It is ironic, but perhaps inevitable, that the assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh would become such an object of interest and discussion. Earlier that month another Hamas operative was also assassinated, by missile, in Gaza. The fact that I can't remember the man's name off the top of my head is indicative of just how important it is to die with a camera somewhere. What was that saying? If a tree falls and nobody is filming it, does it make a noise? Reality television has now discovered the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
This is nothing new, the "first" Gulf war (if you don't count the Iraq/Iran war of the 80's) was the first "televised" conflict for our modern age. Perhaps tapping into this surreal and novel phenomenon, Jean Baudrillard, the French philosopher and sociologist, proclaimed, "The Gulf War did not take place". He has a point, everything since then seems to be tinged with a hue of unreality that has grown more fantastic with every further development in the region.
The skies over Iraq and the sea in the Gulf turned black as Saddam's men sought to destroy the precious "devil's excrement" that everybody was fighting over. One could be forgiven for thinking the apocalypse was nigh as we saw pictures of the burning oil in the desert and blackened birds slowly dying on the beaches. But these apocalyptic visions were nothing compared to what we saw on our television sets almost ten years later. America's dream of becoming a "hyperpower" came crashing down with the symbols of its economic and military might. It was the American military presence in the kingdom of the House of Saud which angered a mild mannered man called Osama bin Laden, who had given up the fabulous wealth of his dynasty to become the most hunted and hated man of the West. If the Gulf War never happened for Western intellectuals, the events of September 11 2001 "never happened" either for many Arabs. How could Arabs have carried out the most devastating attack against the United States in living memory when they could hardly govern their own countries or liberate Palestine? A clearly stunned Yaser Arafat could only stare blankly at the cameras, stating that this was "a terrible thing" and it was, for we are now living in the Age of the Terrible.
Since then we have seen the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq on television. We have also seen the effects of Hurricane Katrina expose the rotten underbelly of the United States on television. But we are also seeing other things on television. American troops being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel's humiliation in the South of Lebanon, Israeli soldiers being sniped at in Gaza and now, of course, assassinations of shadowy Palestinian operatives in Dubai. We watch these things on television, or the internet, cheering for "our" side when they score a goal, or deriding the hypocrisy of the enemy when it surfaces. But all of this is a situation we find ourselves in which is quite bizarre, quite insane. It almost cannot be happening...