Ancient pagan cultures practiced the ritualistic killing of humans for a number reasons: appeasement; retribution; expiation for guilt, an entreat for military victory over an enemy; a seasonal invocation for spring planting or fall harvesting; a contractual quid pro quo between ruler-kings in exchange for the deities’ delivering an enemy or granting a bizarre wish; and, most perniciously, blood had to be drawn in abundance in ritualistic killings so as to teach someone a lesson.
Since 1967 the Israelis have been on a binge trying to teach an incorrigible Palestinian population a lesson into submission and abeyance.
Israel’s most recent heinous attack on Gaza is nothing short of a habitual offender’s using his superior military power to exact vengeance on 1.6 million helpless Gaza citizens in need of a final solution. An already emaciated Gaza must be offered up, yet one more time, as a sacrifice at the altar of anger and vengeance, and human and material loss should be exacted so severely so as to teach the victims a good lesson. Daggers drawn and casting themselves as victims, Netanyahu and Ehud Barak stood at the altar of death with a cheering bevvy of high priests, including Obama, England’s Cameron, France’s Hollande, Germany’s Merkel, and the EU’s Ashton — all of whom stated that Israel has a right to defend itself. The Palestinians, on the other hand, have no right to defend themselves, EVER. And just a few days before murderous hell was rained on the largest open-air prison on the face of this earth, the European Commission held its second International Homeland Security Conference in Tel Aviv which, according to one observer, was merely “more of a bazaar” for a new line of advanced Israeli technological weaponry. Known for their deadly accuracy, the Israeli-made drones that carried the mission over Gaza are perhaps the best advertisement for the Israeli military industrial complex.
The ancient Mesopotamians, Israelites, Egyptians, Africans, Germanic tribes, Mayas, Aztec, Celtic Druids, and Native Americans practiced a variety of ritualistic sacrifices. The Old Testament cites Jehovah’s commanding Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, an act that was averted at the last minute when Abraham passed the faith and trustworthiness test. In the 11th chapter of The Book of Judges, verse 31, Jephthah struck a deal with Jehovah; in return for victory over the Ammonites, Jephthah pledged to offer the first person who emerged from his house as a sacrificial offering to Jehovah. Little did he know that his daughter would be the sacrificial lamb he would offer in return for his military victory.
In the Greek play Agamemnon, Aeschylus’ protagonist, Agamemnon, was about to set sail to wage war on Troy. Because Agamemnon angered Artemis, she withheld the winds necessary to launch his fleet across the Aegean Sea. To appease her, he offered his daughter Iphigenia as a propitious sacrifice.
To avenge the death of his son Androgeus (at the hand of the Athenians), Minos, the king of Crete, demanded that every seven years seven Athenian youths and seven Athenian maidens be offered as sacrifices to appease the half-man half-beast Minotaur who dwelt in the labyrinth under his palace. Eventually Theseus, the young Athenian prince, saved the day by killing this dastardly monster. In Euripides’ play Medea, Medea, scorned by her husband Jason for a younger woman, killed her own children as an act of retributive revenge. Greek mythology is replete with such acts of retribution and counter-retribution, and, by ascribing human foibles to their pantheon of gods, patricide, matricide, fratricide, and infanticide became the stuff that was celebrated in Greek mythology, poetry, and the visual arts. And, in a manner of speaking, Netanyahu and Ehud Barak are similar to Ares, the Greek god of war, who was all weapons and no diplomacy, a deplorable character who thrived on causing death and destruction, and who’s often depicted as a bloodthirsty character who becomes even more detestable with age.
Not much has changed since December of 2008 when Israel launched its brutal attack on Gaza; over 1,400 people were killed then, 300 of whom were children. At the time newly elected Barak Obama stated to the world that “there could only be one president at a time.” After a Cairo sycophantic lecture full of vacuous platitudes and an undeserved Nobel Prize for, of all things, Peace, Obama has not only gone AWOL on the Israel-Palestine conflict, but he has allowed Netanyahu to checkmate him and castigate him like a truant child in, of all places, the White House and for the whole world to witness.
