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Wednesday 16 July 2014

Emily Dickinson: Tell all the Truth but tell it slant


Palestinian boys inspect the rubble of a destroyed governmental prison after an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip: photo by Eyad Al Baba / APA Images / Zuma, 15 July 2014

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant --
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind --

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), "Tell all the truth but tell it slant", n.d.

Children playing with toy guns on the second day of Eid al-Fitr in Rafah in the Gaza Strip: photo by Eyad Al Baba / APA Images / Zuma, 20 August 2012

Art is on the side of the oppressed. Think before you shudder at the simplistic dictum and its heretical definition of the freedom of art. For if art is freedom of the spirit, how can it exist within the oppressors?

-- Nadine Gordimer 20 November 1923-13 July 2014

 Nadine Gordimer visiting Alexandra, the black township near Johannesburg, to lay wreaths at the grave of victims of political unrest: photo by Reuters, 18 May 1986

Staff at al-Shifa Hospital treat a victim of Israel’s current attack on Gaza: photo by Basel Yazouri / Active Stils, 15 July 2014

Right-wing nationalists attack activists in central Tel Aviv protesting Israel’s air strikes on Gaza: photo by Oren Ziv / Active Stills, 12 July 2014

Israel -Gaza conflic

Israelis gather to watch air strikes in the Gaza Strip from a hilltop near the southern town of Sderot: photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters, 15 July 2014


Gaza: photo by Eyad Al Baba / APA images, 14 July 2014


vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

You just gotta love that sofa--so this is what real gung ho couch potatoes do to kill time.

Barry Taylor said...

National Information Directorate.


Thank you, Tom, for staging so powerfully this opposition between two modes of 'telling it slant'. I always preferred the one that's veering towards life rather than death, personally. And for keeping faith with the other poetry of clear and direct witness (Beyond the Circus of Representation) when that's what's needed - no, essential.

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore said...

I just wish your essays could run in the mainstream media... These are masterful collages of irrefutable proofs, except to the hard hearted... who seem to be behind so much these days.

TC said...

Thank you, brothers.

You pray every day that the massacre will cease, and then you check out the news. Oh boy.

Rania Khalek from Gaza, 15 July 2014:

Addressing reporters at a press conference on Sunday [13 July], Youssef Abul Resh, undersecretary of the health ministry in Gaza, said, “Medical teams have registered injuries consistent with those caused by DIME [dense inert metal explosives] and other banned weapons.”

DIME munitions were developed by the US Air Force in 2006 and have since been tested repeatedly on the people of Gaza, who have long served as involuntary lab rats for Israel’s weapons industry.

DIME bombs contain tungsten, a cancer-causing metal that helps to produce incredibly destructive blasts which slice through flesh and bone, often severing the lower limbs of people within the blast radius.

Renowned Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who witnessed the horrific injuries caused by DIME bombs during Israel’s 2009 Gaza onslaught, said over the phone from al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City that patients are showing up with DIME-related injuries.

“A good number of the injuries seen here are consistent with the use of dense inert metal explosives, or DIME, that we saw during the 2009 attack and also in 2006,” said Gilbert. “The bodies are pretty much destroyed by enormous energy released by the explosives that are shot near them or at them.”

Gilbert first witnessed the effects of DIME munitions on the human body during Operation Summer Rains, Israel’s 2006 months-long attack on the Gaza Strip that killed more than four hundred Palestinians. “Large chunks of flesh, of muscles were cut away. We didn’t find any shrapnel and [the wounds] were delivering a strange fume. Gradually we came to understand these must have been the new DIME weapons developed by the US Air Force together with the Israelis,” he said.

The experimental weapon was used on a larger scale during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, including 352 children.

“We had a large number of patients who came in with these horrendous injuries where arms and legs were cut off as though a huge axe had chopped off their limbs with a direct immense force, cutting through skin, muscles and bones. Bones would be shattered and completely cut off,” Gilbert recounted. “In addition we saw very, very destructive burns coming from some extreme temperature that turned skin, muscle and even bones into charcoal.”

Gilbert said that governments around the world should send forensic experts to Gaza to “analyze the tissue samples from the wounds of the injured and analyze more thoroughly those who are killed,” as well as scientists to follow up with those who have survived DIME blasts. Those survivors have an extremely high risk of developing cancer, Gilbert fears.

TC said...


The rising death toll in Gaza has largely reduced the estimated 1,200 people wounded to an afterthought. But many of their injuries are disabling and will scar them for life.

