To Speak About the Unspeakable
Stayed up until the wee hours the other night surfing the web reading report after report about Gaza. Despite my better judgement, I couldn’t take my eyes off the horrific reports that Israel was using white phosphorous in densely populated civilian areas. After seeing a picture in the NY Times of a 10 year old boy who had lost his eyesight and most of the skin from his face from phosphorous burns, I turned to reports on B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch. I’m ashamed to report I was reading this stuff well past the time it would have made sense to go to bed…
Needless to say as I read, my mind and emotions reacted a mile a minute, ranging back and forth from defensiveness to righteous anger and everything in between. Is it really true? Perhaps the reports are mistaken? Burning children alive in the streets? Couldn’t there possibly be another explanation?
It’s been all the more upsetting since there has been a near total absence of any honest communal discussion about these kinds of reports. On one end of the spectrum, some can discount upsetting news like this by placing exclusive responsibility upon Hamas for cynically using civilians as human shields. On the other end, others will excoriate Israel for the barbaric genocide it is perpetrating against the Palestinian people. The rest, I imagine, simply bury the news deep down and move on.
Upon arriving at work yesterday, I read one of the weekly e-briefings that I regularly receive from a well-known American Jewish organization. It purported to give an up-to-date status report/analysis on the situation in Gaza, but it was essentially yet another excuse to dispassionately analyze Israel’s successful military “operation” in Gaza:
Israel acted decisively, despite (ongoing) internal divisions, the approaching elections, and the false image of a hedonistic society. A strong, determined, and high-spirited military, both regulars and reserves, showed up ready to do battle to rid the South of the missile threat.
Hamas’s own tactical designs collapsed, as the IDF put into practice the bitter lessons of 2006: Units were thoroughly equipped, well-trained, informed by intelligence, and ready for battle, anticipating the various tactics (such as booby-trapped houses and the rush of suicide bombers in civilian clothing or even IDF uniforms.
You get the idea. And in the meantime there was nary a hint of the untold civilian suffering and loss that this horrid war has wrought. I don’t know what I expected, really. I shouldn’t underestimate how hard it is for a community to find the werewithal to speak about the unspeakable. Is it too much to hope that we find a way to start?