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Day 17

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The Cat, the Two Mice and the Cheese

On the Never-Ending Mourning of Palestinians

by RAOUF J. HALABY

The story of The Cat, the Two Mice and the Cheese might have originally appeared in the Panchatantra, the acclaimed collection of Indian fables, a variation of which has appeared in numerous transnational celebrated fable collections, including the Greek  Aesop’s Fables, the Persian Kaleela wa Dumna and the French LeRoman de Renart.

The tales in these fable collections, though they seem to be written for children, are more apropos for adults. The brevity and conciseness of the texts, plotlines, narratives, and settings are subordinated to a singular dictum which is often posed in the form of a moral question. And the vast assortment of animals, in a vast range of character types, are merely human mouthpieces whose persona range from the noble, the moral, the upright and the trustworthy to the conniving, immoral, deceptive, disingenuously deviant and maliciously deceitful.

In ancient times some of the fables’ doubles entendres were directed at ruthless tyrants who ruled by fiat and wielded absolute power over people’s lives. A case in point is the fable of The Lion and the Hare (sometimes a lion and a mouse) whose storyline is as follows. The lion, the feared tyrannical king of the forest, steps on a thorn which in time festers in his paw and renders him into an emasculated disabled weakling begging for help. The hare, sensing the lion’s vulnerability, walks up to the lion and nestles himself between the lion’s once powerful but now impotent paws. After repeated pleas and only after the lion promises never to harm the hare, the hare removes the thorn and saves the lion’s life. Tyrants beware: you never know when you’ll need your citizens’ support.

Which brings me to the fable of the two mice, the cat and the slab of cheese, and its relevance to Palestine, Israel and the mighty United States of America.moral02-4

Two mice come across a slab of cheese and argue on how it should be divided into equal shares. One suggests that they seek the counsel of a cat. The cat’s shifty attempt to cut the large slab of cheese into two equal portions fails. Because one portion was slightly larger than the other, the cat suggests that he take a small bite of the larger portion so as to apportion equal shares to each of the mice. Cunningly, the cat keeps playing the let’s-negotiate-who-gets-what scheme, eating first from one portion, then the other, while all the time pretending to be acting fairly and in good faith. At the end of the game, the cat ignores the mice, smacks his lips, licks his paws, straightens his whiskers, and reclines, supine and serenely satiated.

Extrapolating from this fable one can see Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu as the conniving feline playing Community Leader Barack Obama at the grab-all-the-Palestinian-land-you-can game while all the time pretending to work towards peace. Mister Cat Bibi and the two mice — the Palestinians and the Americans — are the hoodwinked mice.

Inasmuch as it pains me to liken the US to a mouse, the truth of the matter is that when it comes to Israel, this once powerful lion has been reduced to an impotent mouse, taking orders from a bully who thumbs his nose at the world and bites the hand that feeds him. As for the subservient EU mouselets, who gave the world colonialism, two world wars and the Holocaust, they too are complicit in the crime that is unfolding in Gaza.

While the dignity accorded to the victims of Malaysian Flight 17 by the American media was laudably thorough and exhaustive, ignoring the plight of innocent Palestinian civilians trapped in an open-air prison and shot as one would shoot fish in a glass bowl is abhorrent. To add insult to injury, the perpetrators blame the victims for their misfortune. Don’t the Palestinians have the right to defend themselves as other nations do? Just recently the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte observed about Flight 17: “We are a nation in mourning.”

For decades the Palestinians have been in mourning, a never-ending mourning in a sea of brutality fully funded and fully supported by an emasculated giant aiding, abetting and fueling the pyromaniacs of the world.

Raouf J Halaby is a Professor of English and Art at a private university in Arkansas. He is a peace activist, a sculptor, a photographer and an avid gardener. He can be reached at: halabyr@obu.edu

This article appears in the excellent Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at mondediplo.com. This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month.