The Pornography of Horror

The following are the opening paragraphs (in my quick translation) of an op-ed piece by Tunisian poet, essayist & philosopher Abdelwahab Medded. First broadcast on Medi-1 Radio from Tangiers on 01.03.09 (where Meddeb has a weekly op-ed spot), it was then picked up by the Frankfurter Rundschau (German translation here) and will appear soon in Le Monde.

The turn of the year made for days of sadness. This sadness, this mourning is due to the events in Gaza, events that show off mankind’s most inglorious aspects. In front of me looms in all its nakedness the absolute horror of what man is capable of.

Horror at those who style themselves intolerably as victims.

Horror at those who use the electronic war and its abstraction in such a way as to exempt the belligerents from the guilt of the death they are spreading.

Horror at this war itself, because despite the vaunted precision in the programming of its targets, there are always children and innocent people among the victims.

Horror at Hamas, which broke a ceasefire with its many provocations and the firing of weak rockets capable of inflicting only minimal damage. Hamas knew that this would lead to a terrible retaliation, but did not take any precautions: On the very day Israel announced its attack, a Hamas police academy celebrated the graduation of 150 policemen. Thus the adversary was presented with a welcome target, which it did not miss: a rocket attack killed sixty of the one hundred fifty graduates.

Horror at Israel using the ridiculous Palestinian rockets as an excuse to retaliate with a savage punitive expedition that relies on the most advanced technological means to destroy an enemy equipped only with archaic means. I deliberately say ridiculous, futile, archaic rockets that cause only minimal damage, as one glance at the statistics will confirm: These last years thousands of these rockets fired by Hamas into Israel have killed but one person while wounding some twenty.

And here I myself am contaminated by the horror as I hear myself using arguments drawn from that macabre countdown.

Horror at Nasrallah’s discourse abusing Egypt for not opening the passage at Rafah, which would turn the Sinai into a vast Palestinian refugee camp that would only enlarge the battle field.

Horror at that same Nasrallah in his harangues repeated since the beginning of the ground operations calling upon the members of Hamas to kill as many Hebrew soldiers as possible to gain another “divine victory” just as false as his own “victory” already called “divine” during the war which ravaged Lebanon in 2006.

Horror at Egypt invoking legalisms to veil its apathy: the international accord indeed stipulates that the frontier post at Rafah can only accept passengers under the joint control of the Palestinian Authority in cooperation with the representatives of the European Union and with Israel’s consent. Of course Hamas, upon its coup d’Etat, chased the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza, which made the European Union pull back its representatives.

Horror of the bidding war among certain Arab states — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates — that send medical teams to Rafah that dole out the wounded Palestinians among themselves to compensate for their impotence and to give themselves a good conscience without too much work.

Horror at the scandalous fatwa rendered by self-proclaimed doctors of the law who strip the Egyptian officer killed by Palestinian bullets at Rafah of the title of martyr.

Horror at the manner in which Egypt celebrates its desacralized dead by dressing the corpse in the martyr’s tawdry sacred finery.

Horror at the regressive debate on the concept of the shahîd, the martyr in which the whole of the Arab and Islamic world participates — even though the dead and the wounded are not God’s self-sacrificed martyrs but the victims of a man-made war, victims of shabby, shoddy and incompetent leaders devoid of even basic knowledge of war and politics.

Horror at the horror generated by the Arab television stations (especially Al-Jazeerah) complacently shooting close-ups and zooms of bloodied bodies further disfigured by the impact of a morbid montage aimed at inflaming an Arab opinion disconsolate in its Palestinian identification. By resorting to pure emotional identification, the media dodges the political and strategic analysis that should show that a great part of the responsibility and the evil lies with Hamas, its coup d’état, its confusion of religion and politics, its desire to flaunt itself as expiatory victim, with the involuntary theatralisation of its military and political incompetence, with the inconscience with which it exposes its troops and its people to death. A death used in trying to base its legitimacy on the cult of the martyr, turning the staging of that death into an instrument of conquest , therwith obliterating the horizon of a modern politics built on consultation which tempers coercion, on concession which facilitates conciliation if not reconciliation.


Abdelwahab Meddeb

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  1. Yaakov Sullivan says:

    I am recent convert to Islam and married to Palestinian from Gaza. We donated blood for Gaza but unfortunately there is no way to deliver from NY. We tried to contact UPS but they refused even to talk to us. There must be a way to help our brothers in Gaza. I wonder what we can do? Yesterday we went to pro Hamas demonstration in NY and through all our old shoes. We don’t have anything else left .My husband is in tears and started drinking again. I am very worried and hope it will end soon.

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