Remembering Palestine's Last Christmas

William A. Cook

"The white civilized man (is) the most ferocious animal on the face of the earth." (Herman Melville, 1840s)

In 1841, Melville sailed aboard the Acushnet, a whaling vessel, on a three year trip to the South Seas. By July of 1842, Melville and a shipmate, Toby Greene, jumped ship revolting against the tyrannical powers that brutalized the crew by oppressing these men of many races. Having witnessed American warships firing their guns at naked islanders in the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Hawaii and watched "rapacious hordes of enlightened individuals" seizing the "depopulated land" from the natives, reducing them to starving "interlopers" in their own country, he realized that the superior white Christian civilization epitomized absolute savagery and that cannibals treated others with more humanity than these self-identified enlightened men. That understanding of the civilized white man struck me with its absoluteness, its certainty, its expressive force the moment I opened my file of little four year old Kaukab Al Dayah, whose tender face rests on top of the rubble of her home, an unsuspecting victim of white Zionist brutality that delivered her family a missile as a Christmas gift just over a year ago. (See Salaman, "The true Jew is the European Ashkenazi … of whitish appearance," in Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People). (To see the picture of Kaukab Al Dayah, google her name. Two sites have photos: Getty Images and Laweranceofcyberia).

She, too, like the islanders in the South Seas 157 years ago, is a resident of a "depopulated land," or perhaps is an "interloper" that failed to flea when the merciful enlightened hordes shot their warning shots announcing the white man's civilized gesture to those about to be crushed, if they hoped to survive. How considerate. How truly enlightened. How like now in Gaza just a year ago, when Israel, our westernized culture in the Mid-East, the friendly democratic state of Europeanized enlightenment, attempted to crush the defenseless Gazans caught on their own island surrounded by the savage might of this most civilized state. How unfortunate since the intended target was the school next door; an unexplainable mistake since only precision missiles are used, $300,000 dollar weapons to ensure accuracy. "After all we are civilized; we don't permit such pictures to be made public. That's brutal, pornographic; at least blur the face as we do lest our people be shocked, or dismayed that the enemy seems so small, so sweet, so silent, so dead."

I look upon that serene face and see my own daughters asleep in their beds, no more than a yard apart when tucked in, sleeping now after the story's end, eyelids closed, lips parted, faces visible above the blankets as I turned out the lights. I remember because I was restoring a 1750 colonial house at the time and their room had not been touched yet. The heavy thick horse hair plaster was cracked on the ceiling, parts of it hung above the beds waiting the day I would tackle that room. But that night it crashed to the floor with a thunderous roar amid the screaming voices of the girls. How fear rushed to my throat; how relieved to find them untouched but sitting up in fright. How comforting for me to hold them and hug them till they fell asleep again. Remembering this moment, I find no words to express how a mother or a father or a grandmother or aunt or sister or brother would feel upon seeing the innocent face of little Kaukab shrouded in this pall of dirt and stone.

What horror strikes the soul to see that face encased in death, the weight of that shroud pressing around her tiny body, the cement wall rising beside her like the vault's side that receives the coffin, but there is no coffin. This is unnatural death. This is civilized death, the death of the innocent whose life was yet to be lived, whose eyes, shut now, will see no more the rising sun, whose hair, all matted now, will never flow in the warmth of the breeze, whose voice, silenced now, will never sing again. This is now the cold body of an unknown girl, unknown to the pilot of the F-16 that fired the missile, indeed, unconsidered by him lost as he is in his indifference to those he cannot see or hear or touch. How like Kaukab perhaps is that pilot's daughter. Was he happy, perhaps, upon his return home after his days work to lift his daughter's face to his lips before sitting down to dinner?

But he need not worry after all, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira has already absolved him of any guilt with the recent publication of his book, The King's Torah, a best seller in Israel, but un-reviewed in America, not by the enlightened New York Times or the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times. The good Rabbi writes "even babies and children can be killed if they pose a threat to the nation" (Haaretz 12/15/09). Many other Rabbis joined with Shapira in his call to kill Gentiles while absolving the soldier or citizen of Israel from guilt before the crime is committed. During Israel's Gaza New Year celebration last year, euphemistically dubbed Cast Lead, Rabbi Mordechai Elyahu, one of the leading Rabbis in Israel, "urged the army not to refrain from killing enemy children in order to save lives of Israel's soldiers" (EU Times, 11/11/09). After all, Christian morals are not binding on Jews. Certainly the civilized world can understand these perspectives since the ultra-orthodox Rabbis have only exonerated God's chosen from the guilt that attends Gentiles should they be so rash as to kill a Jew. Funny how we condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization and justify the carnage that took the life of little Kaukab Al Dayah. No doubt the F-16 pilot feared for his life if he did not destroy her before she got old enough to commit some yet to be determined evil against the IDF forces.

