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TO THE BONE
I’m a sucker for a girl in harm’s way. (Just ask my internet service provider.) Which is why I was so pleased weeks ago to find an ad for Chabad’s Terror Victims Project clogging my inbox. The banner ad I received pleaded for me to help Dorit: an eldritch, stubby-fingered little girl of around five, who stares gravely from behind a modest Seder spread. Jewish food may be an acquired taste, but this grim tableau seems excessive.
Beyond that, I’m unsure David Lynch could decipher this sloppy mise-en-scene. Dorit stands, forgoing the lone chair, and executes a textbook frown across the flat, speckled moonscape of matzo. It is supposable Dorit’s family has been vaporized by a Katyusha rocket. But that hardly explains why she’s still alone—and on a holiday, no less. More alarming, an unseen hand has uncorked a bottle of Kosher wine and poured four brimming cups, in accordance with the Passover tradition.
A neglected little girl, copious wine…One suspects Chris Hansen should hastily insinuate himself here. But that would be a costly intervention for Chabad. Dorit is the precocious star of their fundraising enterprise, soliciting donations upwards of $1,000 per pledge. (Surely, “Other” is just a euphemism for “More”?) In a smaller ad, a majuscule technicolor message flashes across her headshot, beseeching you to help make “this Passover…different for the victims of…TERROR”. Underage or not, it’s rather unclear who is plying whom.
You can be forgiven, up to now, for believing the proceeds of this hucksterism enable CTVP to provide emotional and financial support to terror victims. In fact, their ministration includes taking maimed members of the brutish and incomparably trigger-happy Israeli Defense Forces skiing in Aspen. How comforting to know that when a career of extorting Palestinian shopkeepers, sniping children and bulldozing American citizens is tragically cut short, Chabad is there to maneuver the offending chairbound stump through some of the world’s most expensive snow. The definition of “terror attack,” then, must here refer exclusively to any hostile action at all by Palestinians, including negligent sneezing. Don’t expect anyone from Chabad to blush at these invidious and pecksniff distinctions.
Indeed, the website encourages visitors to endure a brief (and, yet, far too long) video explaining the organization’s mission and the nature of its outreach. The narration begins by asserting that since October of 2001, “more than 1,300 innocent persons—mostly Israeli men, women and children—have been murdered.”
There are abundant drolleries to be harvested from this arcane tabulation.
I examined casualty figures posted by B’Tselem, the Israeli Human Rights Group. Covering an even broader time frame; factoring in the deaths of foreigners; and even generously including deaths of “Israeli Security Forces,” yields a total of 1,221. It is impossible Chabad’s figure could include Palestinian deaths. Using an ultraconservative estimate, they’re expunged at nearly twice the rate of Israeli civilians. The Palestine Red Crescent Society and B’Tselem each put the number at well over 4,000 dead. And B’Tselem notes that it does not factor the deaths of “Palestinians who died after medical treatment was delayed due to restrictions of movement.” That’s an astounding omission, considering the inhabitants of Gaza are essentially captives. Or, that in the West Bank—as The Independent’s Johann Hari reported—a parturient woman can be forced to bleed out in the backseat of a car, to the great amusement of an Israeli checkpoint guard, while her newborn son expires.
So, if the victims were only “mostly Israeli men, women and children,” who else was killed? Are large communities of hermaphrodites now erecting illegal settlements under the aegis of the Israeli government? It’s true that with fairer skin and savvier marketing, the exchange rate has always favored the Israelis. Perhaps the Generally Accepted Accounting Principle now simply holds that their lives literally count for double or triple those in Palestine.
The rubric “murdered,” deployed by Chabad, fairly screams out for modulation. Compare that effusion with the Israeli military’s sterilized assertion that a 2006 artillery strike, in which 21 Palestinian civilians perished, was the result of a “‘rare and severe’ technical malfunction.” These smirking postmortem dissimulations—akin to suggesting the victims “fell down the stairs”—inspire pity more than anger. Here is a nuclear state ruled by unctuous hoodlums.
Chabad’s propagandizing isn’t as odious, though, as a recent report by Human Rights Watch. The report castigated Hamas for firing unguided homemade rockets into civilian areas of Israel, because those weapons don’t “discriminate” between legitimate military targets and guiltless citizens. Hamas’s tactics are despicable and should be condemned in the harshest possible terms. Practically speaking, though, that kind of effete snobbery—with its insistence on insignia and big, glossy machines—is typically espoused by colonial armies.
The IDF are the beneficiaries of the most sophisticated military technology in the world. Yet, Palestinian civilians bear a grossly inordinate and disproportionately gruesome burden in deaths. Air strikes, shelling, and punitive flyovers keep Palestine perpetually immiserated. (Lebanese, too, continue to die from nearly a million unexploded cluster bombs showered on their country by the Israeli Air Force in 2006.)
What is the difference between a weapon intended to combat enemy soldiers that unfailingly kills innocent people, and one that makes no distinctions at all?
I bet Chabad has an answer for that.
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