Manufacturers of Fear and Loathing in Rafah

“Violence, less and less restricted by a system of laws built up over centuries, strides naked and victorious over the earth, caring not one jot that its sterility has been demonstrated and proved many times before in history. It is not just coarse violence itself that is triumphant, but also its shrieks of self-justification. The world is overrun by the brazen conviction that force can do everything.”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Speech, 1970

Does anyone deny, in the deepest recesses of his or her heart, the barbaric behavior of Sharon’s hordes as they devastate the defenseless inhabitants of the Rafah refugee camp? Are we all blind and mute, silent witnesses to murder and mayhem, cowed by fear of the inevitable Israeli stamp–Anti-Semitic — should we condemn Sharon’s atrocities? What have we to fear but the realization that we are complicit in the slaughter should we do nothing to halt it and suffer that acid to fester in our soul? Silence is a two edged sword: it cuts out the moral guts of the citizen even as it gives license to those who inflict this shame on the defenseless in our name. No, we need a deafening, earsplitting call to moral arms that condemns without equivocation the near genocidal eradication of the Palestinian people from the last vestiges of their homeland. Enough is enough! Condemn Sharon as an Anti-Semite; he has destroyed the values that sustain and nourish the Jews not those who condemn Sharon’s savagery. We need to join the 150,000 Jews who marched in Rabin Square against Sharon making clear that fear has not muffled all in Israel. We must extol the moral courage of Gideon Levy and Uri Avnery who keep alive the true values of the Jewish people despite the overpowering forces that control their country. We must support the Jews for Peace in Palestine and the TIKKUN Community as they rouse the ire of the American Jew to condemn the brutality of Sharon who brought such worldwide shame on Israel.

Uri Avnery calls it “The Rape of Rafah,” a fitting analogy since it is being waged by the three old goats that guide Israel’s bloody rampage in the prison that is Gaza, Ariel Sharon, the architect of the massacre of Sabra and Chatila, Shaul Mofaz, his Defense Minister, and Moshe Ya’alon, the IOF Chief of Staff. These three carrions of death and slaughter must “bear responsibility,” in the words of Gideon Levy, “for the virtual imprisonment of the Palestinian people, the prevention of medical care, the mass arrests, the assassinations, the needless killing, the bombing of residential neighborhoods.” Some 56 years have passed, Meron Benvenisti writes in Ha’aretz, since Moshe Dayan and his crew drove the Palestinians from 418 towns and villages so they could be demolished and replaced with Israeli settlements. Now “The sights of Rafah are too difficult to bear–trails of refugees alongside carts laden with bedding and the meager contents of their homes; children dragging suitcases larger than themselves; women draped in black kneeling in mourning on piles of rubble. And in the memories of some of us arise similar scenes that have been a part of our lives, as a sort of refrain that stabs at the heart and gnaws at the conscience the procession of refugees from Lod to Ramallah in the heat of July 1948.” The ethnic cleansing continues, decade after decade, month after month, day after day, a forced colonization of the Palestinian homeland by an immigrant population done in broad daylight in this modern age of communication and electronic media.

What do our world leaders do? They pass yet another resolution condemning Israel! Count them if you can, 157 or 158 or do we count only those not vetoed by the US? What difference does it make? Will the UN enforce any one of them? Will George W. Bush appear before the UNSC arrayed in full indignation at the reprehensible behavior of this rogue state that defies the UN turning its deliberations into irrelevant gibberish? Will he demand that this latest resolution be obeyed, number 1544 (passed by the UNSC 20 days after this massacre began!), that Israel “respect its obligations under International Humanitarian Law not to undertake further home demolitions (191 homes in Gaza alone by May 20),” not to continue the slaughter of innocent children (28 killed by the time the UN passed its resolution), and not to shamelessly ignore the hapless plight of the 2500 made homeless by this wanton destruction. Will George W. Bush accept responsibility for using American citizens money to pay for this massacre? Will he recognize his responsibility for aligning America behind a sadistic regime ruled by a demonic madman that takes advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the crimes perpetrated by American forces at the Abu Ghraib prison to rampage through the squalid and cramped quarters of Rafah? Does he understand that Sharon perpetrated this massacre to remove from the front pages further news of his illegal laundering of money and his loss in the polls of his “Gaza initiative,” an act of political retaliation that has cost the lives of more than 125 Palestinians and hundreds wounded? Does he unquestioningly accept Sharon’s lies that this massive invasion has been done for “security reasons” when Gaza is responsible for only 12 of the 116 attacks perpetrated on the Jews since September 2000? What heinous and heartless immorality do we support!

How does one convey the unjustifiable vileness of this ravaging of Rafah, this “military incursion” euphemistically cloaked as “operation rainbow” that covers, no doubt, Israel’s “pot of gold” — the land that Rafah and Gaza occupy; it need only be cleansed of its rabble! Should operation rainbow have been inflicted on my hometown atop the San Bernardino Mountains where 8700 residents live, every resident would now be homeless and that number would represent only half of those homeless in Gaza! Mercifully, the residents of Crestline have homes scattered over miles of treed hills and valleys; they are not crammed into concrete and wooden structures erected 50 years ago when they were first driven from their villages by the advancing Israeli forces. This is their second “ethnic cleansing” that has left a mile long “swath of broken concrete, splintered wood and twisted metal,” the ignominious detritus left in the wake of American Caterpillars. Certainly they deserve their fate, after all Israel only targets “terrorists and the structures they use.” One might hope that this mile long swath has destroyed all terrorists and the buildings they use. Israeli intelligence must be as accurate as our CIA information stream to identify 17,594 terrorists, all conveniently located in this section of Rafah and now all homeless, thank God.

