“There is no humanitarian crisis in the strip” -Tzipi Livni, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, January 3, 2009
There is only one thing more awful, more grotesque, and more vile than genocide. And that is the indifference which accompanies genocide. As new pictures of bloody children and fresh testimonies of grieving parents mount into the hundreds and then thousands, the limits of our compassion, along with our pretensions of solidarity, are challenged. But what really plumbs the depths of horror, more than the suffering, is the tranquil lack of interest with which it is perceived. There are two horror stories being written in the Holy Land today -- one on the shattered streets of Gaza, and the other in the quiet and calm homes of the killers and their societies. “[S]uch ubiquitous indifference,” writes John Berger in his latest book Hold Everything Dear, “is crueler than any mutilation.” (p92) This is the disconnect. This is what makes genocide possible.
The disconnect grows just as the violence does. If you are feeling more alienated than ever, it is no coincidence -- the world is more violated than ever. Indifference is the prerequisite for genocide. Indifference creates the impunity that is grease for machines of mass murder. Without it they will grind to a halt. If you don’t care, you are the culprit.
The wall that has been built around Gaza embodies the disconnect. But it is only emblematic of the billions of walls that the people of the world build inside of themselves. Psychic walls hold up all physical walls against the decay of time. Speaking of Palestine, Berger writes that
“The choice of meaning in the world today is here between the two sides of the wall. The wall is also inside each one of us. Whatever our circumstances, we can choose within ourselves which side of the wall we are attuned to. It is not a wall between good and evil. Both exist on both sides. The choice is between self-respect and self-chaos.” (p64)
Walls divide us, but they will never excuse our inhumanity. A wall built between us can never justify walls built inside us. Nevertheless, and with all pretenses of justice, we do build walls inside of ourselves. Somehow, anyhow, even if we are against the murder, we find a way to tolerate the systems and structures that lead to murder, again and again and again. Today, the people of Gaza suffer the consequences of the world’s indifference, and tomorrow it will be another people in another place. In an insane appetite for unlimited freedom, we indulge in disinterest. And in our perpetual indifference, we cultivate a world that is ripe for genocide.
The disconnect must be broken. Everyone needs to be self-critical; to stop, breathe, and re-connect. Hearts must be opened to what they have closed themselves to. We need to return to the deep part of ourselves that has no borders. And having returned, we have to proceed. We have to move not only ourselves but each other. We have to help the movements that are breaking the disconnect. Only where the disconnect crumbles can dignity grow. “[I]t takes only a little care,” wrote Federico Garcia Lorca, “and the will to resist one’s own indifference, to discover the imposture and put it and its crude artifice to flight.”