Thursday, January 08, 2009

War vigil

The rate of recovery both from 'flu and from the kidney trouble seems very slow to me. I potter about the house, deal with emails, then snooze like an old man - heavens, I am an old man. Just a century ago I would not have lived so long, faced with such nasty bugs.

My daily routine includes a lot of listening to the news from the BBC, and reading up what it publishes on its websites, particularly about the distressing situation in Gaza. I have rediscovered Ma'an news, an independent Palestinian news agency, with people reporting from the inside of the conflict, just like the BBC. It's good factual objective reporting, with some interesting opinion pieces of the kind you simply wouldn't find without digging through the Western media.

When the UN school in Jabaliya was shelled Ma'an reported 42 dead while the BBC was giving the figure of 30 dead. It was a good 36 hours before the BBC revised its figure to 42 without comment. And how much we assume the BBC gets it right! We hear their statements discussed more than we hear what Hamas leaders actually have to say. Ma'an will give you texts to read in English so you can make up your own mind. Why their military people think they can achieve anything meaningful by provoking the greater might of Israeli forces to even more extreme acts of violence remains a total mystery to me, but the Hamas analysis of Palestinian oppression and injustice merits careful thought.

Admittedly it's almost impossible to get all the facts straight in any war situation, especially when violence to the truth is one of the key weapons used on all sides. According to technology news sources, there have been cyber-attacks on websites belonging to both Israelis and Palestinians, involving things as crude as defacement of web pages, re-routing them to other sites, and attempts to stop them functioning altogether by overloading them with false demands. As information and mis-information are all so critical in any power struggle, it's not surprising that technological dominance has become an important affair.

Anyway, as the days pass slowly, I read, watch and wonder. Sometimes my mind seems as empty as a desert. Words of prayer seem almost un-natural, unrelated, ineffective.

I have relied on the liturgical use of Psalmody so much over the past 45 years, but when I consider it in its raw un-filtered state, so much of its poetic imagery is of dominance, violence, retaliation. What am I doing? What are we filling our heads with?

I guess the sight in a BBC video clip of a small group of Israeli soldiers reciting prayers together (probably Psalms, like generations of Christian soldiers before them) out on the battlefield of Gaza shook those questions out of the shades of my mind into full consciousness. I'm sure I could write a tome that covers all the traditional rationale for these things, but none of that seems to be working for me at the moment. Why should I or anyone else bless God for the ability to wage war? (Psalm 144)

How will we ever rid the world from the worship of violence? Or cease to find glamour in vengance and retaliation?

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