Tuesday 13 January 2009

How beautiful it is to kill, how just to die

Translated by Christine Lewis Carroll

and thereupon the Lord rained down brimstone and fire out of heaven, the Lord’s dwelling place, and overthrew these cities, with all the plain about them, and all those who dwelt there, and all that grew from their soil. And Lot’s wife, because she looked behind her as she went, was turned into a pillar of salt.”
Genesis 19, 23-26

The wrath of God is not only just but also beautiful, and its very beauty reveals and proclaims God’s superior justice. How can one not give in to this extraordinary picture of El Bosco painted by the Israeli aviation? Are not the bodies and homes below demolished precisely because of the beauty of this divine flash, of this dazzling fountain of light? Those who do not die, those who resist, those who curse amongst the ruins, are they not guilty for this reason, demanding with their very survival a new ejaculation of brimstone and fire?

The oldest religious atavisms are supported by the most modern means of destruction. Manipulation and lies apart, we bow fascinated by the Israeli brutality because it is brutal and comes from the sky; we admire their force and not their cause, and it is exactly the indisputable verticality of this force what confers it with a legitimacy unattainable to reason: it is all in one time and cast aesthetic and theological. At one time one could only destroy a city by being God; now the Israelis can do it as well. Only miraculous blessings and deserved punishment fall from heaven. The technological superiority of the Zionists – their superior contempt of human life activates this theological legitimation that their rulers consciously exploit, to the point that it is the biblical technotheology of the air raids, now the only source of legitimacy, what obliges them to repeat the raids on a bigger scale every time. It is so nice, so pleasant, so easy, so fair to reduce a city to rubble and so difficult, so ugly, so morally degrading to try to rationally defend Zionism…The God of the Bible who destroys from above is more just and beautiful the greater his destructive power. His victims adorn His power, justify His existence, pay tribute to His mercy; the greater the number of dead, more guilty are the corpses and more sublime the aggressor; the more children, women and old people that perish under this marvellous light, more marvellous is the light and more deserving the punishment. Only Yahweh is “disproportionate” – out of all proportion – and this is what the mass media and governments mean when they describe – respectfully and with admiration – the use of force by Israel: they mean it is “divine”, supernatural, superhuman, they mean it is justified, that we cannot judge it and even less condemn it without committing sacrilege. The means (of destruction) justify all the objectives. The technological “disproportion” declares its right regardless of human laws and requires very little propaganda to impose its authority: it is sufficient to be able to imitate God and “overthrew these cities, with all the plain about them, and all those who dwelt there” amidst a torrent of light. Even the most hardened atheists amongst us must ignore the dead as long as there are many, and cluster bombs and white phosphorous are used; as long as the murderer is almighty and its power religious and supernatural. Israel is a theocratic state, because of the way people live and kill there. The rest of the world admires Israel because of this. And when we look back on the spectacle, like Lot’s wife, we are converted into dumb pillars of salt.

The air is pure; the sky is not imputable. The Israeli pilot of the F16 does not even get his hair ruffled; elegant, sophisticated, punctilious in accomplishing his mission, disinfected from all the lowest instincts which could blur his vision, brilliant, ironic, serious, just, he imitates God and El Bosco and returns in time to Tel Aviv to try the food from a new Indonesian restaurant and discuss with his girlfriend the details of the new furniture bought in Ikea.

And down below? What happens meanwhile down below? What are the people below like?

Here we see them. They are part of the land, primitive, emotional, loud, threatening, obscure, clinging, superstitious, gregarious, ragged, ugly, pedestrian, horizontal, vulnerable, expendable: human. The article in El Mundo which illustrated this photograph added that they were also “exhibitionists”: contrary to us, the lords of the sky who prefer to bury our dead in private, the Palestinians of Gaza enjoy displaying the corpses of their children and proclaiming obscenely their grief. The shrewd anthropologist of the Spanish newspaper forgot to quote other differences just as eloquent: whilst as lords of the sky we like dying of old age in a hospital or in the privacy of our own homes, the Palestinians of Gaza like dying in the street, in public, blown up with no decency by a biblical bomb sent from the sky; whilst as lords of the sky we like killing without ruffling our hair or getting excited – to return in time for supper to Tel Aviv without visiting the hairdresser first – the Gaza Palestinians like killing and killing each other – because the rage and the hate would not let them do it any other way. If the Israeli “disproportion” justifies itself, the human proportions of the Palestinians are also eliminated. The photograph of the Israeli bombing is enough to convince us of the Zionist justice; the photograph of the Palestinian funeral is enough to convince us of the Palestinian guilt.

The difference between Israelis and Palestinians is summarised in these two images, in this contrast which the mass media, deliberately or not, feed without respite: the aesthetic and theological superiority on one part, based exclusively on their deadly weapons, and the “natural” inferiority of the others, reduced beforehand and from time immemorial to pure tinder for Yahweh’s fire, to mere fuel for the Divine Light. No reasoning, no request can thwart this difference; not even a Qassam rocket. There are only two ways to correct this contrast fixed in our retina and synthesised tamely in the way we look: or we arm the Palestinians with missiles, cluster bombs and white phosphorous or we disarm the Israelis and dissolve the State of Israel. Not until either of these two alternatives occurs, will it be of any use that human justice is on the side of the Palestinians in a world that dribbles fascinated – the USA, the European Union, the Arab governments, the UN, the mass media – in the presence of pictures of El Bosco painted by the Israeli aviation and the biblical just beauty. As long as human justice does not seem more just and beautiful to us than an Israeli bombing, the Palestinians – whatever they do – will only manage to enlarge the difference and give excuses to Yahweh for killing them from its remote, imperturbable elegance. Please do not give them excuses – do not launch rockets, do not fire arms, do not unsheathe knives, do not defend your homes, do not protect your children, do not shout, do not cry, do not eat, do not breathe. But if there is no human justice and the Palestinians are guilty before God of breathing (all the more so if they bleed!), if whatever they do, they have been condemned for eternity, it would be shameful to condemn them also – whatever they do – from the comfort of our moral airplanes. There are occasions when it is more immoral to moralise than murder.

But now the difference has been reduced a little. Under cover of the F16 in my warm home, shuddering and ashamed, I feel satisfied that the Israelis have given up their divine impunity and have also entered Gaza by land. They are still vastly superior, but they move at ground level so they become more Palestinian, a little more human and vulnerable; perhaps it would even be justifiable to kill them. Perhaps some may even die. I wish that instead of fear or admiration, some might even inspire us pity.

God is “disproportionate”; human justice is “proportionate”. Beauty is “divinely proportionate”; compassion is “humanly disproportionate”. Perhaps in the next few days we will see at last the image of an Israeli tank being destroyed by the heroic defenders of Gaza and then, after the joy, we would get taken away by the disproportion of the compassion - unexpected, incomprehensible, irrational – in the presence of an Israeli soldier taken prisoner or dead. In the absence of proportion, in the absence of justice, maybe the murderers now exposed to the weak, ugly and courageous defensive fire, the Zionists, dead, taken prisoner or wounded, painfully lying on the ground, would seem human to us for the first time.

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