Eyeless in Gaza

June 19, 2006

I doubt we will ever know what really happened that day on the beach in Gaza, other than that a family was killed and a little girl orphaned. Perhaps that’s all we need to know, anyway, or all we need to remember when the shouting finally stops.

Claim and counter-claim. It is the Middle East, after all.

A story popular in Lebanon tells of a scorpion on the bank of the Nile who asked a frog to ferry him to the other side.

“Oh no,” the frog said. “You would sting me.”

“That’s ridiculous,” the scorpion replied. “I won’t sting you, because I can’t swim, and I would drown as well as you.”

Convinced, the frog took the scorpion on his back and began to swim the river. In midstream, the frog felt a terrible pain as the scorpion suddenly plunged his stinger into the frog’s neck.

The stricken frog groaned and asked, “Why, why did you do that? Now we’re both going to die.”

As they both sank under the water the scorpion hissed, “You fool. You fool. You forgot that this is the Middle East.”

One of my favourite bloggers, Lisa Goldman of On the Face, came in for some flak when she attributed the deaths to an errant Israeli shell — as did the first media reports, as did Israel’s Defence Minister, who rang President Abbas to apologise. Logic and common sense seemed to suggest it was so, yet logic and common sense seem to lose their traction in the morass that is Israel/Palestine.

Another cry of pain from the world’s open wound that is the Middle East.

Matchless in might,
The glory late of Israel, now the grief!
We come, thy friends and neighbours not unknown.
From Eshtaol and Zora’s fruitful vale,
To visit or bewail thee; or, if better,
Counsel or consolation we may bring,
Salve to thy sores: apt words have power to swage
The tumours of a troubled mind,
And are as balm to festered wounds.

From John Milton’s Samson Agonistes.

Update: Further information suggests it was not IDF live fire that caused the deaths. Human Rights Watch has altered its position, and does not contest the IDF’s findings. The pity is that it will make so little difference. This tragic incident has already passed into myth. Once there, it’s impossible to dig it out again, and return it to history.

(Via Adloyada.)


  1. The scorpion story really got to me. Maybe I’m a softie, but that just says ‘typical’ to me.

    I hope Lisa at On the Face gets to the bottom of this – she cares enough to deserve to. IMHO.

  2. Can’t remember where I first found it, skepticl. Keep thinking it was in the Arabian Nights, but I don’t think that can be right.

    Sums a lot of it up for me, though.

    Lisa’s a wonderful blogger. If you haven’t already done so, check out her series on “Why Lisa Came to Israel”. Hope she finishes it.

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