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Monday, May 29, 2006

Not with a whimper, but a bang

Why is it that small tragedies don't seem to catch our collective attention?  Why does it take loud noises and bright flashes of light to make us take notice... or care?

In 1925, T.S. Elliot ended his famous poem 'The Hollow Men' with his memorable prediction about how the world would end:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Personally, I think he was wrong... because if the world were truly to end with a whimper, nobody would notice. 

I've always taken Elliot's prediction to be a sarcastic poke at human pride.  I mean, how could anything so fantastic as this world we've created end in any manner except with a bang?  It's inconceivable that something so great could have a feeble, anti-climactic end.

Same goes for individual ends.

Think about it... people who are shot or blown up catch our attention.  Those who's life trajectories place them in front of an onrushing train or a city bus will surely stick in our collective memory. 

We learn life's important lessons, and script our morality plays, based on these spectacular 'bangs'.  So irresistible are these violent endings that two opposing groups can find enough ammunition in a single splashy tragedy to point fingers and guns at each other for decades... or even centuries. 

Clearly the lessons taken from these 'bangs' are open to a bit of creative interpretation.

What I can't figure out is why we have so little regard for the 'whimpers'.  Why are there apparently no lessons we can learn from them?

Are we really that callous?  Do we really only notice the splashy deaths.  Have we gotten so desensitized to tragedy that we need to 'Super Size' our portion of death before we're truly satisfied?

Let me share a recent whimper that garnered the attention and interest of neither the public nor the press (thanks to Avi for mentioning it to me during our morning drive):

A Palestinian girl from Hevron was recently brought to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital and diagnosed with cancer (I believe Leukemia).  After some initial testing it became clear that she was a good candidate for a bone marrow transplant... and that her father was a perfect match as a donor.

So, the procedure was scheduled to take place at Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petach Tikvah.

So far so good, right?

Well, a couple of wrinkles quickly appeared in the plan.  First of all, this little girl is not an Israeli citizen and is therefore not covered by the national health plan.  By rights she should have been treated in a PA hospital. 

What's supposed to happen when a Palestinian ends up in an Israel hospital (such as after a car accident or some other emergent occurrence), is that the care is provided and the bill is then submitted to the PA Ministry of Health for reimbursement. 

However, after years of the PA giving the same treatment to these Israeli requests for payment as UN Employees give to NY City Parking tickets, this arrangement fell apart.  A more secure payment arrangement was required by the cash-strapped Israeli medical community.

However as this little Palestinian girl was already in an Israeli hospital and suffering from a condition that the Palestinian medical community was not able to adequately treat, a creative solution was sought.

The Schneider Medical Center agreed to absorb a large chunk of operation's cost, as did the Peres Center for Peace.   Of the $58,000 price tag, Schneider Hospital and the Peres Center each agreed to pay $24,000, while the PA was asked to kick in only $10,000.  Not a bad deal considering how the rising cost of rocket components and guns has the Palestinian Authority in a bit of a financial crunch just lately.

So what happened? 

The request for the funds was submitted to Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority.  In case you were wondering why he got the bill (seeing as he isn't a medical doctor), Dr. Abbas got the request because all the money and bills seem to come through him these days.  That's how things work in a democracy.

Anyway, knock me over with a feather... Abu Mazen (Dr. Abbas' nom de guerre) agreed that the PA would pay its share for the operation and forwarded the bill to his Minister of Health, Dr. Bassim Na'im (who actually is an MD). 

Well, it seems Dr. Na'im had a bit of a conflict when presented with the bill.  You see, in addition to being a physician ('First do no harm'), he's also a member of Hamas ('First, do no good'). 

Guess which side won this Faustian tug-o-war?  You got it... Dr. Na'im refused to write the check for the PA's share of the bone marrow procedure because, "...it would be seen as cooperating with the Zionist enemy."

