Saturday, March 21, 2009

Israeli house-cleaning: on the looters

From Jean Said Makdisi’s (1990:190) memoir, Beirut Fragments:
“After the Israelis left [Beirut in 1982], we began to hear of the most extraordinary aspect of the occupation. Arrests, harassments, shootings, even the obligatory looting: These were what everyone expected, and indeed, they had occurred. But the thing that no one expected, and indeed, they had occurred. But the thing that no one expected was what we, on hearing about it for the first time, greeted with hesitant laughs. Gradually, we discovered that what had seemed like a single incident had become, in fact, a trademark and taken on far more serious dimensions.
“The Israeli soldiers, wherever they had been, had defecated in choice places. On books, furniture, clothes, and carpets; on bedroom floors; near toilet seats and in bathtubs; on school desks; and in shop windows, people found the rotting feces. Someone swore she knew of one house near the airport where the distraught housewife had discovered feces in her washing machine and dishwasher. One man, we heard, went to his office and saw on every single desk except his own the offensive, stinking pile. Triumphantly, he sat at his desk and gloated over his unhappy colleagues. Then he opened his drawer, and there, neatly lying among the files, was his bequest from the Israeli army.
“And so, after all the ruin and tragedy, after the destruction and pain, the dead and the dying, the lacerated bodies and blinded eyes, the burned and disfigured faces, the windows and orphans—after all this there was left only a great heap of excrement. The fires had died, snuffed out in a mound of dung. A ghastly joke, symbol of an overriding contempt, a cosmic stink had become the memorial to those months of agony.”" (thanks Robert)