But let’s drop the facetiousness and address the reality. Let’s move all of Crestline’s residents downtown, clustered in bungalows jammed wall to wall. Now, awaken them at 2AM as the Caterpillars rumble into the streets, crushing the first home on the block, shoving it into the next, mothers and fathers with children in their arms rush screaming from the houses lest they be buried beneath the twisted wood and stone. Floodlights scatter the early morning darkness casting eerie green-black shadows across the streets as masses of people crowd into the alleys; the whirl of helicopter blades vibrate overhead as tank turrets point threateningly down the streets; a clash of sounds erupts on every side, the thunder of tank treads, the piercing cry of splitting steel, the shrill screech of wind twisting through alleys, and the wail of weeping children that falls from shattered walls. Suddenly, from the belly of the copter, flashes of lightening appear as missiles scream through the air exploding into walls and the crowds scatter leaving behind on the rubble the bodies of the dead. Fear explodes in the streets bursting from the body’s pores like sweat, and loathing for the tormenters swells in the heart as hot as bread that rises in the oven. This is the rainbow that rises above the blackened remains of Rafah portending the prophecy the Jews know well: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water, the fire next time.”

That conflagration burns now beneath the loathing and the hate fueled by the inequity so visibly evident in the massive military Israel thrusts against a helpless population. It drives the insanity that finds recourse in suicide and the fantasy of martyrdom; it is the mythical seed that finds ultimate justice in an unknown, unseen, all just God. It alone dispels the depression that comes with the isolation and abandonment, the complete absence of sympathy from the people of the world.

Nothing changes. For fifty years they have waited for the world to respond to their plight. For fifty years they have witnessed the impotence of the UN to enforce any of its resolutions that demand Israel’s compliance with its rules and international law. Two years ago they listened as the UNSC Resolution 1435 reaffirmed resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1402 (2002), and 1403 (2003) reiterating its “grave concern for recent tragic and violent events carried out by Israel and the continuing deterioration of the situation in Palestine ” specifically, the bombing of a Palestinian school at Hebron, the bombing of Palestinian civilians on September 18 – 19, 2002, the reoccupation of Palestinian cities and towns by Israeli troops, imposing restrictions on the freedom of movement of citizens and goods, the need to respect International Humanitarian Law including the 4th schedule of the Geneva Convention for the protection of civilians in time of war, and the destruction of Palestinian civilian infrastructures, to name a few. They listened May 20th, 2004 as the UNSC issued Resolution 1539 concerning the responsibility for the safety of children where violence and armed conflict takes place. These resolutions, including 1544, require that Israel respect its humanitarian obligations, immediately implement its obligations under the Road Map, and withdraw from ALL Palestinian territory beyond the 1967 border line, documents signed by all 15 members of the UNSC including the US (Gains, Swindon, UK). They listened and they wait.

They wait in Rafah, all 120,000, the poorest of all Palestinian cities, and they wait in the Shaboura district, the poorest section of Rafah where whole families “live together in one-room shacks made of corrugated iron with dirt floors and sheet metal, cardboard and tarpaulin roofs Nowhere in Palestine will one find conditions as miserable and destitute as they are in Rafah, approximately 80% of whose citizens are refugees sometimes two and three times over.” (Jennifer Loewenstein, Counterpunch 1/04) Who will listen to their plea for justice? Who will offer them the freedom promised to the Iraqis? Who will plead before the United Nations that their resolutions must be attended to, all 156 of them, that peace might at last reign over the Hell that is Palestine?

Embedded in Solzhenitsyn’s cautionary observation, violence disemboweled of laws is sterile, is the truth it foretold, not only about the implosion of the Soviet Union, but the inevitable erosion of the values inherent in Judaism and the destruction of America’s Democracy as it seeks dominance of the world by force. As Sharon and Bush isolate Israel and America from the community of nations, as they instill fear in the hearts of their people, made real by the arrival of unspecified threats against unspecified targets at unspecified locations; as they undertake an ever more obvious crusade against Muslim peoples using lies upon lies to justify their actions against Palestine, Iraq, Syria, and Iran, the Israeli and American people witness the intrusion of their respective regimes into their daily lives and the erosion of their freedoms as they are forced into bunkers built of fear. Two forces propel these administrations, both fueled by the realization that fear obliterates sense and commands allegiance to those who promise security for all: the Zionist zealots in Israel and those in the Evangelical Christian ranks and the Neo-Con Likud sympathizers who yoke Israel’s interests to those of America. Fear destroys reason leaving the individual’s conscience in the hands of those who instill the fear. The Christian right deploys Satan (read fear) against God’s believers while the Neo-Cons raise the specter of “terrorists” that threaten free men everywhere. Thus does violence and force ride naked over the earth.

William Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His new book, Psalms for the 21st Century, was just published by Mellen Press. He can be reached at: cookb@ULV.EDU


William A. Cook is the  author of Decade of Deceit and Age of Fools.