Issue 229
Winter 2023/2024

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Dec 10, 2023

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ArtWork Newspaper Issue 229
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What should we do about Gaza?

ArtWork columnist Maxwell Macleod forsakes his usual 'flippant' style and exceeds his annual allocation of tear shedding to agonise on the fate of Gaza's 'imprisoned population, of whom fifty per cent are under eighteen'.

WHAT should we be doing about Gaza?

This is not going to be an essay in my normal flippant style. I don’t cry much, maybe once a year, but the other evening I found myself weeping at some of the stories coming out of the land that I love.

You see in the past few years I have visited the Holy land on many occasions, usually doing a favour for a philanthropist pal of mine who asked me to go and do due diligence on some charity he was considering giving cash to.

I’m good at this. I know about charities and as a freelance journalist I know how to charm and hassle until I find the truth. and in war truth is always the first casualty. My philanthropist friend paid the expenses, I write a few stories.

I’m story teller not a reporter or a political analyst. They have a terrible joke there that if you meet someone who says they understand what’s going on in the Middle East they are either a liar, a fool or being paid. Or all of the above.

And these stories I write – are they a waste of time? Are they too ridiculous to be bothered with? Yes, usually. Most are ignored when I put them online. But sometimes. I make a dent on the internet and they are circulated around the world – or even make the papers.

There have been two in particular. One was called The Dance of Defecation, and the second Rat Diplomacy.

Let me not dwell on the former. My point was, and this has been in circulation round the world for years, that there is one thing that is common in all the wars I have ever witnessed and that is that people often dance as they defecate as they run.

It’s not a very nice image, but war is always awful and even senior officers on reading it have admitted that they too have so danced. And they have been glad to see the nature of terror illustrated. I have met many thousands of soldiers. Most loath war. Most have either danced or feared they might.

Then there was rat diplomacy. I had gone to Romalha to interview a senior official in Fatah knowing it was going to be a waste of time as he would just rattle out the official policy that I could have got online, and had managed to steer the conversation round to a rat I had in my attic.

It was like lighting the blue touch paper. Most of the cabinet had stories about rats. Most had lived in terrible accommodation in refugee camps, their stories went on for hours. Everybody hates rats. Every Palestinian seemed to have endured them at one stage in their lives.

So what should we do about Gaza? What should we do about the grotesque obscenity that we are witnessing with an imprisoned population of two million, with around half of them being under eighteen, being blanket bombed?

And our leaders refuse to protest, or talk nonsense about the strategic necessity of bombing an imprisoned population of whom fifty per cent are under eighteen.

What do we do about the nation of Israel being still so traumatised by their history that they are acting like lunatics, because if there is one thing that is sure it is that their current policies will never lead to the abolitiom of Hamas and will only fertilise the hatred.

I say I only cry every year or so. I have cried twice in the last few days. Once was at the news and the other was from reading a letter from an old Palestinian friend, well into his seventies, who wrote that he had spent his life trying to build bridges and now had no idea where to start building more. I love this man. I’m glad I cried.

Last two stories: I once hussled my way into Tony Blair’s office in Jerusalem, and as I was being thrown out I asked how Mr Blair was. “Well he’s been crying a lot,” said the official with a sigh.

And a final one. I know a book shop in East Jerusalem where they managed to get hold of the first fifty copies of a new book by my neighbour Jo Rowling and they decided to sell them on a first come first served basis.

Three hours before dawn there was a queue of Arabs and Jews all standing shoulder to shoulder telling tales to each other of how much they loved Harry Potter.

What do we do about Gaza? Well, I tell you what I am going to do: I’m going to continue to tell tales of how people defecate when they run when they are terrified. Of how we share a humanity that hates rats, and loves silly stories about magicians.

And I shall continue to cry beyond my annual ration, continue to promote art, and literature and to take up the search for bridges on behalf of my friend, because it may not be much, but it’s all I can do.

And I shall continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.


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