Double the Pain

Bombs terrify Israelis and palestinian civilians will pay the price

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i was at baycrest home for the Aged visiting my mother when news came of the bomb explosion in Jerusalem last Saturday. Baycrest is full of Holocaust survivors, so it was an act of mercy that no one there turned the TV to CNN.My family made two midnight calls to Israel that night, joining the flood of those turning to reassurance across the wires. Many Israelis have written hauntingly about surviving terror, and what it’s like to touch the cheeks of your children in the morning and wonder if they’ll still be alive by nightfall.

Palestinians, too, make desperate midnight calls, and there will be more as Israel steps up its futile attack on the Palestine Authority and murders more kids. There’s no percentage, really, in being a Palestinian moderate — I’m surprised there are any — with the way Israel hones collective punishment. Villages bombarded, children strafed, homes demolished and too many bodies carried down too many dusty streets. I won’t offend the angels by comparing body counts.

If only 28-year-old Fareed Nasasra from Beit Fureek, shot dead by settlers picking olives in his grove, could have had time left to meet Julie Weiner, 21, killed in Jerusalem last Saturday.

It’s an orgy of extremism. The overseer of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, Ariel Sharon, speaks to the press, officiates over state luncheons and directs foreign policy as if no one notices he’s a war criminal. And Jewish supporters of Arab deportation are still toasting the assassination of Rabin.

On the other side, suicide bombers move toward their final self-immolation, coached by an infrastructure of rituals and rewards as if they were graduates of a select university. Eyad El Sarraj, director of the Gaza Mental Health Centre and a critic of this pathology disguised as political commitment, said in Toronto some months back, “Many Palestinians struggle with not becoming a human bomb — the amazing thing is that it’s so rare.”

Yasser Arafat control this riot of bloody self-expression? How stupid does Ariel Sharon believe we are? Professor John Sigler of Carlton University, who has spent his career tracking peace prospects, says Arafat’s support has now sunk to 29 per cent. Hamas, he says, is at 27. That’s mainly because the group provides social services — not as a recruiting strategy, he assures me, but rather from deep commitment to charity, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Western beneficence is not exactly stellar. The Yanks prop up dictatorships all over the earth, but show no inclination to bolster the fortunes of one kaffiyehed despot in Gaza. They dole out $1.9 billion a year to Israel for war toys and $950 million for economic funding — only $85 million makes its way to Palestinian NGOs. Not enough, I’m afraid, to entice depressed, suicidal men with olive orchards instead of oblivion.

But the real peace will begin when the 400,000 settlers in the Occupied Territories holding the Middle East — and the world — to ransom pack up their modern white desert houses and head for home.

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