Daniel G. Saunders

The Seen and the Unseen

Yesterday evening, reading the James Bond novel Casino Royale, I came across the line that human beings are easier to fight for than principles. This is undoubtedly part (albeit part) of the reason why the media generally prefers human interest stories to dense contextualisation by talking heads (generally and regarding Israel/Palestine in particular), and why those unsympathetic to Israel and Zionism choose to focus on Palestinian civilians and ignore Israeli civilians, not to mention Hamas.

You can see this focus on the human in ongoing the campaign to put up posters of the Israeli and other hostages taken by Hamas and other Palestinians to raise awareness of them and the equally determined campaign of anti-Zionists to deface or tear them down. The former want the hostages to be seen as human beings, the latter to deny them this chance, perhaps even to stop themselves from seeing something that challenges the security of their worldview by reminding them that there are human beings in Israel. “I see you” versus “I refuse to see you” (and note that sight metaphors are so essential to Gen Z’s political activism and engagement with media: “I felt seen/erased”).

I have to confess that I am guilty of this too. I feel uncomfortable seeing Gazan civilians suffering on TV, albeit unable to really articulate why. I know they are suffering. I feel that ultimately, in both moral and legal terms, their suffering is the fault of Hamas, regardless of the proximate cause. But it is impossible to look them in the eyes (even on TV) and say that blithely. Of course, the history of faked atrocities by Palestinian groups only complicates this further, as who knows if that woman bawling in the ruins has really lost her family and/or her home or if she is just straight from Hamas Central Casting.

Strangely, it seems harder for me to cope with IDF casualties now than at the start of the war and I am not sure why. They are more present in my mind. It is partly that I think the IDF is taking more casualties now, perhaps as street fighting, as opposed to bombing, increases. I think it is also the fading of the memory of 7 October, which took my attention at the start of the war.

Incongruously, this has resulted in a change of my approach to a particular theological problem. The resurrection of the dead has occasioned a lot of debate in Jewish circles since the Talmudic era. In the Middle Ages, debate focused on whether the dead (righteous and wicked) would be resurrected literally at the end of the world, just for the final judgment, or whether the righteous would be resurrected at the start of the Messianic Age, to enjoy the delights of the utopia for however long that lasts until the final judgment, when they will be judged, along with the now-resurrected wicked.

Judaism isn’t particularly concerned with settling abstract questions that have no immediate practical outcome, so the question was left hanging. I never really had a strong opinion on this, but I inclined towards the first opinion. But now I feel a strong desire for the second opinion, that the deceased righteous get to enjoy utopia physically as well as the spiritual afterlife of Heaven. I can’t bear the dead of 7 October and the dead soldiers not to have that physical delight that was stolen from them, and their families and friends not seeing them again in this world. Of course, the reality of the resurrection of the dead has very little to do with my emotional response, but I still feel the irrational emotional pull to this opinion.

About the Author
Daniel Saunders is an office administrator, proofreader and copy editor living in London with his wife. He has a BA in Modern History from the University of Oxford and an MA in Library and Information Management.
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