The memory of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, which ended this Monday, will probably bring a smile to our lips for some time to come, thanks to that filmed final meal in which the world leaders were seen grabbing and chewing the last leftovers on the table, while conducting an intimate conversation about earthshaking problems. It will especially be recalled how U.S. President George W. Bush, with his mouth full of bread, made the famous comment about "that shit" to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was standing beside him.
What is the meaning of "that shit"? The literal explanation, of course, is the Hezbollah attack on Israel. But according to the deeper meaning of the verse that emerged from the mouth of the leader of the Western world, "that shit" could definitely refer as well to Israel's attack on Hezbollah and on Lebanon, and in short - the entire mess that is taking place in this godforsaken part of the Middle East, which on the globe is the size of fly feces, but makes as much noise as an entire herd of elephants. And the famous medieval commentator Rashi would have said: "That shit" - this is an expression of the desire of the world's landlord for the home improvement that he ordered in the Middle East to be completed already, damn it, and for the sound of drills and hammers to end. And woe betide the handyman if he forgets to clean up the mess he made.
In other words, more than all the semantic interpretations, "this shit" indicates the impatience prevalent at the top echelons of world politics. And also, and particularly, the fact that he is tired of the moral nuances that differentiate between those who are more in the right and those who are less so, and the fact that they are all ostensibly the same "shit."
From that point of view, it is not impossible that Bush planned to make us aware by his private remarks about "that shit" as a warning that more than he is annoyed with Hezbollah and Syria and Iran, he is annoyed that the Middle East is presented as a place more complicated than it is. And that he's sick and tired of the complexities. And that they should decide already, finally who the good guys are in this game, and who the bad guys are, so that the issue can be concluded once and for all.
Another proof of Bush's completely primitive, if not cynical, way of thinking was provided by the first meeting after his return to Washington, which was broadcast by the American Fox channel (Tuesday, 11 P.M.). It seemed as though the American president had learned a Benjamin Netanyahu speech by heart - one of those patriotic speeches that the head of the Likud party has delivered in recent days on all the international television channels, regarding Israel's right to defend itself from terror, and regarding the fact that "any sovereign state would behave like us."
And that "imagine if Canada were to land missiles on Chicago, the third largest city in the United States, like Haifa in Israel." Bush repeated almost word for word this argument regarding the right of a country to defend itself, including the claim of "what can we do if civilians are killed along the way." However, a sharp-eyed observer should have understood from Bush's declamatory and impatient tone (he agreed to answer only two questions, and then he ended the press conference), that at some other time it is quite possible that "that shit" of Israel-Lebanon will really get on his nerves, and then we, his loyal servants, will be in trouble.
That will probably happen after Israel, the subcontractor of the United States in the region, finishes the job it was given by Washington: to weaken Hezbollah. Then Bush will raise his hand and yell "Enough," and Israel will lock its weapons, because without the United States it is no more than an unemployed homeless person, and all the talk about a "sovereign state" is nothing more than phraseology.
A sharp-eyed observer could have seen that as well when he watched television on Sunday at 5 P.M., during a speech delivered by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before the Knesset plenum, and heard him accusing Hezbollah of being a "subcontractor" for Syria and Iran in our region.
Our sages said that everyone accuses others of his own faults. Had he not feared that people would notice that he himself serves in the role of a pathetic handyman who pretends to be a top designer of the Middle Eastern reality, he would have had no reason to accuse Hezbollah of that.
In general, if there is anything the 10 days of fighting have contributed to the awareness of the television viewer it is that nothing is any longer what it seems, and that we should cast doubt on everything, and on everything that has been affected by the days of fighting.
The myth about the "fortitude of the home front" is one of them. Had the Israeli home front been crushed like the Lebanese home front, we can assume it would have looked just as panicked and helpless, and would have crowded in panic at the port, waiting for a French or British ship, or any means of transportation that would take it away from here. But that is one of the false tricks of the continual television broadcasts of recent days: to present the situation of the Israelis in the line of fire as a humanitarian catastrophe equal to the suffering of the citizens of Lebanon, which is not the case at all. But as we have said: Nuances are not in fashion these days.
We can place in the category of the deceptive myth called "the fortitude of the home front" the random Israeli who was filmed on Monday morning in front of the entrance of a hotel in Eilat in an undershirt and a hairy chest, complaining about the exorbitant prices of the rooms; or the tots playing ball in the lobby of a Tel Aviv hotel and saying that it was more fun here than at home. When the time comes, these deluxe refugees will also demand compensation from the government for the emotional damage caused by the stay in the hotel, and will tell their grandchildren about the terrible trials they endured.
Another side of the deceptive myth about "the fortitude of the home front" was brought by the resident of Kiryat Shmona, an employee of the Yesod Hama'ale regional council, who was invited on Tuesday night by Menachem Horowitz, the northern reporter for Israel TV's Channel 2, for a discussion in the improvised studio, with the noise of shelling in the background. The poor man told of months when he did not receive a salary, about the bank that refuses to give him more credit. He was supposed to be the example of the courageous resident who remained in his community and did not leave. Forget about being courageous; he simply does not have the money to leave his house.
And in fact, as University of Haifa sociologist Danny Gottwein tried to warn several days earlier during one of the special afternoon broadcasts, the Katyushas of Hezbollah have only sharpened the problem of the longstanding social and economic neglect of the north, but they are not the reason for it. In other words, not only for Bush is "that shit" - this region the size of fly feces between Haifa and Beirut - causing an unnecessary headache. This region definitely is - and was, and probably will continue to be - "shit" for Israel as well, "shit" covered with rustling cellophane paper called "the fortitude of the home front."
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