Six Lessons of the Gaza Conflict

Holding Fire, Hasbara and a Photo of Slain Palestinian Kids

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By Chemi Shalev (Haaretz)

Published November 22, 2012.
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They were killed in an air force bombing raid in what Israel says - and I am absolutely convinced - was a regrettable human error.

But most Israelis haven’t seen this picture. They wouldn’t want to, even if they could. They may have heard of, but they certainly haven’t devoted too much attention to, the killing of the 8 members of the al-Dalu family. Many of them were harshly critical of Haaretz for having chosen to devote a main headline to their demise.

The righteous indignation sparked and stoked by many years of Israel’s belief in its own victimhood has made most Israelis willfully turn a blind eye to the tragedies of the other side. It is a far cry from the soul-searching angst of the soldiers who were interviewed following the Six Day War in the famous book “Seventh Day”, which has since been depicted as no more than a myth, but which was nonetheless a defining manifesto for people of my generation. Nowadays, it is considered a sign of weakness, even a form of collaboration, to accord too much sympathy or to express too much sorrow at the loss of life, however innocent, however young, among those that Israel is fighting against.

There are two famous Hebrew sayings that come to my mind when I think about the Dalu children. “Happy is the one who seizes your infants? and dashes them against the rocks” is one of the most extraordinarily and bitterly cruel sentences in the Tanakh, at the end of Psalms 137, which contains the famous “By the Rivers of Babylon” cry. And then there is Israel’s “national poet” Haim Nahman Bialik who penned that terrible warning that “Vengeance for the blood of a little child has yet to be invented by Satan.”

Both of these terrifying sayings are closely connected to the helplessness of oppressed Jews living in exile, who can only vent their hatred and anger at their oppressors in words, not deeds. Supposedly, such sentiments were supposed to have remained there, in exile, but obviously haven’t.

But if I had to choose, I would throw in my lot with Bialik - though I don’t know if he was referring only to Jewish children or whether his searing words are also applicable if the blood of the child in question is spilled by accident, as “collateral damage.”

For full coverage of the Gaza conflict, go to Haaretz.com

Follow me on Twitter @ChemiShalev


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