Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I am heart sick and writing through tears, having returned just a month ago from the West Bank and Gaza's Erez Crossing and looking now at the Christmas lights out my front window. Through the tears I see the once hopeful faces of bright-eyed children in Hebron and in refugee camps like Aida and Balata, of optimistic university students in Nablus, of a British surgeon seeking to return to her patients in Gaza City, and of young Israeli Jews who've said "Enough!"

And, through those tears, I also see – on CNN - the bloody bodies in Gaza, the confrontations in Hebron, Ramallah, Nazareth, and Jerusalem, and I grieve for new-found friends in all those places, Palestinians and Jews alike.

And, in sorrow and growing anger, I contemplate the premeditated nature of the Israeli onslaught, the outrage expressed by governments and peoples around the world, and the outrageous silence from America.

Our media, with the notable exception of CNN, has given short and one-sided shrift to events that demand thoughtful, contextual response. MSNBC has been missing in action, its allocation of the public interest airwaves filled with pre-canned prison fare and year-end "specials." Fox, as expected, has assumed its self-assigned role as cheer leader for the on-going carnage.

And nowhere to be found in the coverage is there mention of the two-month-long strangulation of Gaza, an illegal act of collective punishment that has denied 1.5 million people of adequate food and fuel and driven them to desperation. All we hear is the standard prefatory canard about rockets – feeble, errant, home-made Kassems that Israel now uses as an excuse for a long-planned operation, the timing for which is designed to take full advantage of our Christmas holiday lull and the inter-regnum between our election and Inauguration. Anyone who professes not to understand those calculations or those of Tsipi Livni or Ehud Barak vis-à-vis Israel's February elections is either a fool or a knave.

Print media have done no better. For its part, the Washington Post turns over its New Year's Day op-ed page to Israeli hardliners (Ephraim Sneh) and their American cheer leaders with not a demurring word in sight. God forbid you live in a "small" town of 120,000 like Vallejo, California where I live and where our local "paper of record," the Vallejo Time-Herald, printed not a single word on Gaza on the first Saturday and Sunday of bombing and has since buried brief reports on events there on its deep inside pages.

But, word counts aside, the pictures are telling the story. And in those pictures of bombed out universities, prisons, mosques, and of hospitals over-flowing with bloody bodies, among them so many women and children, one senses a shifting of sensibilities, an awakening to reality among American viewers.

But what of our "leaders?" Where is the official, collective voice of America?

Our President-Elect, in whom I still have great hope, maintained a sphinx-like silence in Hawaii, a silence he has continued since his return to Chicago and now Washington, his spokesman, David Axelrod, spouting stale AIPAC-approved lines from last summer and declaring that "We have only one president at a time."

Who might that President be? George W. Bush who spent that Christmas week of bombing and death cutting bush in Crawford, Texas? Now back in Washington, he and our Secretary of State only occasionally show their heads from the shadows, their parting legacy being to turn over the voice of government to young Gordon Johndroe – Gordon who? – to talk one-sidedly of Hamas "thugs" and give an implicit green light to an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. This, while the UN Secretary General, the Pope, and presidents, prime ministers, and religious leaders around the globe call in unison for an end to a worsening humanitarian catastrophe.

So, here we stand, the self-purported "leader of the Free World," alone with Israel as it lurches out in anger like a taunted, blinded giant bringing down upon itself – and us – the crumbling edifice of what we might have been…and still might be.

It's not too late. Someone has to speak for America. Someone has to say, on our behalf, "Enough!"

Someone has to remember – and heed – the words of Leo Baeck, the President of the Reichsvertretung der deutschen Juden, 1933-43, who, in the face of another onrushing catastrophe, said "Nothing is so sad as silence."

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