For One Democratic State
in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


FOR One Man, One Vote



Our Lady of Sorrow

By Israel Shamir


Quietude of the West should frighten us well beyond the Middle Eastern context, as it possibly means our civilisation is dead.

In the Upper church of Annunciation in Nazareth, there is a striking collection of images, homage of artists to Mary. A dainty Virgin in colourful kimono holds her child dressed in  ceremonial Japanese royal robes among blue and golden flowers; a naïve Gothic face of Madonna transferred from French Cluniac illuminations; the Chinese Queen of Heaven cut in precious wood by Formosa devotees; the Cuban richly inlaid statue of Madonna of Guadeloupe, the Polish Black Madonna, the tender face of Byzantine Mother of God, a modernist steely Madonna from the United States look from the walls of the church, uniting us in one human family. There is hardly an image in the world as universal and poignant as that of the Virgin and the Child.

Wherever you go, from Santiago de Compostella in the far west of Spain to the golden domes of Russia, from frozen Uppsala in Sweden to Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, you will find this adorable face. Best artists depicted her compassionate features, her love to her child and her sorrow. Botticelli painted her with a pomegranate and among the Kings of the East; Michelangelo and Rafael, Cimabue and Titian, van der Weyden and Fra Filippo Lippi were inspired by her image. This unique mix of a young girl and mother, of vulnerability and protection, of admiration and love formed the spiritual and inspirational base of our civilisation.

She appeared to a Mexican peasant, and her flower-covered image arrested the strife and united Native Americans and Spaniards in one nation. She gave her rosary to Saint Dominic and a letter to Portuguese kids in Fatima. Prophet Muhammad saved and cherished her icon  found in the Mecca shrine, writes Maxim Rodinson. She appeared to a wealthy Jewish banker Alphonse Ratisbonne, and he took orders and built convent of Sisters of Zion in En Karim. A Palestinian Muslim in a refugee camp of Lebanon preserved her image taken from his native Galilee, tells Elias Khoury in his novel Bab Al-Shams (recently translated into Hebrew by Moshe Hakham and edited by Anton Shammas). Syrian astronauts asked for her protection in the shrine of Seidnaya before the flight on the Soviet space shuttle[i].

In medieval legends, the Jews were often perceived as enemies of the Virgin. A column stump on Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa marks the place of a legendary Jewish attack on her. These were old tales, and now new facts. This week in Bethlehem, a Jew shelled the Virgin. A Jewish soldier in the formidable tank Merkava-3 constructed according to the US technology at the US taxpayer’s expense fired a shell at fifty yards at the statue of Madonna on top of The Holy Family church in the Nativity town.

The Virgin lost an arm, and her pretty face was disfigured. She became one of a hundred Palestinian women shot by the Jews in the present outburst of war. This seemingly unnecessary act of vandalism could not be an accidental shot. No terrorist hided behind her gentle figure on the pinnacle of the hospital church. At fifty yards, you make no mistake. It could be orders; it could be a spontaneous expression of feelings by a Jewish fanatic. Our world rewinds full speed back into Dark Ages, and as Israel rekindled traditional Jewish hostile rejection of Christianity, it can not be excluded.

Whatever it was meant to be, the shrapnel shot became the last check of the mind control system: will this sacrilege become widely known? And will it stir the hearts of Christendom? The doubly negative result of the check probably confirmed the greatest hopes of its initiators. The world mass media, from New York to Moscow via Paris and London, has been secured in the grip of Jewish supremacists; not a squeak gets out unless authorised. The current Israeli invasion of Ramallah and Bethlehem was covered under the heading ‘Sharon looks for peace’.. The UN resolution equalized the aggressors and their victims in sotto voce. The Western mainstream media drew the blanket of silence over the cries from the Holy Land.

Alexander Cockburn[ii] writes this week: “It’s supposedly the third rail in journalism even to have a discussion of how much Jews control the media. Jude Wanniski remarked last week in his daily "Memo on the Margin" in his Web newsletter Supply Side Investor that it was certainly true to say that the Jews control discussion of Israel in the media here”. Indeed, the story was reported by Reuters and this dreadful picture was taken by an AP photographer. It was available to the world media. Still, no important newspaper or magazine printed it. Instead, they published stories of Christian anti-Semitism.

The conscience of the West suffers of the mirror vision complaint regarding the Middle East. Terrorist actions were perpetrated by the Jews against Palestinians, but the very name of Palestinians became the epitome of terrorism. Palestinians face holocaust; Jewish soldiers print numbers on their foreheads and forearms, separate men and send them into concentration camps, but Jewish holocaust memorials spread like mushrooms. Israel and the US disregard the international law, but their adversaries branded ‘rogue nations’[iii]. While Palestinian towns are invaded by Israeli tanks, the Wall Street Journal published an article Israel under Siege by the illegal ‘Mayor’ of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert. Churches are shelled, Gospel books burnt, Christians persecuted by the Jews in Palestine, but it is Christian anti-Semitism that worries news editors and churchmen.

The accusation of anti-Semitism became the blood libel of our days. Or was it always? In the Merchant of Venice, Shylock complained of Gentile hatred, though it is he who hated, while others disproved of his loan-sharking practices. Instead of cutting the loan rate, he preferred to cut Antonio’s flesh, and hide behind his claims of discrimination. If Shakespeare’s Portia would have our modern attitude, she would rather let Shylock have his  pound of flesh than stop him and be accused of anti-Semitism.

Probably in such a spirit, the guardians of the public conscience decided to spike or play down the sacrilege in Bethlehem. This quietude of the West should frighten us well beyond the Middle Eastern context, as it possibly means our civilisation is dead.

Civilisation can’t survive if its sacral heart ceased to beat. When faith loses its relevance, civilisation dies, wrote the philosopher of history Arnold Toynbee in his explanation of the ancient Egypt’s collapse. There is no life without sacral, seconded the philosopher of religion, Mircea Eliade. Whether we accept philosophy of history, or mystic  reading, or pragmatic sociological studies; whether we follow Durkheim or Heidegger, the conclusion is the same: indifference to the fate of the Virgin of Bethlehem bodes ill to the Christian Western civilisation. It implies that the Europeans and Americans lost the sacral core, and our profaned civilisation is doomed to extinction, unless we’ll turn away from the edge of the abyss.


[i] W. Dalrymple, From the Holy Mountain
[ii]  Billy Graham: War Criminal
[iii] See Francis Boyle in CounterPunch 14.3.02