On June 10, I wrote a post about the explosion on a beach in Gaza which killed several members of the Ghalia family as they were having a picnic.
I worded the post in such a way that clearly showed I was assuming that Israel was likely to blame for the explosion, that it was caused by an “errant Israeli shell.”
What I did not acknowledge in the post was that, while Israel was, at the time, allowing for the possibility that one of our shells had caused the explosion, they were not officially taking responsibility for it until they had investigated further. The message from Israel at the time was that yes, there was a possibility that one of our shells had exploded on the beach by accident – but that there was also a possibility that the explosion had little or nothing to do with Israel at all.
I apologize to my readers, and to the Israeli government, for not leaving that possibility open in my post. I jumped to conclusions, which is unfair. In particular, given that in the past, Palestinians have sometimes blamed Israel for incidences that were their own fault or even staged, I should have at the very least acknowledged that we did not yet really know what had truly happened.
I would like to emphasize here that at no point did I ever believe that Israel had deliberately dropped a shell on innocent families. I always believed that at worst it was an accident.
I also apologize to Israel’s hasbara folks for implying that it is their fault I did not really know what a “shell” was. I’m just as able to Google these things as anyone else. My point would have been much stronger if I’d chosen a different example.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge that, yes, the question of “whose fault was it” is indeed correlated, in a causative way, to the depth of emotion I feel for the victims. If I hear about a family who suffered a tragedy in, say, Nicaragua – that is, a place with which I have zero connection and know nobody – then I think “oh, how sad” only for a moment, and then move on. If I hear that Palestinians suffered a tragedy that has absolutely nothing to do with Israel in any way, I may feel it for two moments, rather than just one, because our being locked in a conflict makes the Palestinians more “familiar” to me, if certainly not more endearing.
But if I hear of a tragedy that may have been caused by my own country, even by accident, then the tragedy becomes more personal – deserving of much more than a few moments of sympathy. It is akin to the feeling I’d have if my son was driving a car, and killed a small child who had run out into the street. An accident. Not my son’s fault. But being the catalyst for a tragedy, however accidentally, makes it almost impossible to wash away the memory from one’s mind. People who accidentally strike a child and kill them while driving often live with many years of questions about whether there was anything they could have done to prevent it, and why they were chosen by the cosmos to be the catalyst for someone else’s death.
So, yes, if I knew for sure that the Ghalias had died because Israel had accidentally shelled them, I would feel a sense of the tragedy much more personally. And if I knew for sure that their death was completely unrelated to Israel in any way, I would still feel some sympathy for them, just as I’d feel sympathy for a similar family in Nicaragua, but their tragedy would pass through my consciousness much more quickly – because that is the way of the world.
In any case, I once again apologize to my readers for not being absolutely accurate and careful in how I wrote my previous post.
And, regardless of how the explosion really happened, I extend my condolences to the remaining Ghalias.
COMING UP (perhaps after a few "lighter" posts):
* Why I made that mistake
* Case closed?