Saturday, December 26, 2009

The past is never really past - until it's faced and forgiven

This coming Sunday, that rabidly anti-Israeli paper, the New York Times Review of Books, reviews Joe Sacco's "Footnotes in Gaza," a comic book format account of two Israeli massacres in Gaza back in 1956. A couple of points stand out for me.

One of them was Moshe Dayan's advice in a speech six months before to be "tough and harsh" because the Palestinians in Gaza saw across the border that the Israelis were building their own homes in the villages that they had been robbed of - a perfect example of Eric Hoffer's observation that we hate people because we've done them wrong. Which suggests that the way to get over hatred is to start by acknowledging whatever wrong we've done to them and quit doing it.

Another point made in the review is that the world forgot what happened because lots else was happening in the Suez war. And then what the review doesn't mention is the further distraction with the Soviet invasion of Hungary at the same time. So the world paid no attention to these 500 or so men and boys coldly and methodically massacred in Khan Younis and Rafah as the Germans had done on a larger scale to the Jews in Babi Yar 15 years before.

It turns out, though, that what the world forgot matters anyway. The little boys who survived didn't forget, and the Israelis who got away with it and found themselves free to continue in this Nazi spirit with no consequences really didn't forget either. As Ecclesiastes puts it, "Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the hearts of men are wholly set in them to do evil." It's hard to imagine a better way to corrupt people absolutely than to give them assurance of impunity for the evil that they do, and so doing the evildoer such a favor is a pretty horrible crime to commit against him - an instance of the saying, "A flattering tongue works ruin."


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