Gaza: Time for real men?

Israeli viewers are currently under attack – not only by rockets, but by a legion of serious, gruff, tough, men’s-man manly commentators manning the studios and explaining why the war makes sense to any reasonable… man. A text by Idan Landau. 

Gaza: Time for real men?
Scene from Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, superimposed with members of the Israeli cabinet. (Amir Schiby)


“And once again the screen is awash with men, battalions, battalions of men, swarms of men; commander men and commentator men, calming men and threatening men, men with a rich past in positions of command, men with greying temples, men with a rich past in position of command and greying temples, Ashkenazi men and Mizrahi men, men who know what’s best now, men who have no idea what’s going on now, men who talk much but say little, stern-gazed men, stern-faced men, men with a knife between their teeth and a quiver in their loins, men who lost their teeth, men who know “their” mentality all too well, men who’ve spent sleepless nights in roles that are best keep silent, men who are best kept silent, explicit men and implicit men, men yanked from among the mothballs, from the kitbag, leftovers from primaries, parachuted CEOs, retired generals, retired experts, retired men, chewing men and swallowing men and men regurgitating, men with frameless glasses, men who start each sentence with “I would suggest that all of us…”, men horny as hell, men horny for hell, for blood and for bombs, men for whom this is their finest hour, men who flower now, youthful men, men whose old age is worthy of their youth, men who’s erection never rests, men whose erection, whose erection, whose erection, whose erection, men who ate from the same tin bowl, men who have known each other since —-  and even since ——, men who say wars are not for sissies, men who lack the female touch, men whose heart is untouched by the breath of a sleeping baby, whose manly, sane, reasonable, baboon-like, warmongering reasoning is unclouded, men who are retired war criminals, who meet in the studio with smiles of relief, hello War Criminal A, hello War Criminal B, men who know how to read aerial snapshots and even utter the words ‘aerial snapshots’ without a blink, men who don’t  blink, grey-eyed men, with eyes that have already seen everything, men who are no easily moved by a residential building being blown sky-high, men who know everything has a price, men who tell us what the leaders are planning, men who love saying the word “leaders,” men who know maybe about one hundred words, maybe two hundred, but what does it matter when these are the right words, men like machines, men with broad shoulders and a belly that’s kept out of the frame, men specialising in restoring deterrence and not in restoring human beings, men who set fires and don’t stick around to put them out, putting out is for sissies,  men without occupational concerns, men who for whom this is their occupation, to observe and explain and justify human wrecks, men drawn to the smell of blood, men who never remember that last time, when they also came and said and promised, men who’s manhood is only longer than their memories, men who announce this is the time to unite, meaning that it’s time for men to unite, agains the women and the children and the fags, men who declare a war on non-men, men who talk of “spaces” and “sectors” as if they were demonstrating geometrical theorems, men squirting testosterone all over the screen, men who move forces, men who like sending wishes of swift recovery and god forbids the wounded should ever run out on them, men who like wounded men, true are the lover’s wounds, men with a bass or a baritone voice, preferably bass, a little rough and a little hoarse, men on the skewer, men medium-rare, men who are hunters, not gatherers, men who understand the other side understands but one language because they themselves understand but one language, men made in the same mould, on either side, men who hate each other the more they become like one another, men who have us all by the balls because they don’t have any of their own, men who push buttons, launchers, men who hit targets and tick them off, men who don’t see people behind the targets, who don’t see bereaved families behind the ticks, men who calculate grief like they calculate munitions and market losses, men who are good at calculating, men with connections in high places, highly connected men, finally contented men, men who will soon depart the studio, wipe off the make-up, get out into the darkening evening, into their despicable anonymity, men who will do anything to come back, next time, to that same brilliantly lit, shining, electrifying studio, who will do anything to be again, if only for one moment, real men, they’ll really do anything, wreck anything.”

One of the experiences thankfully muted by distance from Israel-Palestine is the shock’n’awe assault on one’s senses by the Israeli mainstream media, with its hordes of “responsible”, “reliable”, “eminent” commentators. Apart from the fact that they all toe the government line and cannot accept even a shred of criticism, there’s something incredibly “manly” (in the depressingly bland, atavistic gender role sense of the word) about the whole spectacle. Watching TV during wartime in Israel is like something between a stint in a reserve unit and being trapped in a hellish old boy’s club with tuxedos and cringe-worthy innuendos. Ben Gurion University academic Idan Landau captures it perfectly. The text above was posted on his blog yesterday; its translation here is with his permission.

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