Monday 4 August 2014

More on Gaza

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Auden's lines (from 'September 1, 1939') come to mind unbidden as I reflect on today's centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, and on what's happening today, unspeakably, in Gaza. This, from yesterday's Guardian website:

A third deadly attack on a United Nations school sheltering people fleeing bombardment in Gaza was strongly condemned by both the UN and the US on Sunday, with UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, calling it a "moral outrage and a criminal act" and pleading for an end to "this madness".
What's happening now, and what's been happening over the past several weeks in Gaza, is utterly barbaric and the Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu will certainly, in time, face prosecution for crimes against humanity. 

Is it too fanciful to speculate that the breathtaking cruelty of the IDF can in some way be attributed to a form of mass psychosis, the expression of a delayed and collective Post Traumatic Stress Disorder originating in the death camps of Eastern Europe? A belated response to the unspeakable and degrading horrors of the Holocaust?

What the Israeli government and military are visiting on the people of Palestine (average age 17) has an Old Testament ferocity and primitivism - something dark and vengeful is happening. While I can make no defence of Hamas as a terrorist organisation (who dish out evil of their own) I recall, vividly, the IRA mainland bombing campaigns of the 1970s and 80s. These caused disruption, fear, mayhem and loss of life but at no point did the British government order the army to pulverise Dublin schools and hospitals with rockets. 

What the State of Israel is doing to the people of the Gaza Strip is wrong, shameful, disgusting, morbid and self-loathing.  It is, if you like, evil. It is evil in itself and the result of evil in the past. I am no historian or academic or scholar of the region and I'm certainly no politician. Or, to use another few Auden lines from later in the same poem:

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad . . .

So we go back to Cain and Abel - is that 'the whole offence'? The schism between the nomad and the agrarian? Is this the profound and bloody dispute that has driven a culture mad? Is there any legal precedent for sectioning an entire country?

Auden lines © The Estate of W. H. Auden

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