Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
BY GHK Lall
People are dying on both sides of Gaza. The Palestinians count, but nowhere as much. Many more will die in the present, and still more for a long time to come. Give a man a cause that he latches onto, no matter how remote or futile, and he will die for it. The women are also making their sacrifices: mothers urging their sons to noble sacrifice, wives looking possibly that one last time at their spouses. I remember the way of the Spartans: stand for the shield or come back on it.
History has given us more than enough to work with: from lands awarded on the frailest of premises to lines of demarcation not recognized and crossed at will (by both sides), to babies killed and other horrors. In the fog of war, it is never one side only, as the bloodlusts rage uncontrollably, and burst their dams. The Palestinians came at ground level; the Israelis from aloft, and their vaunted air arsenal. Aerial sorties also do not discriminate between age or gender, the already crippled or those with arms upraised. “It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.” Those words were uttered by Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and if there is a man who should know, he is the one.
I think that conflict and violence have become too ingrained in the Middle East, the cycle of action and retribution is never-ending, and now the clock resets for another half-century of bitterness. Out of the legends of surprise border attacks, and sweeping retaliatory vengeance, the martyrs and heroes for the next century are made. It is a struggle to navigate this minefield that never needs more than a spark to spiral into conflagration.
A military solution only goes so far, and fuels still more expressions of depraved violence. The two-state solution has its merits, but for how long, with all the past and present resentments and antagonisms, never less than at fever pitch. My position is simple: usurp land, and be prepared to part with hand. Such is the beginning of these things, and they have lasting value. Who would ever be able to comfort a Palestinian of today, or one yet unborn or unattached from the breast, that his place is second, which is a kind of numerical construct? The world knows that his plight is a slap on the scales of justice, the blindfold ripped off. Some politicians sat around in their dark-paneled, smoke-filled, brandy-saturated clubroom and decided that the map of Palestine would be redrawn. It is a hundred-year legacy drawn up in blood, and which has not let up since 1948. The years have a certain rhythm to them: 1956, 1967, 1973. Yom Kippur and intifada, October 2023 have echoes of October 1973, except that violence has nothing holy about it, and can never be sanctified. If there is such a Just War, then it is not on the side of the people who dominate the media, who control the messages, and who drive fear into powerful men and women. The first thought of the latter, the most urgent priority, is of political future, and the crying need to distance from that most dreaded of labels, a virtual political kiss of death in America.
Violence in any form begets violence. Psychological violence, economic violence, political violence, cultural violence, white collar violence, it does not matter. In the minds of those on the receiving end, something is going to have to give, the scores have their day, settled in some manner. There was Rwanda, a pearl of haunting beauty if ever there was one. The mental cataclysms still seethe with energy; the memories immersed in who is superior, and who is in the right, and who should not be in sight. Living side by side too often descends into burials in the same manner. I nod my head in the direction of the Himalayas and Kashmir, another jewel of contention.
Talking about balance and fairness and justness all feel good, and instill nobleness in the spirit. But only when those apply to us, mean our own, speak to our own anxieties, and priorities. I wish that there was some workable formula (acceptable to both, grasped at eagerly by both) that I had to put on the table in Gaza to settle the dust. Whether I do or don’t, it is past the time of listening. But the world is listening, watching, and speaking out furiously. With unprecedented voices, the poor, the discriminated against, and the exploited are raging against apartheid, barbarity, and injustice. Prior media dominance has been challenged and assailed, with startling results. There is momentary pausing.
I hear frantic calls for a ceasefire. And after that, what and to where? One side harbors the desire to drive the other into the sea. The other is no less determined to bury their foes to such a depth that they could never be exhumed, never resurface. The visions of both sides look highly unattainable for different reasons. Who really wants to talk to whom in such circumstances? In the best of situations, this is tailormade for extremists on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Lessons must be taught. More blows are still to be landed. The capacities are there, no matter how unequal. The common denominator is blood. The multiplier is more hate. There is enough of that to go around, and some spares left. Like I said, I admit to no magic wand, and have this dilemma. With each drop of blood shed, I lose a friend from both sides. Beloved Guyana comes to mind, each acrimonious word pierces deeply, each horrid new development wounds and scars.