Among the most debilitating injuries Gilbert has seen are amputations. He also described fractures and severe head injuries, especially among children rescued from beneath the rubble of their collapsed homes.

“When they bomb these buildings the roofs collapse and the buildings collapse on the children and they get fractures and head injuries, which are extremely serious,” Gilbert explained. “We have a five-year-old who is now in critical condition with a serious head injury from an Israeli rocket hitting the neighbor’s house and it took down the whole ceiling in his bedroom. Many of these children will be marked for life by their injuries.”

“As a doctor, my prescription is very clear. Number one, stop the bombing, and that means stop Israel from bombing civilians and indiscriminately hitting families. Number two, lift the siege. And number three, find a political solution,” said Gilbert.

“And at the core of the political solution is equity and justice for the Palestinian people to be treated in an equal way as all other human beings protected by international law with UN security, dignity and the right to live their lives in peace.”

-- Rania Khalek from Gaza, 15 July 2014

TC said...

Yeesh. Target practice on children. Guilty of being moving objects. Modern technology. Right. This from a few hours ago, in our world:

Shooting little fish on the beach, Gaza port, 16 July

Nin Andrews said...

Moving post! Thanks Tom.

Mose23 said...

Nadine Gordimer was on to something. The idea that art might separate itself from the world is dishonest.

And yet, when I try and note down my response to what's happening, the pen's fat and sluggish in my hand.

Came home and heard about the murder on the beach and found myself laughing incredulously. They had some Israeli government type on. Apparently, it's Hamas that's responsible. The interviewer seemed happy to let this stand.

There's plenty of people making money from these deaths round these parts.

TC said...

Thanks very much, Nin and Duncan.

It's hard to write about these things. It's hard to witness these things. It's hard to remain silent about these things we're witnessing.

Talking of art -- this short story from early in the struggle against the occupation grows stronger with the terrible reverberations and echoes over the years:

Ghassam Kanafani (1936-1972): Letter from Gaza (1955), read by John Berger, 2008

Elmo St. Rose said...

If Hamas places their rockets in
the midst of family life and
families and children are purposely placed in harms way,then there will be horrific
photo ops of tragedy. Exactly the
strategy of Hamas:killing their
children because they hate Israelis more than they love their
children. Any of you have a realistic plan for peace???

Be the BQE said...

Tom, Thank you for the connections you make between art and reality: Emily Dickinson, Nadine Gordimer, the hyper-reality we are all witnessing in Gaza. For me, your posts have been the most direct line to the horrific reality that is "playing" out there. Perhaps the only direct line is a slant one?

TC said...


Many thanks. These posts were not the result of any plan. But it's hard to see the value in turning away from a matter which is of importance not only to those involved in the region, but to every person of conscience. There are deep divisions in the world at large. The mainstream media as puppets of governments which are themselves the puppets of massive lobbies, exacerbate the problem with the pathetic charade of "covering" asymmetric warfare as though it were the invention of its victims. The life and actions of Nadine Gordimer, a dedicated opponent of Apartheid, might be contemplated as a template for just action and thought in the midst of a difficult, conflicted situation.


You're a doctor. Your heroes bomb hospitals and drinking water facilities, kill children wantonly with the latest in high end weaponry and then blame it on the people whose blood is still wet on the killers' hands. You don't seem to see human beings, it seems you see the ethnically unclean subject populations of imprisoned victims, whose lands and histories and memories this occupying force have taken away, exactly as their captors see them -- obstacles in the way of an expansionist vision which never included them in the first place. They were meant to be "quiet", and when they are not "quiet", unimaginable havoc must be wreaked upon them . "For it is written..." Your comment about the photo op is beyond cynical. The most realistic plan for peace would begin with the Zionists treating the Palestinians as equals, i.e. human beings with the rights and entitlements of other human beings.

Elmo St. Rose said...

Dear Tom,
That's not a realistic plan for
Tony Blair on his own volition
had a lot of good ideas.
You might apply the lesson of
the Russian revolution with Lenin's ethos of "the ends justify
the means" to the situation in
Gaza where in fact "the means become the end"
Violence begets violence as the
leaders of Hamas sit safely in
bunkers.If their model is violent
Jihad there will only be war.

TC said...

Dear Elmo,

Either those mainstream "news sources" from which it seems you derive the pretexts for your political analyses are letting you down, or your chronic deficit in the nous department has caused you to miss the nuance in human relations that indicates it might be wiser to let people pick their own leaders and mediators, rather than having them picked by Avigdor Lieberman and the rest of the far out wing-nut loonies who are besmirching the good name of Jews everywhere by acting like arrogant killers on a free pass.

