The silence on Israel is deafening

The silence on Israel is deafening

With Gaza blitzed and bombed, with the harrowing death toll despite the 72-hour ceasefire, with the weeping drowned out by the shelling of schools while the children were sleeping — even with the pause in atrocity, who would still believe in the Biblical story of David against Goliath?

Who would believe that a slingshot and few stones would vanquish a mighty giant — a towering, helmeted, missile-equipped giant that is backed by other giants? The persecuted Israelites once cheered the defeat of the Philistines as David slew Goliath — the Bible and the Koran both tell that same tale. Now everything has changed, every role reversed, and every line in the story sounds cruelly ironic: Goliath with his expensive weapons has crushed David with his homemade rockets. What’s worse is that David isn’t dead, but more than 1,400 civilians and children around him.

Then there’s something even worse: No one can do anything about it. Neither diplomacy nor pressure, hysterics nor prayers. They’ve agreed to a temporary ceasefire, but that was three weeks after the tanks kept rumbling, the missiles kept hitting, and the list of casualties kept growing — yes, there’s a website that lists every person killed in Gaza (Hamza Ziadeh Abu Anza, 18, was killed in Khan Younis; Jounay Rami Yasser al-Moqataa, 2, was killed in Deir al-Balah; Leila Ibrahim Zaarab, 40, succumbed to her wounds at the European Hospital of Gaza, and so on).

Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, broke down in a fit of sobbing during a television interview in which he discussed the shelling of a school in Gaza that killed 15 children. Who knows if that contributed an emotional push to the ceasefire. As the US and other “superpowers” in the West and Middle East seem incredibly reluctant to rein in Goliath (who somehow thinks he’s still David), let me switch from the Bible to Shakespeare: The night after Lady Macbeth successfully prodded her husband to murder King Duncan in his sleep, she acknowledged her complicity and cowardice in the crime.

“My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white,” she said. The blood isn’t on her hands — thus they’re not red — but her guilt is total, topped only by the white heart of her fear. The world risks being Lady Macbeth now.

Let’s make it clear. By asking Goliath to stop killing David, it doesn’t mean we’re automatically pro-Hamas, anti-Semitic, pro-fundamentalism, or oppose the existence of Israel. Such rhetoric is accusatory and unfair. Such rhetoric defeats the simple concept of empathy and humanity, not to mention the fact that Gaza is an occupied territory whose people have long endured oppression. Precisely because we remember the Jewish ghettos, the Holocaust, and how much of Europe sat there watching in silence, we plead for history not to repeat itself. Being a victim isn’t anyone's exclusive right; it’s a sad destiny that takes turns being inflicted on us all.

We’re aware of the atrocities in Syria, Libya and Iraq, and the condemnation of extremism extends to all. The jihadists’ beheading of their “enemies” is inhuman. Meanwhile the deafening silence of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations on the mayhem in Gaza is as much a cause for anger because it betrays the prejudices of these “friends” of Palestine, the friends whose hearts have turned so frightfully white. The Arab Spring has produced a situation unthinkable 60 years ago. The new Middle-Eastern leaderships, paranoid of political Islam, seem to prefer taking the Goliath side as they watch Gaza burn. The belligerent Hamas, in turn, is actually biting the hand that originally fed them: it was Israel’s effort to counter the Palestinian Liberation Organisation that prompted it to train and support Hamas founders back in the 1980s, before its military wing turned radical.

All of this is depressing. All of it shows the complexity of the issue — from the 1917 Balfour Declaration to the 1948 Partition and the subsequent wars and intifada — that hardly leaves any hand unbloodied. But all of this still can’t alter the cruel facts on the ground, because context is not justification: it has been a virtually one-sided pummeling in Gaza, a series of disproportionate attacks on a besieged ghetto with way too many victims (just imagine what would happen if the number of deaths were switched, Gaza 60 and Israel 1,400-plus).

Goliath has exhausted its moral high ground. Lady Macbeth isn’t even ashamed of her heart so white. One thing is clear: you can’t kill all the Davids, you can only radicalise them. The ceasefire will end tomorrow, but the injustice will be with the Gazans for much longer.

Kong Rithdee is deputy Life editor, Bangkok Post.

Kong Rithdee

Bangkok Post columnist

Kong Rithdee is a Bangkok Post columnist. He has written about films for 18 years with the Bangkok Post and other publications, and is one of the most prominent writers on cinema in the region.

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