The World Turned Upside Down

by NORMAN SIMMS December 18, 2016

A reporter recently said on the BBC, as he watched the civilians running down a street in Aleppo to escape from the final surge of fighting before the Syrian Army, the Russian Airforce and Iranian allies completed the recapture of this rebellious area for the government of Bashar Hafez al-Assad, "I have never seen such levels of human suffering before." To which, as I stared at the screen, I responded silently-no use screaming at the television screen more than is necessary-What have you ever seen?

A good proportion of the buildings in those quarters of Aleppo where the various rebel groups, some with, some without western backing, maintained an enclave against the Damascus regime, we destroyed-rubble everywhere, hospitals destroyed, along with schools, mosques, apartment blocks, shops, office buildings, marketplaces and just about everything else that marks a civilized part of the world. But the people were running down the street, or were pushed on wheelchairs, carried away in carts by their families; they were then loaded into ambulances, climbed into waiting buses, and either escaped to other rebel-held towns or to the government-controlled neighbourhoods.

Is this the greatest level of human suffering experienced in our lifetime? What about the films taken immediately after the opening of the concentration camps in Europe in the final weeks of World War Two? The people that were in those camps, if not piled up as stacks of dead bodies awaiting incineration, stacked up and already loaded into the crematoria? The walking skeletons staring with blank eyes out from inside the barbed-wire fences? The thousands who did not have the energy to stand up or stretch out their arms? That happened in my life time. It is no myth, no fake history, no lie.

One could make lists and draw upon memory-banks of newspaper images of other wars, natural disasters and disease-ridden places in the world, in most of which the survivors did not have the strength to run down the streets, could hardly depend on ambulances or buses to be there ready to care for them and provide them with shelter of some sort. Think of Dresden after the firebombing, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the hours, days and weeks following the dropping of atomic bombs in 1945, remember the scenes of hundreds of thousands of massacred people in Rwanda, of the killing fields in Cambodia, the long lines of people trying to escape from Bosnia and Herzegovina...the devastation caused by the great tsunamis in the last few decades.

But what troubled me most by the statement of the BBC reporter who had never seen the like of such suffering was not just his naiveté or wilful blindness or the shock of being personally a witness to scenes otherwise known only in video images, newspaper reports or word-of-mouth from colleagues and the children of victims. What struck me most was that what he claimed to be seeing, which is bad enough, to be sure, is what the press, the intellectual elites and the self-deluded students who still claim-and march to protest, to give their support to the backers of such destruction, and to blame the wrong nations for the result-that the greatest scene of ongoing human suffering -genocide, even-that what Israel does to the Palestinians in Gaza is so bad that everything else pales into insignificance.

Yet what is seen and shown and believed by Israeli's involvement in trying to make Gaza and the other Palestinian territories safe for the region as a whole is indeed for the most part a concoction of deliberate lies (propaganda exaggerations and pure misplacement of images and stories from other places about other peoples on to the Israeli treatment of Gaza and the West Bank), of self-delusion (wherein western reporters, media commentators and government officials at the United Nations believe only what they can believe to be politically correct, having long since closed down their critical apparatus and submitted their minds to the sway of ideology), and cut themselves off from the knowledge of history, philosophy, literature and science, thus having no standards by which to measure a flow of undiluted and unsupervised opinions¸contexts into which they might words, images and events into categories that make comparison possible, and no memory of the world beyond their own immediate sensations (those who idealize and idolize "the moment", and thus disparage the authority and the sagacity of their forebears). They only see what they can see with no critical apparatus. They believe what they already believe prior to an assessment of facts. They compare the incomparable cheese and chalk, apples and computer aps, feelings and ideas.

What we actually see on the news about Aleppo is what these history-less people-from reporters to children on the street of western cities-believe happened in Gaza City. They accuse Israel of wanting to kill off the entire population of Gaza and other "occupied territories" in so-called Palestine, while it is in Gaza that population continues to increase, the people work, live, have hospitals and schools, purchase food in the markets, have their own government, and constantly engage in a propaganda war, dig tunnels into Israel in preparation for the next attempt to "liberate" themselves from their "cruel oppressors"-worse than the Nazis, they say and train their youngest children to hate and to provoke or perform acts of terrorism against all Jews everywhere and anywhere in the world.

They think they are seeing Gaza but they only see Aleppo-or Mosul, or whatever other city currently under attack by fanatical ideologues, haters of civilization and debasers of reason and science. If they could see, assess and judge properly, surely the United Nations would not spend endless time condemning and censuring Israel, without more than polite finger-wagging at Syria, Russia and Iran. When Russian generals explain away war crimes and acts of mass murder, they sue the very arguments that Israel uses to explain what happens in Gaza, the Occupied Territories, and the streets of Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv; but what the Israelis say stands up to the evidence, it makes coherent and probative sense. When the henchmen of Putin, Assad and the Ayatollahs in Teheran say these things about the violence in Aleppo, they are believed, in the way that, with no proof to the contrary, they are not accepted as valid about Israel.

Norman Simms has just published the first volume of a new book, Jews in an Illusion of Paradise: Dust and Ashes (Cambridge Scholars Publisher.  Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK).  It is available from the publisher as well as amazon.com and other online bookseller sites.  The second volume may be out before the end of this year    


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