Harvard Square Observer: Ruminations in the Summer Heat

Ernest Cassara


In the American heartland, surrounded by window air conditioning units and multiple fans that our host had set to whirring, I mostly sat in a stupor in front of the television, with an occasional perusal of the New York Times and a book or two, there being very little desire to confront the heat wave that was sweeping across the country.

Among other cable channels I became acquainted with was BBC America.  I had asked a friend once what that channel featured.  He answered, “Oh, mostly sitcoms.” That was true, I discovered, but it had a solid one hour of BBC World News in the early morning, and a half hour in the evening, so not all was lost.  Indeed, I became acquainted with a couple of the sitcoms, and, being back in Harvard Square without access to that channel, I will miss “My Family,” and “My Hero,” although I can do without the interminable “Cash in the Attic.” (You can guess what that is about.)  It occurred to me that the BBC must have thousands, if not millions, of hours of its programs on tape.  So, it will never run out of sitcoms.  In Britain, BBC being paid for by a tax on the public, there is no advertising.  Outside of Britain, however, the BBC must pay its own way with advertising.  And, I must say that the profusion of adverts, as the Brits call them, on BBC America indicates that advertisers must find their money well spent.

Most of my time was spent with CNN International, as I watched my tax money exploding over Lebanon.  Indeed, at one point, Israel asked the U.S. to hurry up and send it the bombs it was scheduled to receive later in the year.  Makes one proud, don’t it, to sit in front of TV and see a country destroyed, with our money?  In the beginning, Israel justified the bombing of what turned out to be residential buildings on the ground that Hezbollah had fired rockets into Israel from nearby.  Later, it didn’t bother.

We have all heard of the slaughter of the civilians - kids, women, old men - in Qana.  I heard one reporter say that this was the Cana of the New Testament, where Jesus turned water into wine [Gospel According to John, 2:1-11].  Must look that up in my Bible dictionary.

Could not help but think that, for the first time, Israelis are experiencing what its government routinely subjects the Palestinians to: rockets.  Hezbollah, in Lebanon, fired dozens of rockets daily at Israeli towns and cities, as far south as Haifa.  There was the threat that they would target Tel Aviv at some later point.  We have friends in Haifa, and, naturally, are concerned about them.

Why this madness?  Analysts say that Hezbollah was formed in reaction to Israel’s earlier occupation of Lebanon.  The law of unintended consequences, no doubt.  Of course, the same can be said of Hamas.  Israel supported the formation of Hamas, as a counterbalance to Fatah.  Unintended consequences?

I despair of Israel.  It believes that it can hammer the folks in the area into accepting it.  And, it will probably continue to believe this unless, and until, the U.S. tells it to stop.

The latest stupidity on its part was to arrest Aziz Dweik, the speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, because he is a member of the Hamas party.

Footnote: Americans are getting sanitized pictures of the dead in the Israeli bombings, whereas Al-Jazeera television is showing dismembered heads, arms, torsos, etc.

The New York Times, however, has published such as the following:

Mr. Samra had been sitting with friends elsewhere. He raced to the building and frantically
began to dig. He found his 5-year-old daughter, Sally, torn apart. Her torso and an arm lay
separate from her legs. Another daughter, Noor, 8, was moving under the rubble. His grand-
daughter Lynn, not yet 2, had part of her face smashed. His wife, Alia Waabi, had died
immediately.

Two other daughters, Zahra and Mirna, made it to safety, though Zahra was badly injured.

“This is my family,” he said, his face creased, sitting under the eaves of the stone houses.
“Three of them are buried and three of them are in hospitals.”

After the adrenaline of the rescue and its aftermath fell away, Mr. Samra sank into blank-
ness. He could not focus on anything. He had trouble remembering things. His vision
seemed to blur.

He found it difficult to process what had happened. One thing that keeps him from mourn-
ing properly is that his wife and daughter will not be able to have a proper burial until the
violence has died down. They were temporarily buried in an empty lot with dozens of others.
They were assigned numbers. Alia is No. 35 and Sally is No. 67.

Link: August 8, 2006, "Survivors . After Bomb Kills Loved Ones, Life Turns Ghostly."
By Sabrina Tavernise



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