The Corpses of an Old Man and a Young Girl, Paraded as Evidence of Evil. They Prove Only the Depths of Hatred

By Reeves, Phil | The Independent (London, England), October 19, 2001 | Go to article overview
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The Corpses of an Old Man and a Young Girl, Paraded as Evidence of Evil. They Prove Only the Depths of Hatred


Reeves, Phil, The Independent (London, England)


AN OLD general and a young girl were buried yesterday on the same landscape. One was honoured as a national dignitary, the victim of an assassin's bullet. The other was treated as an infant martyr, the victim of a soldier's bullet.

Both corpses were paraded as evidence of the evils of each other's enemies. Their deaths will now hasten the onset of an even nastier war, and possibly a wider one - as witnessed by the killings of a Fatah militant wanted by Israel, and two other men near Bethlehem yesterday.

Both the stories of the dead general and the dead Palestinian child were deeply flawed. Truth, always the first casualty in war, was forgotten yesterday. It was the imagery that mattered.

Yesterday afternoon, large numbers of Israelis watched the funeral of Rechavam Zeevi, the 75-year-old Tourism Minister who was shot dead by assassins from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian at the Hyatt hotel in East Jerusalem.

The service was a grand and sombre state occasion, broadcast live on national TV. The old man, the first government minister to be murdered in this way by Arabs, was feted with full honours, with speeches from the President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of parliament. He was remembered as a heroic ex-general, a veteran of three wars, a man who played his part in founding the nation.

Only one camera covered the funeral of Reham Ward, carried on the shoulder of a scruffy-looking man perched on the back of a battered pick-up truck leading the procession of several hundred mourners through the West Bank town of Jenin. But the pictures it captured - to be piped to Arab homes - were also powerful and will play their part in deepening the region's hatred.

Poking out of one end of the cloth swaddling her dead body, you could see her childish face, framed in black locks. At the other, a pair of dusty boots.

Unlike the general, the trappings for the girl were modest and makeshift. She went to her grave on a shabby khaki stretcher, adorned by a Palestinian flag and a home-made wreath, woven from palm fronds and purple and white bougainvillaea flowers.

Although only 10 years old, she, too, was honoured by her own as a victim.

Her pall-bearers included paramilitaries from Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement and "national" security forces, a mark of official respect. As her body was lowered into a freshly dug grave in Jenin's eastern cemetery - enlarged specially to take victims of the intifada - they fired their Kalashnikovs into the air in salute, as befitting a "martyr" and the daughter of a major in the local police.

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