DEATH OF A MARTYR: CHRISTMAS LIGHTS GO DIM IN BETHELHEM
This morning, just a few days before Christmas Eve in Paris, I happened to stop and enter the Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and I saw a Nativity scene near the entrance, with the manger and its life-like figurines enclosed by shadows and votive candles. I admit I was more curious as a historian rather than having any special sentimentality towards this particular season, but the panoramic display did make me think of those killed in the Gaza Strip during this time of year.
The Nativity scene also brought back memories of my childhood Christmases in Kansas. And so I paused for a brief moment, my mind traveling back and forth between Kansas and Palestine, while suddenly wondering about the death of the wheel-chair-user Abu-Thurayya, shot in the head during an anti-occupation demonstration in the Gaza Strip along a perimeter fence, one of four Palestinian fatalities, all killed on the same day.
It occurred to me - then and there - why I was a non-believer, even as I acknowledged the birth of a great figure in history, a revolutionary figure in his own way. But also being a hard and real-politik man, I thought of the Roman soldiers who must have been stationed at that time in Bethlehem during the birth of Jesus, when Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, the Roman governor of Syria, would not have even in his wildest dreams imagined how a simple birth would eventually cause so much upheaval in the Roman Empire. And now the death of a legless Palestinian fisherman shot dead by a cowardly Israeli army sniper, seemed to intertwine itself with Christmas, birth and yet another martyred death.
However, the regime in Tel Aviv sees the death of the fisherman during the advent of Christmas in a different light. The Israeli military announced, “The initial investigation indicates that no moral or professional failures were identified.” The Israeli army statement further claimed, “no live fire was aimed at [Abu Thurayya]” and furthermore, that it was “impossible to determine” exactly “what caused his death”.
Then, the news website, Middle East Monitora, reported, “The army statement additionally praised the 'restraint' shown by the Israeli soldiers present at the time," in the face of a protest that threatened “the sovereignty of the State of Israel”, and then affirmed that “The military acknowledged the use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters, saying that “few controlled shootings were carried out towards main instigators”, and that “troops received approval prior to shooting each round by a senior commander in the field”.
What is true, as the slain man's mother convey so poignantly to reporters who interviewed her, was that her son was not holding a bomb, nor wearing an explosive belt, or even having a slingshot as a weapon in his hand, like that of David, one of the heroes of the Israelis. The legless fisherman during the Christmas Season was merely carrying a flag in his protest against the American President Donald Trump’s impulsive and infantile decision to recognize the divided holy city as Israel's capital, declaring he planned to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.
One must realize that Trump sees himself like a Roman Emperor who if he makes a decree, it is final and long-lasting, with his armada of legions and air battalions to enforce his will. Such is the way of many regimes in the early 21st century, the United States being not the only nation-state with its bellicose hubris.
Such is the Christmas season in 2017, where in Bethlehem we find the Christmas lights are dim or completely dark, shut off. No, there are no human rights lighting up this benighted era of civilization, and one must bend the knee to Caesar or else pay the consequences-- even during Christmas, this most holy of seasons. Except, I will tell you this: still, there are some with legs, and even without legs, who stand up to Caesar, at whatever the cost.