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Commentary Last Updated: Jan 9th, 2009 - 01:50:24

Gaza: The prison-house of truth
By Luciana Bohne
Online Journal Associate Editor

Jan 9, 2009, 00:32

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Gaza, I think on waking. Can I really enter the echo chambers of the mainstream news? No, I fear. Not again. Not today.

Yesterday I read from independent sources that two UN schools had been shelled, that torn clothes and bits of limbs and flesh lay scattered in the blood of the playground. I wrote a poem about that, probably not a good one, but it helped to relieve the moral and physical impotence that overwhelm me as distant observer. Made me forget for a few minutes the guilt -- the fact that my government acts in my name to empower the killing, speaks in my name to defend the indefensible, makes murdering in my name sound respectable.

From the mainstream media, nothing but noise on this moral responsibility in the suffering that my government�s policy inflicts on defenseless people in Gaza. It�s a kind of noisy silence.

Yesterday, I couldn�t bear it -- this cacophonous, murderous silence. I added my own noise:

Afterwards, the man-to-be
In the white house,
Said he�ll have
Plenty to say

But not before
They hear a bomb
That shakes the school
And the children
Start to scream.

Today, I�m thinking of the Marabar caves in E.M. Forster�s �A Passage to India.� And of Mrs. Moore who was frightened by them. Forster described them as �dark�: �Nothing, nothing attaches to them, and their reputation does not depend on human speech.� In the cave, Mrs. Moore nearly suffocates: �She . . . couldn�t breathe, and some vile naked thing struck her face and settled on her mouth like a pad . . . there was also a terrifying echo . . . entirely devoid of distinction. . . . Hope, politeness, the blowing of a nose, the squeak of a boot, all produce �boum.��

That�s as neat a metaphor for the mainstream media�s reporting on Gaza�s epic tragedy as I could fashion: a dark cave echoing with the noise of non-human speech, producing explosions. Which kill people. Oh, yes. Words do kill. And so does silence.

Outside the media cave, you can occasionally hear something approximating the truth, but it is even more frightening than the paralyzing, inhuman, and noisy nonsense of the cave because the truth, in its loneliness, demands company. �Is it an irresponsible overstatement, to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not.� That�s Richard Falk speaking. He�s the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and international law authority at Princeton University.

�I think not. � As uncompromising a conclusion as one can get. It reminds me of George Orwell�s definition of freedom, a thing alien to the media: �Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.�

Surprisingly, today Professor Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University has been allowed to apply this calculus -- two plus two makes four -- from inside the media cave. The New York Times, all too often serving as the brute propagandist for inhumane causes (I�m thinking of the NYT�s systematic, feigned hysteria over Saddam�s fake threat of WMD, for which it had to apologize much too late in the stage of the crime it had facilitated -- without acknowledging the corpses resulting from its lie) published Khalidi�s op-ed piece. It starts like this: �Nearly everything you�ve been led to believe about Gaza is wrong. Here are a few key points that seem to be missing from the conversation about Israel�s attack on the Gaza Strip.� And he proceeds to list them. No great revelations to you and me, but a great step forward for Americans� right to know. The truths Khalidi lists read like introductory remarks in a freshman course on the Middle East. Which is what makes them essential -- more�s the pity!

The news of Khalidi�s piece came to me via e-mail from a friend � no doubt sensing telepathically my reluctance to enter the slimy and fearsome media cave today, �where echoes generate echoes, and the cave is stuffed with a snake composed of small snakes, which writhe independently.� A light flickers in the cave, the friend seemed to say. Take a look.

Like the elderly Mrs. Moore in �Passage to India,� I should dearly like to turn my back on all the lies and murder and retreat into silence. At our age, the world seems to be an endless repetition of lies and murder -- except that I�m reminded of Harold Pinter�s Nobel Prize lecture in which he said that in our public life we have a duty to pursue truth. And how do we know that truth exists? Because, he said, �politicians lie.�

Flee from intelligence-insulting media reporting of Gaza�s plight? It must be endured if only to share the insult with those who suffer it most grievously in the rubble of Gaza. Even if it means dealing with the snakes in the media cave. Flight is not an option -- as it isn�t in Gaza.

Reality must be faced.

After all didn�t Buddha say to Jesus in the novel of The Magic Flute (as quoted by Forster):

�Lord Buddha, was your gospel true?�

�True and False.�

�What was true in it?�

�Selflessness and Love.�

�What false?�

�Flight from Life.�

Let us be grateful for the light that flickers in and out of the cave, and let us add to the light until it stamps out the complicit blindness of the lie. Lives depend on it.

Luciana Bohne can be reached at

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