It’s Not Too Late / DeWitt Cheng
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late.
The more I heard about the Israeli-Gaza war, the less inclined I was to pick one side and reflexively demonize the other. One of my Facebook interlocutors quoted Ecclesiastes’ “To every time” passage to defend Israel’s response — justifiably, of course. A few days later I thought of the Byrds’ 1965 rock version of Pete Seeger’s 1959 antiwar folk anthem, based on the Biblical text (which can justify anything), but adding the peace activist’s comment, “I swear it’s not too late.” The statue is a nineteenth-century depiction of Cain, the original fratricide.
Blessed are the Peacekeepers
The overlaying of older cultures by newer ones happens in archaeological time, but the sedimentary process accelerated during the replacement of razed Palestinian villages by modern Israeli settlements in recent decades. I added to the embattled landscape some tank squadrons, a missile battery, and an all-seeing drone (Cave Deus Videt — Careful, God Sees), along with a hill of scorched tanks at the summit. “Blessed are the peacemakers” is a familiar phrase from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, nicely brought to ecumenical earth by Monty Python in The Life of Brian. Peacemakers were also the name chosen for Reagan-era MX missiles mounted on train cars for shoot-and-scoot capabilities.
Eyeless in Gaza, or, Lex Talonis
Some time ago I ran across a jpeg of Jacopo Bassano’s 1538 painting of the invincible Samson slaying his Philistine (Palestinian) enemies with the jawbone of an ass. I did some digital restoration. After this glorious victory, however, the champion of the Israelis was blinded into impotence after an erotic dalliance with Delilah and humiliated into slavery — hence Milton’s “eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves” from “Samson Agonistes.” His strength restored after repentance, Samson pulled down the heathen temple where he was displayed in chains, destroying his enemies and himself. Lex talonis is the “eye for an eye” tit-for-tat doctrine of legal revenge prescribed in Exodus 23.
The Great Al-Shifa (“Healing”) Media Battle
The destruction of Gaza’a largest hospital, fittingly, a trauma center, resulting in the deaths of many patients, was assailed as barbarism by Gazans and defended as a military necessity by the Israeli Defense Force, which claimed that Hamas fighters used the building as a command-and-control center (later downgraded to a “node”) — as an architectural human shield. (The same argument was cited by Russia to defend its bombing of the Mariupol Maternity Hospital in Ukraine.) In the meme, the hospital (thanks to the IDF for the digital rendering) remains intact amid the bomb rubble.
I found this image of a carved plaster version of Picasso’s famous 1937 antiwar painting, Guernica on the web. Its brownish coloration suggests an artifact preserved amid the upheavals of culture and nature — a deathless idea transcending paint, canvas, and political conflict.
The eye/lamp of history (appropriated from Guernica) observes the wreckage of war. The robotic soldiers are excerpted from Picasso’s 1951 Massacre in Korea. Clearly based on the Napoleonic executioners in Goya’s 1814 The Third of May, they symbolize American troops slaughtering innocents in that nearly forgotten clash of socioeconomic systems that ended in stalemate — unfortunately for those living north of the 38th Parallel.