Friday, July 8, 2016

Israel's Wilfred Owen

Efforts at normalising Israeli apartheid and aggression come in many forms, including book reviews such as the following:

"There is probably no tougher test of a book than its ability to captivate a teenage boy. I gave this one to my son and it instantly gripped him." (Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier's Story, Matti Friedman, reviewed by Fiona Capp, Sydney Morning Herald, 2/7/16)

The 'teenage boy' test? If a book can grab someone with the attention span of a gnat it must be good. Hm...

"But you don't have to be a male teenager. In Pumpkinflowers, Matti Friedman has created one of the most original and powerful works of fiction I have ever read."

Fiction... right. In the Herald's weekend arts mag, Spectrum, there is always a series of short reviews such as Capp's. These are divided into two columns, fiction and non-fiction. Pumpkinflowers heads the latter column.

"The Israeli military call wounded soldiers 'flowers.' At an army outpost in Lebanon known as the Pumpkin, we meet a group of men virtually straight out of school who have been thrust into the 'lawless netherworld of war'."

In Lebanon, eh?

Shouldn't that be occupied Lebanon? Not for Capp, and, I'll wager, not for Friedman. As for those schoolies "thrust into the 'lawless netherworld of war,' oh puh-lease! These 'babes-in-the-wood' were the indoctrinated tools of an occupying, settler-colonial power which would still be in control of southern Lebanon today if it hadn't been forced out by the Lebanese resistance movement. in 2000. And shouldn't that be thrust into the 'lawless netherworld of occupation'?

"Combining his own experience at the Pumpkin with that of another soldier, Avi, while tracing the little known events that led to Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, Friedman creates a mythic yet intimate work that distils what Wilfred Owen called 'the pity of war' with an unforgettable intensity."

Little known events...? No wonder such things as the 1982-2000 Israeli occupation of south Lebanon are so little known, what with Israel's Wilfred Owens busily spinning distiling 'the pity of war' for us and clueless Fiona Capps lauding them to the heavens!

Now while we're on the subject of just how awfully awfully awful it is for Israeli babes-in-the-wood to be thrust into the 'lawless netherworld of occupation war,' have you heard the one about the Palestinian baby who terrorised another group of adorable Israeli munchkins, leaving them, like, traumatised, like, forever? Here goes:

"There is a story I want to tell you Mr Weisel, for I have carried it inside of me for may years and have only written about it once a very long time ago. I was in a refugee camp in Gaza when an Israeli army unit on foot patrol came upon a small baby perched in the sand sitting just outside the door to its home. Some soldiers approached the baby and surrounded it. Standing close together, the soldiers began shunting the child between them with their feet, mimicking a ball in a game of soccer. The baby began screaming hysterically and its mother rushed out shrieking, trying desperately to extricate her child from the soldiers' legs and feet. After a few more seconds of 'play,' the soldiers stopped and walked away, leaving the terrified child to its distraught mother." (A response to Elie Weisel, Sara Roy*,, 9/9/14)

[*Sara Roy is an academic who works at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University.]

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