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Monday, January 12, 2009

Babes in Arms: Israeli Spokeswomen

Scanning the internet and You Tube, in particular, I see there are swathes of criticism being directed at Israel for her inhumane war on the Gaza people. Enough for me not to reiterate. However, atrocities cannot pass without a blog such as this adding its small voice to the debate because every discourse about morality should be enriched and deepened in whatever way possible. Freedom can be gauged in the number of voices that are allowed to take part in the assessment of political and social acts. From a Jungian perspective, even what we think adds to the universal pool of understanding. To write, if we have the means, makes it more concrete, more manifest. To talk publicly is even more powerful. I believe it was Roland Barthes (memory?) who suggested that speech is superordinate to writing because in writing there is always the possibility of erasure, whereas you cannot unsay anything.

Which brings me to this lateral perspective on the Gaza atrocities. Having learned from the debacle in Lebanon two and a half years ago, Israel prepared very carefully for the assault on that overcrowded strip of land. Not just with its sophisticated weaponry but with its spokespersons. Hearing them, night after night, handwringing over civilian casualties, swearing they are on wonderful terms with aid agencies such as the Red Cross and constantly referring to their victimhood under the barrage of Hamas’ rockets, I have the palpable feeling that the scripts were written months ago. Scripts for exactly the eventuality we are now seeing. At the same time they effected a news blackout on independent observers by keeping journalists as far from the action as logistics allowed. No doubt the media trainers that worked with the oh so suave Prime Minister’s spokesman, the female foreign minister and the blonde female military spokeswoman, coached them in adopting the same calm, personable, almost warm, reasonable, open-eyed candour. Phrases such as “All we want is a bit of peace and quiet for our population in the north”, as though they were discussing an ASBO on an unruly neighbour. Or, “…surgical air strikes” just prior to the bombing of the United Nations school. But how these attempts to control the spin of a war’s trajectory come unstuck. The dissonance between the Foreign Minister in her fashionable white jacket and the ravages of civilian life in Gaza sinks deeply into the emotional unconscious of any viewer. As does the good looking blonde woman in battle fatigues, speaking for the military offensive. Isn’t she a heroine? You can see the reasoning behind this. If women are speaking for Israel, then they are truly not the offenders here. Perhaps I belong to such a bygone era that the foregoing analysis needs squashing in the age of equality but I always felt that it was men who went to war, who perpetrated the worst evils, and that the hopes of humanity rested mainly with women, for don’t they bring children into the world and nurture them? Haven’t they a monopoly on mercy? I know it’s not cut and dried as a concept and that there are plenty of nasty females who will commit horrific crimes or goad their fathers, sons and husbands to do the same, but overall…

Whatever, I would guess that this logic lies behind the choice of spokeswomen in war. Females, generally, would not inflict horror on other women and children in the way men will always do, so listen and empathise.


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