This placing of political hatred and religious enmity above human life isn't anything particularly new in this part of the world.  We've seen it countless times after natural disasters when Israel's offers of humanitarian aid/support to Muslim countries have been refused out of hand.  We've even seen a few cases where the Red Crescent Society (the Arab version of the Red Cross) was completely out of blood, yet refused Israel's offer of desperately needed reserves because the blood had come from Jews.

In this case, the PA's Minister of Health decided that it would be better to see this little girl die than allow contact on any level with the 'Zionist Entity'.

In the end, The Peres Center for Peace ponied up the remaining ten grand and the bone marrow transplant is scheduled to take place in the coming days. 

But that isn't the real story... not by a long shot. 

The real story is in what a non-story this whole event has been to the press... to the country... and to the world. 

One or two non-mainstream media sources (Hatzofe and Arutz 7) mentioned it in passing, but this incredible demonstration of callousness and cruelty on the part of the PA has become so accepted by the world that it wasn't considered even remotely newsworthy.

As an Israeli, and as consumer of news, I'm ashamed.  We truly are hollow men.

In addition to a zealous Israeli media, nearly every mainstream news agency in the world has a presence here in Israel.  They are here because this is the part of the world where things go 'bang'.  Their news cycle has such an insatiable appetite that when nothing has gone bang for a couple of days, they set up their cameras in a likely spot outside a 'refugee camp' and orchestrate some 'made-to-order' bangs.

Yet to these people who drool over even the smallest news story the way a starving man drools over a steak, the willingness of the Palestinian Minister of Health... a Medical Doctor for whom politics should come second (if at all)... to let a little Palestinian girl die rather than cooperate with the Israelis, isn't considered newsworthy.

These news hounds run from place to place breathlessly reporting the bang of rocks on cars... the bang of bullets and artillery shells... the bang of rockets and bombs. 

But the whimper of a sick little girl isn't news.  It isn't newsworthy to them... because it isn't of interest to us.

I'm no great lover of the Peres Center for Peace.  In fact, there are many days where my feelings for these misguided souls are probably not dissimilar to the way Hamas feels about Israel.  But I am writing a letter of thanks to them this evening, and enclosing a small donation as well.  I am also going to contact the Schneider Medical Center to ask which of their programs is the most under-funded.  I can't offer much, but I feel like I should help. 

I would encourage anyone who feels the same sense of personal shame that I'm feeling right now to step up and do the same.  Can't afford a donation?  At least call or write to thank them for doing the right thing.

Perhaps by taking a moment to acknowledge a whimper... we can reclaim a tiny bit of the humanity we've lost by allowing ourselves to indulge this unhealthy fascination with the bangs.


Posted by David Bogner on May 29, 2006 | Permalink


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» Must Read: Not with a whimper, but a bang from Solomonia
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I'd rather donate to the Schneider Medical Center anyday than the Peres Peace Center.

Posted by: Jameel @ The Muqata | May 29, 2006 2:32:27 PM

The first time I heard about the Peres Peace center was a news story about how they were providing the means to treat Palestinian children who had heart conditions.

I thought it was a good example of how Israelis seek out to help rather than destroy.

But you are correct. The inhumanity of Hamas needs to exposed in these stories of small whimpers.

Posted by: seawitch | May 29, 2006 2:40:24 PM

Jameel... Apparently you're a bit more genteel than I. I'd rather eat our black Labrador retriever than make a donation to the Peres Peace Center. But occasionally even the people we love to hate get it right. The point of today's post (and of my modest donation) is that it's not enough to point out the big bad... we also need to acknowledge the small good.

Seawitch... Like I said to Jameel, pointing out how evil Hamas is has ceased to be news. But Hamas isn't alone in this part of the world. It's time we tried to take note of the actors in the region who do the small, good things. That's news too.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 29, 2006 2:49:57 PM

How does your friend Avi know all of this?