Soon after Obama’s recent re-election Netanyahu announced that Israel would build an additional 1,100 units in East Jerusalem on land expropriated from its Palestinian owners, and well over 300 olive trees were uprooted in a West Bank village. On November 4, 2011, Israel shot and killed a mentally retarded Gaza teenager, and a few days later another teenager was shot while playing soccer with his friends. In retaliation, several rockets were fired into Israel; on November 14, 2014, Ahmed al Jabari, a Hamas military leader, was incinerated in a targeted assassination, one of numerous such murders that have been regularly executed since 2000. For well over a year now Netanyahu’s testosteronic angst for war with Iran (a war he wants the US to wage on his behalf) has been checked, and the Palestinians are once again the subrogated target of Netanyahu and Ehud Barak’s fix for bloodletting. Hermetically sealed and the most densely populated piece of real estate anywhere on the face of this earth, this Israeli attack, much like all previous attacks on civilian populations in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, is akin to shooting fish in a large aquarium. That Israel would use social media to publicize the efficiency of its weapons is a chilling demonstration of the pathological anger and Nazi-like superiority in a nation whose chief rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, stated in November 2010 that: “Goyim [gentiles]were born to serve us. Without that they have no place in the world, only to serve the people of Israel. … Why are the gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi [lord] and eat. That is why gentiles were created.”
In 1988 my wife and I travelled to Jordan, Palestine and Israel as part of a fact-finding 15 member delegation of US citizens, all members of the American Coalition for Middle East Dialogue (2 of Palestinian backgrounds, 7 of Jewish backgrounds, and 6 of other backgrounds). When the group met with Yitzhak Katzir, then Yitzhak Shamir’s Deputy Prime Minister, we encountered a very angry and hostile man who lectured us about Israel’s superiority and military might. “We [Israelis] have the brains, and they [Palestinians] have the backs. We kill keep them on their knees and we will follow them everywhere in the world and kill them.” To which I responded “this [meaning this line of thought] scares me.” To which he responded with a terse and sadistic “Good.” Over the years Israeli leaders have referred to Palestinians as roaches, rodents, hyenas, crocodiles and parasites that must be eradicated.
Whether this most recent carnage in Gaza was intended to shore up support for the upcoming Israeli elections, divert attention from a sagging economy, test the efficiency of a new generation of drones, Noam Chomsky said it best when he stated the following: “Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army and calls it a war. IT IS NOT WAR. IT IS MURDER.”
Whether it is the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians have not been served well by their leaders. The same corruption and cronyism that has marked the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has seeped into Hamas-ruled Gaza, which, ironically was the first truly democratic election in the Arab World. Palestinians will continue to be political pawns in a region that is plagued by dysfunctional Arab regimes, an Israel bent on gobbling up more real estate, and a compliant and subservient America whose Presidents and Congresses do not possess the moral fortitude to address, once and for all, the most egregious US foreign policy failure. Aristotle would have labeled this complicit rape, exploitation and slow strangulation of Palestine and its people as America’s foreign policy tragic flaw.
Soon after the most recent cease fire was brokered Israel killed one Palestinian man and wounded twenty others. Was this a provocation and a prelude for yet another war? Hasn’t enough carnage been perpetrated? Or, must the primordial attending priests of the gods of necrosis be allowed to exact further sacrifices to, yet again, teach the Palestinians another lesson?
By killing the Minotaur, Theseus saved the youth of his city-state and ended the contractual ritualistic human sacrifices. While there is not a Theseus on the horizon of the Obama administration, in the Palestinian and Israeli ranks, and the ever slumbering Arab World, Palestinians should find solace and hope in the moral stands taken by Noam Chomsky, Uri Avneri, Matti Peled, Ilan Pappe, Norman Finkelstein, Peace Now, J Street, and the numerous voices of conscience in the American, Israeli and World Jewish communities.
Raouf J. Halaby, a former national board member of the now defunct American Coalition for Middle East Dialogue, is a Professor of English and Art at a private university in Arkansas.