandson of a Vietnam war veteran or the son of a Desert Storm participant, showed no compunction in gunning down half a dozen of his schoolmates because his corn flakes tasted a little stale on that particular morning. Did he have a reason to kill; did he really hate his victims in any special way? Did they throw stones at him? And how different is he from the young Israeli soldier who shoots an 18-month-old baby in the back of a stalled car or raises his brand-new rifle and takes a potshot at an innocent child? After all, both are upholding the tradition of their fathers. It does not really matter in the end if the victims are Africans, Indians, Arabs, or -- if none of the above are readily available -- their own kind. They are back in the jungle where the strong eats the weak. They know by now, courtesy of the glorified deeds of their forebears, that only the tough can inherit the earth, unless of course they are rich enough to buy it. The sad truth is that, while the civilised world claims to have reached the apex of refined wisdom, it has bred a species of monster that may well be on its way to climbing back up the trees from which their ancestors dropped so many millennia ago.
In the past few decades, we have witnessed enough atrocities, genocides, bloodbaths and crimes against humanity to dull any imagination. Sheer brutality against women, children and the elderly is extensively paraded in the papers and on television, to the point where I sometimes wonder if the media does not stage make-believe massacres on demand, just to be able to break news and recapture the audience's wavering attention.
Sons and daughters of the information age, the Israeli children, like their American counterparts, have drunk in gory spectacles with mother's milk. Today, as they watch the on-going violence on their screens, they can hear the sanctimonious commentators justifying the bloodshed. They can safely bask in the feeling that they are only defending their basic rights.
While peace (sic) talks are continuing, an Israeli soldier appears on CNN to inform the viewers that his instructions are to shoot only if the lives of his soldiers are in danger. Israelis do not attack; they only legitimately defend themselves. He has the proper number of stars on his shoulders and looks every bit the upholder of law and order. Unable to wipe the smirk off his face, however, he wisely chooses to present a vague profile to the cameras. He is followed by a burly Palestinian doctor in a soiled white coat, who looks straight at the viewers with eyes crazed by fear and despair and only manages to groan a few unintelligible words.
What is the message one can possibly gather from such a sham? That Israeli soldiers (the hunters) are civilised and cultured, while Palestinians (the prey) are not, and therefore deserve to die? Or could it be that it is kosher to kill, if one is in possession of a superior arsenal (clearly, stones are not the artillery of choice) and if the other is weaker or, even better, unarmed?
While Israelis back "home" are congratulating themselves for being under big brother's protection, and therefore forever stronger, their compatriots in Egypt are far from comfortable in a world that keeps rejecting them, without -- contrary to what they would like us to believe -- threatening their precious personal security. Ronit, an Israeli girl who came to visit her boyfriend here, left a week later, muttering that she felt rejected; was she really unable to understand the reason for the lack of warmth she perceived in her Egyptian contemporaries?
A couple of Israeli thugs often swagger down our street at dusk; they engage the basket seller and the supermarket delivery boys in conversation to show off their good rapport with the natives, but as soon as they can end the bantering, the fake smiles fade and they crawl around their cars, flashing a mirror under the fenders. What are they expecting to find, I wonder? If they are so friendly with their neighbours, why are they looking for bombs? Perhaps what they mistake for murderous hostility is simply profound contempt.
Only time will avenge the death of little Mohamed Al-Dorra and the other Palestinian children. The wheel is bound to turn, and one day their people will come into their own. Palestine will survive. The question is: once the war is over, won't the young Israeli killers turn against their own?
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