Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farting Against Thunder

It is a crude British expression, but I can’t shake the image it creates as I think of Gaza. Not only is it a crude expression, it is inappropriate in many important ways. Flatulence may be offensive but it’s generally harmless. Yet the Hamas rockets are more than just offensive, they kill and maim and, no doubt, cause fear, panic and nightmares. Moreover, Hamas rockets are not just innocent or involuntary flatulence, they are deliberate creations that people work very hard to produce, move and launch. Many die for their sake; these are not just simple farts! The rockets are aptly named Qassam, after a man who spent his life in futile fighting and who played a hand in planting seeds of hate beyond his declared targets. Qassam was fighting everyone and everywhere and was engaged in killing innocent civilians; just as his namesake rockets do today.

The image of thunder is also inappropriate. Thunder is not manmade, it is an act of God and it surely is indiscriminate in its effect. Indeed, conspiracy theorists in the Middle East absolve the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular of all blame by assigning almost God-like qualities to Israel and the USA. Much like Saddam was said to have invaded Kuwait because the US made him do it, or that Hezbollah was forced into starting the 2006 war in Lebanon by Israel’s manipulation, or that Hamas massacred Fateh in Gaza as part of an Israeli plot to justify the ensuing blockade and misery. The all-powerful USA and Israel are always scheming and plotting and Egyptians, Palestinians, Lebanese or Arabs have no will of their own and merely play their pre ordained role in the theater with Israeli directors and American producers.

What makes the image stick in my mind are the parallels in terms of scale. Thunder is infinitely more powerful than mere flatulence, so as I listened yesterday to the very articulate Bibi Netanyahu recounting the number of rockets to justify the massive Israeli retaliation, I thought that the sheer tonnage of explosives is a much more appropriate measurement rather than just mere numbers. The explosives on all of the Hamas and Jihad rockets over the last ten years may not add up to just one hour of Israeli bombings. Thunder is an act of God, which does not discriminate, so the young innocent helpless sisters and many others are slaughtered by the brutal thunder. The rockets are in a peculiar way similar to flatulence, they damage those around them more than those far from them. They must, however, make the Hamas operatives feel better after they release them.

With nearly 400 people dead, thousands injured and perhaps two million people living days on end in terrible anxiety and fear, would such a silly little expression be appropriate even to think about let alone to write about and share? How can this horrible suffering go on and on and all we get is the same as we’ve seen over the last sixty years? More condemnations of Israel, more arguments from Israel about self defense and more cruel tales of the thousands of innocent civilians being mere collateral damage? Israel: the rockets are awful granted, and they should be condemned, but at what price of Palestinian blood are you willing to stop to eliminate the rockets? Would a thousand dead Palestinians children be too much to eliminate the Qassams for one month? Why only one month? Because surely they will come again! How much cruelty on ordinary people will you dish out to punish Hamas?

For Americans and for the USA, how can we tolerate sitting in silence, witnessing such horror, such massacre? Is this the kind of self defense we had in mind when we supplied Israel with a huge arsenal of deadly weapons? Does Israel need our latest technology for this? What ratio of innocent civilian to Hamas fighter deaths are we unwilling to accept? Haven’t we finally learnt in Iraq that we save more of our troops by working harder to protect the ordinary people?

And Hamas, how many dead Palestinian children is it worth for you to keep launching rockets? Do you want all Gazans to suffer so your fighters can savor the joy of killing one or two Israeli kids every month? Is the total destruction of Gaza and the killing and maiming of thousands of Palestinians worth it, so that you can just carry on with your rockets?

December 31, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I got a date with my favorite chair!

A Tribute to Be

She told me that she tried Kale once and hated it, I said she must come down to dinner with us I will cook for her Kale that she would really like … I never got to do that but for years I have been meaning to do it. Last year we again had our Thursday C BSO tickets …I looked across to the right balcony searching for her so I can wave that we will meet for drinks during the intermission at our usual place….I did not see her …twice we went but did not see…had she changed her seats ..maybe she no longer did the Thursday C series, no impossible! This is her favorite, I knew for sure.

Grace, simplicity, generosity of spirit, true inner beauty these are the adjectives that come to my mind whenever I think of her. I am not sure if we met for the first time in 1981 or in 1991 …we were both never really sure, we shared the stories of the people of 1981 but we just couldn’t remember if we really met or not…. somehow this gave our relationship a head start to an earlier time. Eventually as I settled in Boston in the early 90’s I really got to know and work with her and she introduced me to the Boston Symphony and I too become a Thursday C series devotee.

To my knowledge Jazz was not really her thing, it was classical music and the Opera to which she was truly devoted. As we left the office one snowy evening I was telling her about my new found love for Louis Armstrong, so we sat briefly in my car listening to

Pardon the smile on my face my friend
Dreamin' of reachin' my journeys end
I'm headin' straight for my hearts desire
Gee, it's good to know I'm near the home fire
All of the folks that I love are there
I got a date with my favorite chair
With every step every hope grows higher
Didn't know how much I missed the home fire
The noises, the TV, the rusty old pipes
The cat always teasin' my dog
The neighbors, the quarrels, the screaming of kids
For the first time in years I'll sleep like a log
Heaven is waiting for me, my friend
Seven or eight dreams around the bend
And if you're ever in town inquire
We'll be glad to have you share the home fire
We'll be glad to have you share the home fire

In my mind this will always be a song I associate with her. I am not sure she really liked it or even liked listening to it that snowy day. I will never know for sure, for she only mostly let us know her agreements, her approvals, her support and rarely passed negative judgments. If she hated the idea of Kale again, she never said it, if she hated Louis Armstrong she never said it.

We once discussed one of these office type big framed paintings; I did not like the empty chair in the beautiful garden, it looked sad to me, it made me feel a loss … to her she saw it inviting …it was hers to take.. come and sit and enjoy. In my head, I have this image of the next BSO concert and her seat by the right balcony is empty with a spot light on it. Seiji Ozawa is back from Vienna for the occasion to conduct, he enters and goes directly underneath the right balcony and bows …the whole orchestra is up looking in the same direction and they give their most devoted fan a big bow applause words, just the simple respectful bow; this is what she deserved and this is what she would have wanted, no words, no fuss, no inconvenience or irritation to the other guests.

Ayman S. Ashour

December 27, 2008