MOHAMED ELARGI - A CHILD DIES
The Other View Summer 2001
Mohamed Elargi was a 12-year-old Palestinian boy. He lived on the Gaza Strip. When hearing about or reading of the property that 12-year-old boys have there is an inclination to think in terms of bikes, footballs, skateboards and Playstations. To read of 'his bike' or 'his ball' registers nothing. It is so commonplace. To read that a 12-year-old is being lowered into 'his grave' jolts and horrifies. The day's complacency vanishes like a wisp. For a 12-year-old to have a grave seems as absurd as it would for a man to be born at 60. To gaze on the child's photo as he is held by a cleric tasked with placing the body in 'his grave' is profoundly disturbing. The young face and sightless eyes, the slightly bared shoulder and neck visibly brownish against the white shroud.
Why did the press report on the fact that Mohamed Elargi had 'his grave' rather than 'his bike'? Simply because the state of Israel, in its frightening Nazi-like intolerance and vengefulness, decided to murder the child. Just as it decided to murder 12-year-old Mohammad al-Durra in October as he crouched beside his father, while the latter pleaded vainly for the life of his child. And just as it had decided to murder many other Palestinian children in its own 'slaughter of the innocent'. Hunting down children as their own ancestors were hunted down, according to the Jewish writer Philip Gourevitch, 'from here to there because they were born as a this and not a that'.
The attempt by Nazi Germany to exterminate the Jewish people failed. That it did was because the Jews had a spirit much stronger than anything the Nazis could muster. The Jews survived and the rest of us should be grateful for that. But that survival has been tarnished by the fact that triumphalism trumped survivalism and consequently allowed the essence of Nazi philosophy to secure a strategic victory. The Nazi attitude to 'others' has for long colonised the minds of many state figures in Israel, most pronouncedly in the cases of Begin and Sharon. That attitude has in part been encapsulated in the ethos of the Israeli state. The Jewish spirit of resistance to repression has been diluted and devalued as the state of Israel inflicts its own holocaust on the Palestinians.
Not so long ago the historian David Irving lost his libel case against Professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University. Irving had sued her because she accused him of 'Holocaust denial' in her 1995 book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. Lipstadt's victory was crucial because it sent a clear statement of intent to those who would seek to falsify history and absolve perpetrators of their crimes against humanity. Although painted on a wall of the dormitory block housing left-wing prisoners in Istanbul's Bayrampasa prison are the words "A history written in blood cannot be erased", matters are never so simple. Unfortunately and ultimately the only thing that will prevent it being erased is resistance. At minimum, the type of resistance waged, for example, by Lipstadt.
Nevertheless, there was a brazenly candid aspect to Irving. He denied the obvious up-front, was taken apart by Lipstadt, lost the case, and good riddance to both he and his work. There exists, however, a more insidious form of Holocaust denial. A form that welcomes the President of the USA to this country when he presides over a government that is arming the state of Israel with the weaponry used to inflict a holocaust on Palestinians and their children - used to ensure that a 12-year-old child has 'his grave'.
While the president of the USA stood in the Odyssey Hall and lauded our peace process his real attitude to peace was to be found lying in the dust and the dirt of the soil of Gaza. What vision of peace has a 12-year-old boy when his sight has been robbed from him by arms sent by the great American peacemaker? What peaceful future can be viewed from the depths of 'his grave'?
The saddest spectacle of all was that the task of leading ethical resistance to the American President and addressing these real issues fell to 21-year-old Andrew King. Sad because others clapped and cheered Israel's arms supplier and hissed at King. Sad because those who knew better, and who had witnessed our own children murdered by state violence, humiliatingly indulged in a Mexican wave, like dancing bears to please the President. Imagine Bernadette Devlin having done that for Reginald Maudling after Bloody Sunday? No chance. She had better ideas and a large measure of dignity.
Mexican waves and Palestinian graves - the sheer incongruity of it. Albert Camus might comment that everything which exalts Bill Clinton's efforts for peace adds at the same time to their absurdity. Andrew King will of course be dismissed as some six-month university revolutionary. We shall be told that real revolutionaries support both American presidents and the Palestinians. What is the depth of the radicalism of those who insult us with such nonsense while ridiculing King? Not nearly as deep as the grave of Mohamed Elargi.