Posted by: Sarah | May 29, 2006 2:52:05 PM

Sarah... He read it in HaTzofe last week. When he told me about it, I asked him for more details and he couldn't locate the original article... so he sent me a link to Arutz 7's coverage of it.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 29, 2006 3:04:53 PM

Maybe Elliot just got it all backwards; maybe humanity doesn't end with a whimper, but begins with one?

In the whimpers we see a reflection of ourselves, and of our own humanity. And, maybe that's why we'd rather focus on the bangs...

Posted by: Steve Bogner | May 29, 2006 3:47:27 PM

Hi David,

A preceding stanza from the same poem, may I bring my interpretation.

"The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms"

No one is looking(caring)
Souless beings
In a place of Martyrs,
insincere claims
and no one speaks up
In the former Kingdom of ..

Sound familiar?

Posted by: aaron | May 29, 2006 4:48:28 PM


Once again... (only this time said without the usual biting dose of sarcasm) "Hands off girls! He's MINE!" :-)

As Ima (z"l) would've said... "You done good kid!"

Steve: nicely said.

Posted by: zahava | May 29, 2006 4:57:44 PM

Whether through a whimper or a bang, they're those that have spent their lifetime seeking violence and death, history dictates that they're all destined to find the violence they seek and die instead, directly or indirectly. I'd prefer the politician who seeks to find peaceful resolutions to problems through pretense, than the one who'd rather watch a baby girl die because she's being treated by someone he doesn't like... and doesn't even swallow his pride for a minute and pretend it wasn't the Jews helping her.

Posted by: pk | May 29, 2006 5:10:06 PM

There is absolutely no logic or reason behind the mainstream media's efforts to whitewash the Palestinians. Hitler at least believed he had a reason to want to destroy the Jews. It garnered him political capital. One can find no reason why the press and media would tie themselves in knots the way they do to help the terrorists destroy Israel.

The only thing I can come up with is that they are mad and humanity is mostly mad as well. The media is simply imbued with the same psychosis as is the general population of this planet.

Or it could be that what we call insanity is actually demonic influence and even possession.

Posted by: Scott | May 29, 2006 6:07:26 PM

I am not sure why you feel ashamed.

It's not news that Hamas=Hate and it is not news that the Israel will provide medical assistance at its own expense even to citizens of an enemy state.

You should be proud that this isn't newsworthy from the Israeli viewpoint (though stupid that they don't publicize it from the Hasbara side).

Posted by: JoeSettler | May 29, 2006 10:38:22 PM

Good sentiments.
There is more than one journalist who reads this blog and it IS syndicated in the JP, so maybe someone can do a follow up and promote the story to the international press. It might not have "Bang" but there is a market for poor suffering little girls (can't believe I wrote that).

Posted by: lisoosh | May 29, 2006 10:44:41 PM


Posted by: Seattle | May 30, 2006 5:56:45 AM

nothing to add...beautifully written, and a point well taken. Zahava, I'm very slowly backing away ;)

Posted by: cruisin-mom | May 30, 2006 6:34:00 AM

Great post. I'm always confused if being the "bigger man" is the route to take. I'm at 50/50 right now, but enjoyed the read.

Posted by: Ginrod | May 30, 2006 11:11:30 AM

Steve... Uh, buddy... this is a family blog. ;-)

Aaron... Actually, the stanza :

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Made me thing of Islam.

Zahava... Good thing too as the warranty expired some time ago.

PK... Good point. It really does take Hamas to make Peres seem palatable. :-)

Scott... OK, you had me... right up 'til that last line. Now all I can hear in my head is the them to the Exorcist. Seriously, I have long maintained that at least some of the otherwise unexplainable /willful blindness going on today is eerily similar to the way the Egyptian pharaoh couldn't seem to see G-d's hand in the plagues... something that should have been obvious.

Joe Settler... I feel ashamed because the media panders to what the public wants. Clearly we aren't interested in stories like this. That's a pretty good reason to feel ashamed.

