I have to admit I did a double take when I saw the bomb pictured in the hands of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. I’m not sure if it was brilliant, or ridiculous, but it was definitely something. It was unexpected and literal, and perhaps a symptom of a larger trend in speech writing.
However, what struck me beyond that was the very cartoonish nature of the drawing. It was something that I could have downloaded in Microsoft word, and that seemed odd. The drawing of the bomb had none of the wires, the physics, or the blood.
And this, I think, is the real problem. We are talking in huge absolute black and white, and now red, lines. We are talking about the bomb, the retaliation, and the nation of Israel. What about the people? What about the individual victims who will no doubt be the result of an attack, preemptive or otherwise? Those people are missing in the cartoon images and sharp rhetoric.
Because that is the actual issue isn’t it? When our enemies claim they want to “Wipe Israel off the face of the map” they don’t mean that literally the land will disappear, they are talking about the people. When they claim that Israel will be destroyed, it isn’t a threat to sow the fields with salt, but to kill man, woman and child. When we talk about casualties, we are talking about human life. Doctors on their way hospitals, children on their way to schools, teenagers sneaking out past curfew. We are talking about the moments of everyday life that will be annihilated.
We are drawing in broad strokes, instead of trying to relate person to person. We should learn this lesson already. Netanyahu drew comparisons to the Holocaust, but seemed to miss one major lesson. In almost every monument, museum, book, or film about the holocaust we realize that it is about the individuals not about the 6 million. It is about that one girl in the red dress in Spielberg’s movie, it is about Ellie Wiesel’s father in Night. So why are we forgetting that now? That should be the focus today, before it is too late.
Netanyahu gave one of the most important speeches of his political career yesterday, yet he chose to utilize precious time on a sarcastic lesson in nuclear bomb development. How much better could that time have been spent? How many more worthwhile things could have been said? How about talking about the human cost of a nuclear weapon, not the national, regional, or strategic cost? How about the actually effect that this bomb would have?
Yehuda Amichai’s “Diameter of the bomb” ends with “and I won’t even mention the crying of orphans that reaches up to the throne of God and beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.” Amichai’s poem is about a bomb with a 30 centimeter diameter. Let us hope that when discussing a much larger bomb we can recognize the human cost, not just the black and white cartoon image.