My Morale Problem

By Hornik, P. David | Midstream, January 2002 | Go to article overview

My Morale Problem


Hornik, P. David, Midstream


The loud banging noises in the mornings aren't bombs, explosions. For a long time I didn't know what they were. Not a very practical person, I resigned myself to its being a mystery. I'd usually wake at about six -- the only hour of relative quiet before the TV news comes on, maybe before the sirens start that might just be ordinary illness or death or might be terrorist attacks; and after about an hour of relative peace, watching the TV news, hearing the sirens of the ambulances racing to the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus near where I live, I'd start to hear, too, the loud banging noises. Finally, one morning, walking to the post office, I solved the mystery: sanitation workers, swinging shut the doors of the garbage bins.

As the soccer season began, worried that my younger son, who stays with me on weekends, would start to resent having to do so if it meant he had to miss his games, I got cables for my TV. It seemed -- except that now I'm rebelling against it -- to be a last twist of the knife, a last nail in the coffin, of several things. It seemed to take away what little ability I still had to write. Spending my days in arduous translation work, it's very difficult, afterward, to get up the will power to do further work with words, further peering at a page or a computer screen. Having cable TV rendered it, for a few months, almost literally impossible. You slouch on your back, thumb pressing the soft node of the remote control, and jump to Spain ... Italy ... India ... Turkey ... is it power? Escape? No, not escape, since if it was, I'd avoid the trouble spots more than I do.

Along with my will power to write, I could say that getting cables almost destroyed what little was left of my morale. It wasn't that I didn't already know about moral equivalency, about the denial of the evil of the deaths of the Israelis being murdered, separately in their cars, in large groups in buses or restaurants, day in, day out, for a period of months, a year, over a year. You can't follow these events at all without the tune of moral equivalency saturating your ears. Watching it on CNN and the BBC, though, it becomes more graphic and more deadly. Acts of murder, even of children, prompt appearances by spokespeople from "both sides." The Palestinian representatives acknowledge that such things are regrettable, but explain that they are absolutely inevitable given the circumstances -- repeating the age-old theme, in full respectability on international television, that Jews are themselves responsible for the acts of murder directed against them. The Israeli representatives protest how much they want peace and that Yasir Arafat is not doing his job well. The announcers give body counts -- how many Israelis and Palestinians have died since "the violence" began; the latter figure is higher, and the viewer is left to conclude which "side" bears more culpability.

Do I still have morale? It is difficult to describe the feeling both of being subject to murder and of having the simple evil of the murder denied. Holocaust denial is somewhat analogous. It deals with a much larger scope; but there is a similar sense of being twice-murdered. It is, however, shunned by respectable opinion (though respectable Americans and Europeans do not shun it so long as it is purveyed by Arabs). The moral balancing of the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict," however, is mainstream and respectable.

Since I had a stint as an op-ed columnist a few years ago, a few people who are close to me have turned to me ever since as someone with some sort of special understanding of these matters, someone who can provide answers to questions. For some time now, I've told them that I have no answers to offer, only bewilderment. At first, I blamed the situation on the weakness, the spinelessness of the Barak government; as the date of the Sharon government's taking office approached, I assured them that once it did, things would be different. …

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