I think as I look upon this young girl's face of the mother who bore her, cherished her, dreamed for her; I think about her father who never thought that his daughter would find her grave in the ruins of her room as she slept; I think about her sisters and brothers who played with her just the evening before never imagining that her life would end in such suffering and pain; I think of her as a reflection of all who died in this wasted war that accomplished nothing but horrific pain for the Palestinian and provided only a junky's moment of ecstasy for Olmert, Barak, and Livni, as they sunk needles into their arms, feeling nothing but self-gratification, a sickness of the mind and spirit, a high that knows nothing of others, nothing of love or gratitude or peace, the ecstasy of nirvana that unites all in the human embrace.

As the year ends that opened with Israel's invasion of a people locked behind walls with no place to go, an invasion by the world's fourth largest military according to Israeli estimates, an invasion against a people that have no military, an invasion of a small speck of land that is home to 1.5 million people, an invasion that capped two years of siege by this same military that destroyed the infrastructure of Gaza, preventing food and medicine and oil and gas and water from entering Gaza, an invasion that was as merciless as that of any ferocious animal killing its prey, but here the prey is not one but 1400 with upwards of 5000 wounded and maimed, an invasion that can only mark the perpetrators as ruthless killers without compassion or conscience, a robotic mass that has lost all sense of humane sensitivity, a people that should be and must be isolated from the law abiding nations of the world.

Perhaps, if there is a God of mercy, He has left this image as a token of His love for those who died in this carnage, and a token of His compassion for those who inflicted it that they might learn. It is after all a mirror that both must look into, a symbolic image of life and death. For the Palestinian, it mirrors what life should be for little Kaukab and all children: the joy that should have been; the love showered upon her, lost forever; the home filled with laughter and hope and dreams and warmth and security, blasted now; the neighbors and friends and family, tightly knit in love and kinship, shattered now as this home is shattered. An image of what must be, for friend and foe alike, if this life of hope has meaning and promise.

For the Israeli, it mirrors what this state has become and what the future of the Jews might be under the pathological sickness imposed on them by the Zionists. What minister of God could conceive the slaughter of children and justify it unless he was mired in myth as recorded in Biblical lore. There we read of the Scourge inflicted by G-d on the first born of all who lived in Egypt on behalf of the Jews. There we read of Herod's slaughter of the innocents that first Christmas lest his throne be threatened by the Christ child. Why do such tales exist? They exist to give license to those who would inflict their will on those they fear; they are stories of minds distorted by self-indulgence, arrogance and pride; they impose what they will to ensure their power not through rational deliberation but through deceit, coercion and fear.

That child mirrors for the Zionist the perceived enemy next door grown into adulthood, the fear of what might be; the twisted steel bars rising from the rubble reflect the prison built around those who have been excluded from privilege; the crushed cement strewn on the ground beneath the grey walls reminds the Israeli of the Wall of Fear they have built around the Palestinians, a fear resident deep in the psyche of the Zionist, as all embracing as the rubble that encases little Al Dayah, a fear that those different from them might walk their streets and shop in their stores reminding them that the world is full of people to fear, people that must be controlled and isolated; and in that image they see themselves, the consequence of the corrosive acid that is destroying their faith that once stood for compassion and love seen in the sorrowful face of this innocent girl, the realization that they have destroyed their neighbors, those closest in blood and place to their lives, and in the reaction from people around the world to this unwarranted slaughter, they understand they have built their own ghetto wall around an enclave that exudes violence, vengeance, retaliation, and death to those who do not capitulate to their wants; they have in fact created what their fear predicted, a complete isolation from the civilized world.

What more can be said? Melville saw the cannibals as more civilized than the white Christians that ripped apart the indigenous people of the islands, denying that they had rights, and with impunity destroyed their cultures. It's not only the Christians now, the evangelical end timer Christians; it's the white Ashkenazi of Europe that act now with impunity, the enlightened offspring of the Eurocentric mind that believes in their own superiority fostered by their own myths, supported by the Congress of the United States, as they ravage the defenseless people of Palestine.

Let us all ask of the Child of Bethlehem that He offer this world once again the Beatitudes:

For little Kaukab, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;

For her parents, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God;

For the perpetrators of this havoc, Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

William A. Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of The Rape Of Palestine: Hope Destroyed, Justice Denied, Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy and The Chronicles Of Nefaria. He can be reached at: /




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