Monday, 21 July 2014

Of Gaza And Telegenically Dead Palestinians

(Photo credit: AlphaBetaUnlimited)
I have long been struck by how little people back home knew - or cared - about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Advancing that understanding was a big part of my intent in writing Olives - A Violent Romance, which has a go at perhaps deepening a reader's understanding that the situation behind those nice, easy to understand CNN or Fox bumper sticker headlines is perhaps all a little more nuanced than 'Palestinians are all terrorists and the good guys are trying their best to sort out a nasty and difficult situation that's not of their making'.

I got an email yesterday from an American reader who said she was thinking about what was going on in Gaza right now all the more deeply because she'd read Olives. It was sort of nice to get and I know there are many others out there who feel the same way, so that all sort of makes the book worth the effort (without the millions, fame, fortune and all the rest it's clearly brought me).

And yet I still feel utterly impotent when confronted with the realities on the ground. I sat looking at Twitter last night trying to contain the surge of anger, trying to retain some sense of objectivity and not just fall off the deep end. I follow a lot of 'activists' and others involved in Palestine on Twitter and so my feed is rarely free of a clamorous little group whose intentions are of the finest, but whose constant barrage of one-sided opinion can be counter-productive. It gets wearing - you just don't want to hear it any more.

Watching the demolition of Gaza's infrastructure, the sight of F16s, precision guided artillery, helicopter gunships and now tanks, warthogs and troops battering one of the world's most densely populated - poorest and most desperate - cities was awful. It's beyond cynical - Benjamin Netanyahu's exploitation of Hamas' pathetic rocket attacks would only be possible in a country that has been consistently radicalised by the constant propaganda pushed by a polity with a wholly evangelical Zionist agenda.

Could you even contemplate a Western politician responding to international outrage at the unacceptable civilian cost of his government's military might being hurled at a defenceless city with the charge that the other side was 'piling up telegenically dead Palestinians'? They're pulling lifeless, dusty little bodies out of the rubble every minute - over 300 innocents are dead already in this latest incursion. And Israel's leader demonstrates his regret by accusing the children his military have murdered of being telegenic? God help us all.

Those impressive sounding Hamas rocket attacks have not killed a single Israeli. There are no Israeli children being pulled out of the rubble. In return for which Israel is pounding densely packed population centres with all the might of a modern military machine, blasting away at the rats slithering around in the dustbin of Gaza. They've got nowhere to go: north, east, west, south. They're all 'legitimate targets' as the Israelis mendaciously blether about ceasefires and continue to send high explosives, flechettes and fragmentation warheads into homes, hospitals and schools.

And so sitting in my comfy chair in Sharjah, I watch it and the only thing I can do is get the hell off Twitter before I lose it completely and become yet another skewed, furious voice railing against the monstrous unfairness of what they're doing, the awful media reporting (TWO ISRAELI DEAD screamed one bold type headline, only underneath did we see that some three hundred Palestinians had chosen to run into explosives) and my own complete impotence.

I didn't even want to write this, just let my book stand as my effort and comfort myself that if only a few people are watching all this and thinking about it more because of what I've done, then that's a good thing. But, of course, I'm kidding myself. A stupid book won't change one iota of what's happening. Nothing I could possibly do will.

So I went upstairs and watched it all on Sky. At least then I was just shouting at a television and not constantly restraining myself from flinging abuse at people tweeting recipes for butterfly cakes just because I care about this and they've chosen to prioritise how much butter makes the sponge as light as an angel's kiss.

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