One of the most widely distributed photographs from the past week’s Israeli/Palestinian violence has itself become a conflict. The dead child in this photograph, an image I referred to last week, was originally reported as having been killed in an Israeli airstrike. Not so fast:
The highly publicised death of four-year-old Mohammed Sadallah appear[s] to have been the result of a misfiring home-made rocket, not a bomb dropped by Israel. The child’s death on Friday figured prominently in media coverage after Hisham Kandil, the Egyptian prime minister, was filmed lifting his dead body out of an ambulance. “The boy, the martyr, whose blood is still on my hands and clothes, is something that we cannot keep silent about,” he said, before promising to defend the Palestinian people. But experts from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights who visited the site on Saturday said they believed that the explosion was caused by a Palestinian rocket.
Max Fisher contemplates the controversy:
The mere fact that we’re [questioning the validity or spin of these photographs] shows the degree to which images of human suffering in Israel-Palestinian violence are treated as necessarily, even primarily, political; as pieces of evidence to bring before the court of global public opinion. The photos are evaluated on their political strengths and weaknesses: Is the Egyptian prime minister leaning unnaturally into the frame? Do we know for sure that the 11-month-old son of a journalist was killed [link] by an Israeli munition? Was Netanyahu’s tweet [link] too strong?
I have kept my distance from commenting on the latest spiral in this miserable conflict for the past few days. Why? Because the passion on both sides is part of a tribalism that I despise in a conflict to which all now appear to be addicted. The fusion of religion and politics is bad enough; the fusion of politics and religion and territory is the nadir of human conflict. No good can come from it. Who wants to stare into its depressing abyss?
And, alas, the activities and vile philosophy of Hamas are simply incompatible with any compromise; and the same must be said of the potential Netanyahu-Lieberman coalition this latest piece of “deterrence-enhancement” seems to be designed, in part, to elect. State assassination of other countries’ leaders is a grotesque act that sets a horrifying precedent any Western country should fear. So too is the targeting of civilians of another country by missile. I wish I could share Peter Beinart’s hope for some kind of negotiation between Israel and Hamas. But after the last four years of Netanyahu’s Cheney-esque mindset determining events, and Hamas’ and Netanyahu’s successful weakening of Abbas’s hand, all I can say is that I admire Peter’s tenacity. At least he still cares.
My ennui comes from the now obvious conclusion. With each of these incursions, Israel is even further embittering and alienating the next generation of Arabs, a generation that will likely determine the future of an increasingly democratic and populist Middle East. As time goes by, technology will also steadily increase the chances of conflict reaching within 1967-lines Israel itself. As Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s rockets gain greater range and accuracy, Israel’s relentless colonization of Palestinian land on the West Bank will encourage them further.
In other words, without diplomacy toward a two-state solution, we are looking at a lifetime of constant Israeli warfare against all of its neighbors, deeper isolation in the region (with Turkey and Egypt already fast moving away) and growing international pariah status as Greater Israel becomes more fundamentalist and less democratic. And at some point, as America’s energy revolution leaves us less and less exposed to Middle East oil, and as the national interest becomes more attuned to events in Asia and the Pacific, and as the occupation turns Israel into the South Africa of the 21st Century, the Jewish state will become a self-evident burden for America, spawning terror and conflict and anti-Americanism as far as the eye can see. If all Israel can count on then are America’s Christianists and the current GOP, if they continue to spurn American attempts to unwind the conflict by undoing the settlements, then Israelis should be genuinely afraid for their future. I sure am.
They are slowly preparing for national suicide – both in how they operate within the land they control and beyond it. Obama has tried to save them. But you cannot save those who refuse to save themselves.
(Photo: Kashmiri Lawyers set an Israeli flag on fire while holding placards during a protest against Israel and in solidarity with Palestine in the city centre on November 19, 2012 in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, India. By Yawar Nazir/Getty Images.)