Lisoosh... I have stopped sending a feed to the Jerusalem Post and other outlets. There are one or two places that have offered to pay me for my writing and I am no longer giving away for free (except here, of course).

Seattle... I'm hoping that's a good wow. I ask because that's the same word my wife uses when she observes me doing/saying/writing something hugely stupid.

Cruisin' Mom... Somehow I don't think my wife is worried about anyone coming along to snap me up so fast. :-)

Ginrod... I just spent a nice lunch hour wandering through your archives. Wow. I had heard a bit about you via a Canadian blogger I read(Celestial Blue), but wow. Nice to meetcha! As to your comment, I'm pretty tired of being 'the bigger man'. I'm pretty much at the point where I figure if the world is going to believe the worst about us, we might as well use that to our advantage to solve the most pressing of our security problems.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 30, 2006 4:57:18 PM

It's probably good that it didn't make the press. I know that I'm probably way too cynical, but I'm 99% sure the story would have been "Israelies refused to pay for the entire operation... tried to force cash-strapped Palestinians to cover costs after denying their govenment funds, even for humanitarian causes such as this one... in past weeks Palestinians and worldwide human rights organizations have begged Israel to at least bend their stance on sending funding for medical supplies" etc etc etc...

this may be a (sick) blessing in disguise...

Posted by: Stepima | May 30, 2006 5:35:59 PM

(to clarify - by "blessing in disguise" I meant that it didn't reach the media...)

Posted by: stepima | May 30, 2006 5:38:16 PM

Your talkin my language now!

Posted by: Scott | May 30, 2006 6:23:00 PM

Great post, David.

And please, don't eat your Labrador: I have it on extremely good authority that since it was established, Mr. Peres has set foot inside his Center for Peace fewer times than your dog has legs. And they have some very good projects, enabling more grassroots cooperation with the "Zionist Enemy" than that not-so Good Dr. will ever be able to get his head around.

Posted by: PP | May 30, 2006 6:42:49 PM

It's probably good that it didn't make the press. I know that I'm probably way too cynical, but I'm 99% sure the story would have been "Israelies refused to pay for the entire operation...

My only disagreement with that is over the last 1%...

Posted by: JSinger | May 30, 2006 8:10:43 PM

Stepima... I thought of that too, but worrying about what Europe thinks of us is so last year. I'm more concerned about why the media HERE thinks (probably correctly) that the average Israeli on the street couldn't care less about such a story.

Scott... Oh yeah, I forgot that you're an 'old testament' kinda guy. ;-)

PP... Thanks. I appreciate it. There are certain bloggers/readers whose reactions I consider to be fairly accurate barometers of where my politics are at any given moment. You are one of them... so it is reassuring that you don't find all of my posts to be right wing dogma. :-)

JSinger... Even if the probability of that happening were equal to '1' (somewhere my old statistics professor is smiling), it shouldn't matter to us. What should trouble us greatly is how we have come to hate ourselves almost as much as the Europeans do... and our appetite for news has come to resemble theirs as well

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 31, 2006 11:14:35 AM

Wow indeed. Good stuff, Trep... and a story that deserves to be better known, even if both Israel and Hamas are acting perfectly in character. (So is Abu Mazen, come to think of it -- good ol' Useless Toothless.)

I've taken the liberty of linking to you; I hope you don't mind.

kol tuv,
Daniel in Brookline

Posted by: Daniel in Brookline | Jun 2, 2006 9:26:45 PM

Just curious, does the PA have $10,000?
I mean, if the check bounced it wouldn't really help cash-strapped Israeli hospitals.

Posted by: Sarah M | Jun 7, 2006 7:24:42 AM

Brilliantly written. We are at a point in our evolution where the peasants are finally pulling back the curtain and exclaiming that our Emperors have no clothes, to mix metaphors. This Kabuki theater ALL of our "ruling elites", no matter the flag, are playing out before our eyes, is beyond intellectual dishonesty.

Posted by: Patti | Dec 27, 2010 10:25:13 PM

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