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The Logic Of Rage (A Chronicle
of the War in Gaza)

By George Capaccio

07 January, 2009

Dear Gabriel, speak to me. Let your words take the place of mine. My own are such poor vessels, too feeble to carry even the promise of life. Besides, what could I possibly say that would matter, that would make even the slightest bit of difference to the people of Gaza. For those who must suffer these most wicked acts done in the name of self-defense, I appeal to you. In the silence of this room where one candle safely burns, I think of Gaza and the flames that won’t die down, the cries that go on burning night after deafening night, the blood that pumps from an endless wound, the tears that will smolder for years to come in hearts reduced to blackened pits. And I see the planes with devout precision delivering sermons of bloody hell. The wounded, the dying fall like ashes from a single flame mere bombs can’t blow out. It is a flame born of a people’s struggle for the right to exist on their own ancestral land, free of the oppressor’s crushing claim.

They are so light, so ethereal. We hardly notice them at all, and when we do, their suffering, like the downiest of feathers, like thistledown or spider web, lands without touching our heart or conscience. How else to explain this absence of collective anguish, this quiet acceptance of what is done, if not in our name, than most assuredly with our money and the active support of our national leaders. And what of our President-Elect, known to some as the Prince of Peace, the Fulcrum of Change, the Non-Ideological Unifier? He offers the world a carefully crafted, politically astute, well-bred silence. But let’s be fair and call it rather a complex silence, an evocative silence, a richly textured silence in which one might see either streaks of callousness or exemplary prudence and wisdom. Whatever his silence may mean, one thing at least is clear: He looks good in shorts and Hawaiian shirt as he tootles around the links in search of that ever elusive hole-in-one.

While in a Gaza refugee camp, five sisters are killed in their sleep when a warplane fires a missile at a nearby mosque. Slabs of falling rubble crush their dreams once and for all. Elsewhere on the Strip, hospital morgues overflow with bodies. Frantic relatives search for a missing loved one among the severed limbs and broken lives another bombing has wrought. I have the terrible feeling that except for a relative handful of concerned citizens here and elsewhere in the world, none of this carries much weight. For some, I fear the grim news is cause to celebrate, to nod with approval at Israel’s bold response to indiscriminate rocket attacks, which have so far claimed the lives of four Israeli citizens. Their deaths are unconscionable of course. As Barack waxed so eloquently during a trip to the southern Israeli town of Sderot where so many Palestinian rockets have fallen, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing." And so they have.

About one hour after the mosque was struck, an Israeli gunship helicopter shot two missiles into the Rafah refugee camp. One of them dazzled the home of the al-Absi family. Three brothers died instantly: Sedqi, 3, Ahmad, 12, and Muhammed, 13.

Day 8 of Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli term for its “bold response”: 462 Palestinians killed including 76 children and 38 women. More than 2300 wounded, a quarter of them in critical condition. On top of the bombardment, a ground invasion is now underway after 4 hours of artillery barrage. Here, light years removed from the fighting, I picture Prophet Muhammed sheltering in a cave on Mount Hirah. Without warning, an irresistible presence draws near and pours the first of many suras into the Prophet’s expectant soul. God the compassionate, God the merciful, the angel proclaims, and Muhammed listens.

Now without benefit of divine intercession and with only my stubborn old donkey brain to cart me about, I look for sparks of compassion in the quickening night. Today I find some degree of solace standing shoulder to shoulder with compatriots opposed to the war. We take our cause through the streets of Boston, chant, shout, wave flags, and openly protest the rape of Gaza. At the end of one particularly rousing speech, we raise our fists in support of the Palestinians’ right to resist the occupation, the blockade, and now this U.S.-supported, Biblical-scale slaughter of the innocents. One among many by Trinity Church in Copley Square, I pray the perpetrators and their Foggy Bottom enablers will one day be brought to justice if not in this world then the next.

Day 10: The killing goes on. Israeli jets shell a Palestinian home, killing five children and a family of seven. Medics at the scene say the family members bled to death because Israeli shelling prevented ambulances from reaching them. I read reports that the Israeli military may be using cluster bombs, white phosphorous (a chemical weapon), and depleted uranium munitions. No one is riding to the rescue. Not the EU, not the Arab League, not the UN. It appears a mysterious virus has afflicted everyone in a position to stop the carnage or at least influence public opinion by telling the truth. According to medical journals, the virus attacks the nervous system and leaves its victims churning in a whirlwind of confusion. After the onset of illness, the victims typically resort to balderdash and hogwash to express themselves.

Just consider the words of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who assures the world there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza while one million Gazans go without electricity, about a quarter of the population has no running water, hospitals are running out of medical supplies, and looming food shortages threaten to cause rampant hunger. No one is safe from the virus. For a homegrown expression of its most virulent form, listen to anything uttered by Condi Rice, George Bush, or any of their minions. As the disease progresses, the higher functions are switched off. Sufferers loose whatever humanity they may have once possessed and are only capable of demanding more bloodshed, which they justify by appeals to “national security,” or “the war on terror,” to name a few of their favorite delusional rationales.

I can’t help thinking about my friends and family and how the onslaught in Gaza, to say nothing of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, seems not to affect them. It’s almost as if these conflicts don’t exist, as if their field of vision is limited to what takes place in their daily lives. Is this what it means to be a “good German”? Not to see what your government is doing. Not to care about the people it is harming. Rather, to imagine the ashes falling from the sky are really snow and the nearby chimneys from which they come lead to ovens baking bread? Yes, I know, we’re a long, long way from that. Some forgotten German poet wrote about the children he saw on trains bound for the camps. He said the children’s eyes shone like glowing coals. I bet he was quite proud of that image. As for the fate of the children and the horror of their captivity, no other lines were forthcoming.

Still no word from Gabriel.

(George Capaccio makes his living writing for educational publishers and conducting literacy programs in elementary schools. For the past 10 years, he has maintained the Iraq Family Relief Fund, a nonprofit, grassroots effort to assist Iraqi families in need. He can be reached at [email protected] )

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