by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
April 4, 2002
IN THE NAME OF GOD! by Joyce Marcel American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- There's something about the Judean desert that inspires awe. Maybe it's the rich redness of the land combined with the vastness of it - those vistas of terrifying solitude which lead your eyes to the sky and your mind to question your own existence. You can't help thinking, "Of course three of the world's great religions come from here. Of course you can feel a presence you might call God. Of course this is the Holy Land."
And now, in the name of God, World War III may be coming from there.
We are watching helplessly as great religions disintegrate into burning hatred, all in the name of God.
As I write, Israeli troops still surround the shelled offices of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Inside, Arafat works the telephones, calling the press and leaders all over the world for help and begging for martyrdom.
But he will not be a martyr if he dies in this battle. He is a murderer, and he will die a murderer. In the name of realpolitik, of land, of power, he murders his own people, the ones he is supposed to lead. He trains the young people of his country to kill themselves, and teaches their parents to be proud of their children's deaths.
"We do to them what they do to us," said Muhammad Odeh, 64, the proud father of the Passover bomber. "If they kill us, we kill them the day after. It will never stop."
Arafat is a murderer who allows children to throw rocks at tanks while his own army hides nearby - but away from the photographers. Children throwing rocks make better pictures, and better pictures inflame more mullahs in more Arab cities, who then preach more hatred in the name of God.
"The Palestinians are so blinded by their narcissistic rage that they have lost sight of the basic truth civilization is built on: the sacredness of every human life, starting with your own," writes Thomas L. Friedman in The New York Times.
But it is not only Arafat with blood on his hands. On the other side stands the arrogant racism of Israel and its leader, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, himself many times a murderer.
What I have read of Israel's behavior shocks me. For example, I have read that the state of Israel, before it made its offer of a Palestinian state, closely studied the way South Africa, in the days of apartheid, structured its black ghettos far away from cities, roads, water, food and schools.
I have read (in my local newspaper) that in Israel, in October 2001, during an argument in a cabinet meeting, Sharon yelled at Shimon Peres, "Every time we do something, you tell me the Americans will do this and do that. I want to tell you something very clear: Don't worry about the American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it." (The quote was credited to the November 2001 issue of "The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.")
In the United States, a person who claims that Jews own and run America is branded an anti-Semite. So what do we call the Israeli Prime Minister, in the name of God? On Saturday morning, during the early hours of the standoff, Joe Shea, the editor of this publication, watched a dozen Islamic clerics, in as many Arab cities, via Al Manar, an Internet-enabled Arabic television station in Lebanon.
"The Middle East has boiled over," a shaken Shea wrote later. "It is beyond the brink... After speaker after speaker raised his fist and demanded jihad, the station unrolled scene after scene of Palestinian youngsters, some barely of school age, facing Israeli tanks with rocks somewhere in Ramallah, Gaza City, Hebron and other areas of the Palestinian Authority. These scenes are accompanied by prayers for Palestinian soldiers crouched low in the night, for widows keening over their husbands, for mothers holding dead and wounded infants in bloody hands... In mid-afternoon on Good Friday, as CBS shows "Entertainment Tonight" and NBC shows "The Weakest Link," ABC's "Oprah" talks of a miracle baby and Fox's "Inside Edition" babbles on about Britney Spears, Al Manar is organizing World War III."
In the name of God.
In the name of God, 19 Arabs filled with hatred crashed jet planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania.
In the name of God, the world is nothing but "a senseless horror show, a barbaric Darwinian battlefield," to use the words of Francine Prose (from Harper's Magazine.)
We're long past right and wrong. We're long past assigning blame. We're long past writing editorials and arguing the "merits" of the issues on Op-Ed pages. We're long past words. What must happen, now, in the name of God, is for Arafat and Sharon to recognize that they are old men whose egos and lust for power have caused enormous destruction. Soon they will meet this "God" in whose name they have been murdering.
Here is my fantasy. Sharon - alone - drives up to Arafat's bunker in Ramallah. He gets out of his car and goes inside. Arafat greets him.
No tea, no assistants, no sycophants, no guns, no television cameras, no telephones, no Saudi princes trying to cover their butts after Sept. 11, no impotent, whining Americans angry that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is getting in the way of their need to bomb the hell out of Iraq and save President George W. Bush's miserable hide.
Instead, Arafat and Sharon sit down - in my fantasy it's on a dirty, paper-strewn floor - and talk humbly with one another. And they find a way to end this violence.
In the name of God!
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.