Monday, July 30, 2007

July 30

In the midst of a devastating month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah, an Israeli airstrike in Qana, Lebanon leveled an apartment building one year ago today. Twenty-eight people died when the building collapsed; sixteen of the dead were children, the youngest of whom was a mere nine months old. Abbas Kassib, a resident of the farming village, helped dig the building’s victims from the rubble.
We heard the screams of one of the boys who was blown out of the building. He was alive but his legs were badly damaged and someone came out of the rubble with the boy's dead sister and laid her next to him. When we saw what had happened to the house we just all started digging with our hands or hoes, whatever we had, until the big machinery arrived.
Although the Israeli Defense Force initially claimed that the Qana bombings -- 80 separate strikes in all -- were a direct response to rocket attacks launched by Hezbollah fighters into northern Israel, conclusive evidence to support the claim was scarce. By the time a ceasefire took hold two weeks later, more than a thousand Lebanese had been killed, 30% of them children. In southern Lebanon, where all of the direct fighting took place, more than a million people had been displaced, while the infrastructure of much of the rest of the nation lay in ruins. Forty-three Israeli civilians, killed by Hezbollah rockets, joined 119 IDF soldiers cut down in the fighting, which ultimately cost the state of Israel $2-3 billion to wage.

Nearly seventy years earlier, on 30 July 1938, auto manufacturer Henry Ford accepted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle -- the most important Nazi honor that could be bestowed upon a non-German. An admirer of Ford’s, Adolf Hitler passed along the medal with a personal note of gratitude. Stung by criticism of his acceptance of the medal, Ford declared that
[m]y acceptance of a medal from the German people does not, as some people seem to think, involve any sympathy on my part with naziism. Those who have known me for many years realize that anything that breeds hate is repulsive to me.
Ford’s self-acquittals rang false. During the first World War, Ford had financed the distribution of The Protocols of the elders of Zion in the United States. His editorials in The Dearborn Independent, which blamed Jews for an array of global ills -- everything from the Bolshevik revolution to immoral popular films -- were later compiled into a book titled The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem, a collection that Hitler used extensively in his own writings.

When Germany launched World War II a little more than a year after Ford’s acceptance of the Grand Cross, it did so with trucks and tanks and planes manufactured in Ford plants.

After the war, according to one acquaintance, Ford suffered a heart attack after being shown images from a German concentration camp.

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