Your dogged (proud?) refusal to spend one second looking at any of the articles and links I've put up perhaps helps to preserve your Iron Shield of Ignorance. (To ignore= to be ignorant.)

Your Tony Blair scheme has been around the block and adjudged insulting by many people around the world.

For example, the Sri Lanka Guardian, reporting on the proposed "Blair intervention" (16 July):

"But this cease-fire agreement was actually written by the war-criminal and Zionist Tony Blair. No Palestinian had even seen it or was involved in its creation. They learned of the 'agreement' through the media. It included nothing but a stop of fighting and some vague promise of further talks. For what then did so many people die?"

But nominating Blair looks like the perfect fat cat armchair plan to you, so why even think about it, much less think about what people who actually know something think about it.

Of course Blair's role in egging-on the Iraq tragedy ought to qualify him wonderfully. But I suppose you're aware of that, given the quality time you've put in at the Casa Blanca.

Two of the more relevant pieces on the present conflict and its historical background were articles by respected historians whose field of expertise this is, and who will never be accused of being Palestinians.

The most thorough and informative was the piece by Ilan Pappe of the University of Exeter.

Also of interest to the fair minded, I gather, was the historical overview by Ilan Pappe's teacher, Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford.

I'd repost those for you, but you've shown me my time would be wasted.

A few barbaric military incursions back (this was during the offensive charmingly dubbed Operation Cast Lead -- those Zionist PR guys really know how to put a pretty face on things), when your friend Tony had his nose under the tent as always, the notion of his usefulness as a mediator was thoughtfully examined in an article by Avi Shlaim. (Shlaim by the way donated his fee for the article to Medical Aid for Palestine.)

But I'm sure you won't want to read the piece, Elmo, once you manage to get through the headline:

Blair: Gaza's Great Betrayer (Avi Shlaim, 2 February 2010)

Elmo St. Rose said...

Dear Tom,
PTSD of trauma code over 30 years
ago. Little Alan about 11,cut
quite a figure on the motorcycle
about town. Then his head was
quite soft on one side and we
were breathing for him then he
died. No helmet of course. Grieved
for awhile though I had not really
known him and I ended up talking to an accountant who was a friend
about it. And he said: What would
you have expected? An 11 yr old on
a motorcycle without a helmet.

My point is what do expect? Do expect the Israelis not to defend
themselves as in the Holocaust?
That must be it because I see no
comments about solutions only
ranting. What was it Jesus said
about taking the plank out of your
own eye before taking the splinter
out of your neighbor's eye.
No sensible person or nation wants
blood on their hands but what do
think the outcome of deligitimizing Israel will be?
Peace or all out war?

TC said...

We get your point. Self-defense by massive overkill. But those "moderates" in Israeli who understand what's happening see that this is not a defensive but a long-term offensive strategy.

For their perceptiveness they are awarded with death threats by the right-wing thugs, your proxies on the ground there, far from Arkansas...

aditya said...

The comments are ingenuous but certainly not profound-- " Any of you have a realistic plan for peace???"

"Peace or all out war?"

One is spoilt for choices, trapped in the immense gallery of horror and blood-- Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Palestine . . . and this does make one feel helpless. But yr notions of a hush-hush peace, the supreme ideal of the Western models of democracy, make me feel nauseous, to be honest. For example, the ceasefire brokered by Blair, even though apparently "bloodless", is equally, if not more violent than the Israeli offensive, and other massacres, be they Jihadi in origin, or not.

In another comment you say,
"Be Dubai, be the Beirut of old,
anything but endless blood."

I don't quite understand why you'd not only condone Israel's irrefutable monstrosities, but even supplement the gallery with other violent stand-ins.

"Gaza is one among many in the planet of slums. The distinction between Gaza and the favela is that the favela’s disorder is confronted by policing violence which manages the areas slowly overrun by gentrification. Gaza is not similarly managed; its goal is not to order the disorderly but to erase it."

TC said...


It is generous of you to regard that comment as ingenuous.

Personally I took it as contemptuous, patronising, cynical, insulting, and dumb.

And particularly the lumping together of unlikes in "any of you".

But we're not being graced with quite as much of that, at least from that particular source, at least this week.

(Touch wood.)

TC said...

Excellent article on Gaza in your link, Aditya.

To know that there are people in the world who are coming to this issue, which surely concerns everyone, via thought rather than emotion, observation rather than predisposition, is encouraging.

(He said, trying to sound as hopeful as it is possible to feel in the midst of unencouraging circumstances.)