Jean Genet

“Prisoner of Love”

Page 325

“If you are against Israel you’re not an enemy or an opponent – you are a terrorist.  Terrorism is supposed to deal death indiscriminately, and must be destroyed wherever it appears.

Very smart of Israel to carry the war right into the heart of vocabulary, and annex the words holocaust and genocide.  The invasion of Lebanon didn’t make Israel an intruder or a predator.  The destruction and massacres in Beirut weren’t the work of terrorists armed by America and dropping bombs day and night for thee months on a capital with two million inhabitants: they were the act of an angry householder with the power to inflict heavy punishment on a troublesome neighbor.  Words are terrible and Israel is a terrifying manipulator of signs.  Sentence doesn’t necessarily precede execution; if an execution has already been carried out, a sentence will gradually justify it.  When it kills a Shiite and a Palestinian, Israel claims to have cleansed the world of two terrorists at once.”    

You may agree or disagree with Genet’s thesis and his assessment of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon back in 1984.   His “Prisoner of Love” was published back in the 1990’s but sad to say, if anything, his thesis is even more true today.    Our latest explosion of right wing indignation and outrage for even considering an agreement with Iran along with Benjamin Netanyahu’s complete dismissal of any agreement concluded with Iran as akin to declaring war on Israel, is indicative of how lasting is Genet’s “annexation of terms” analysis.  And, it’s thirty years later.

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon that Genet refers to occurred in 1984-1985 and the massacres he cites include those that occurred in the Sabra and Shatila refuge camps.  Although I don’t know if Israel’s 1984 war with Lebanon changed his view towards Israel, but it is estimated that 150,000 deaths were the result over the decade of occupation and civil strife that devastated the country. 

I can, however, pinpoint the time when I changed my sympathetic view towards Israel.  And thirty years later my change also involved Lebanon. 

It was 2006 and I was in Cairo, Egypt, on business.  I had three slack days before I was to fly to Beirut for a second business trip.  I had changed hotels – from the Ritz Carlton that the State Department was paying for to the Nile Hilton, where I was paying.  News came that three Israeli soldiers had been killed by Hezbollah and two more captured.  Israel’s response to the events was to attack Lebanon calling the soldiers’ killings terrorist attacks; not necessarily without reason.  Hezbollah has made no bones about wishing that Israel would cease to exist and has a long history of terrorist attacks on the Israeli state. 

But what followed was over a month of bombs and rockets raining down on Lebanon with folks trying to flee the country, including Americans, in droves.  Now, as far as I know, Lebanon is not an enemy of Israel, it has never called for Israel’s destruction even though it has been and is the ground for a succession of “terrorist” organizations many supported by Iran.  
I followed the initial days of the war on the television set in my hotel room, appalled as the death toll mounted day after day.   The end result?  The deaths of 1,200 Lebanese people.  I don’t know how many terrorists are included in that number but I suspect that many, many more innocent civilians died as the result of three Israeli soldiers being killed by terrorists.   In the end, the score wound up thus: Israel = 1,200. Lebanon = 3.  

Every one Israeli life lost was countered with the lives of 400 Lebanese.  That equation is simply mindboggling.  True, some 160 Israeli’s also died as a result of the fighting that lasted for a month, not to be unfair.  At the time Israel’s goal was to eliminate all terrorists from Lebanon, the “final solution” as the Israeli government called it with a decided lack of historical irony.  Or perhaps not.    

Lebanon did not deserve to have 1,200 of its people die at the hands of the Israeli’s.   To me this was outrageous and went way beyond the scope of retaliation, far above what might have been a “rational response” to the loss of three Israeli soldiers’ lives.  It was an unwarranted retribution by any considered definition pure and simple.   I never went to Beirut, couldn’t, but the war that Israel fought against the people of Lebanon did it for me. 

I didn’t advertise my disenchantment over Israel except with a few of my friends and while I do not sympathize with Hezbollah or any other terrorist group, I no longer sympathize with Israel either.  Our younger generations seem to share my unsympathetic feelings toward the Jewish state as polls show.  Unlike with me, my generation and our parents generation, World War II and the Holocaust are just a few paragraphs printed in a history book to them.  I suspect that my generation is the last who has any real experience of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust; thus the lessening of support across America with an increasing population who have little or no real connection to that era.  

The “best if used by” date for the Holocaust as justification for Israel’s excesses since 1948 has largely expired.  Those who keep pushing the theme that Israel can do no wrong, that Israel is entitled to treat anyone who disagrees with their policies and actions as terrorists willing the destruction of the Jewish state, that to defend the continuation of the Jewish state any and all actions are justified no matter how extreme, are apparently unaware that the old justifications for Israeli atrocities will no longer hold.  There has been and will continue to be a slippage in support for Israel, the Iran Agreement contretemps notwithstanding, if Israel continues along the Netanyahu roadmap path.   And World War II, with all the good will towards Israel the Holocaust engendered, ended in 1945, seventy years ago.   Times have changed.

But Genet’s treatise applies not only to Israel.  The “annexation of terms” is in widespread usage right here in America.  Think for a moment how degraded the term “liberal” has become these days.  From denoting an ideal of humanity, caring, compassion, tolerance and understanding, its new meaning is defined as Socialist, Communist, moocher, un-patriotic, bumbling and anti-American.   The term liberal is now used as one of derision, damnation, uselessness and backwardness.  To sum up: the root cause of all of America’s problems in 2015.  We can thank the relentless right wing propaganda machine and Rush Limbaugh in particular for this annexation of a term that we once wore proudly and with honor.   Not so today.  Not so in the new conservative America.  We might just as well be called terrorists.  And that’s precisely how the Right Wing views us. 


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