Sins of Our Fathers

By William A. Cook

‘We dance round in a ring and suppose/ But the secret sits in the middle and knows.’ – Robert Frost

Victors’ celebrations harbor shadows that lurk in the soul as revelers dance in remembrance, burying in laughter the suffering screams of those displaced and destroyed, furiously hiding   forgotten faces framed in fear from mocking the glorious dance should they be awakened once more by the reverie. May 14 and 15 are paradoxically days of celebration and catastrophe; victors “dance round in a ring and suppose,” caught in a never ending quest to know if indeed this celebration is for victory or for defeat, while those vanquished understand “the secret that sits in the middle and knows.” Are the secrets Truth that we are afraid to delve into, too ashamed to acknowledge, or fear of a pending Nakba for the victor signaled by a merciful and just God?

As this May day approaches, a Biblical age of three score and four for the state of Israel, only six years short of Biblical death, an appropriate time for reflection about judgment and retribution, about peace and justice lest the sins of the fathers remain the curse of the children. What is the secret that sits in the middle and knows? What is it keeping secret? Who is it, since it is personified and knows? Who are the dancers this May 14? Are they the children of the next generations whose fathers sinned? What do they suppose? What do they suppose the victory remembrance celebrates? Does it celebrate the men, the fathers and husbands and sons that massacred the fathers and husbands and sons at Deir Yassin? Do they meditate on those relatives of the dead who live now in refugee camps in foreign countries who have not been home for 64 years, nor seen the town now transformed into a psychiatric institution, nor visited the graves across the street, tombstones upended and defaced? What minds contemplated the barbarity of Deir Yassin a month and five days before the state of Israel declared its freedom as a democratic country desiring recognition by the nations of the world? What minds could lie to the President of the United States,  even as they laid waste the town and its people, appealing to him to immediately recognize Israel because they would bring peace to Palestine by obeying the Charter and Declaration of Human Rights held sacred by the United Nations?

What personified being knows? Is it the omniscient and just God who heard the voices of the dying mothers and children and the lamentations of the men trucked through the streets of Jerusalem, living proof of Israeli might, mocked and ridiculed as inferior beings before they were returned to their town for execution? What is it about secrets that stir such fear in the hearts of the revelers? Certainly they know the faces of the dead do not die to the mind of the reaper; they live just below the twisted thoughts that gave rise to the slaughter, for why kill if remembrance of that fulfilled savagery is not possible? And isn’t that after all what the Almighty meant when he proclaimed the “sins of the father are visited upon the children”?   

But what if we turn to the ring; what does it represent? Perhaps it’s the Wall that Israel built to hide the enemy they have been unable to cleanse in the manner of Deir Yassin and the other known and unknown massacres recorded by Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe. Perhaps the Wall does not hide the indigenous people as it was supposed to do; that may be what they suppose as they dance round in a ring. Perhaps it rather makes obvious that lives exist beyond that wall, that freedom to move is curtailed for them, that hours can pass attempting to get permission slips to visit Jerusalem, and hours more can pass to travel the seven miles to their former home. Perhaps this is more than just an “inconvenience” as explained by Michael Oren on 60 Minutes, perhaps it’s an intentional and calculated inhuman interference in personal lives that casts as dirty an image on the occupiers as the affront casts on those dispossessed of rights. 

How unfortunate that those who dance must have their backs to something or someone they cannot see; how disturbing that must feel since it is the unknown that raises fear and turns it inward corroding the comfort that comes with openness and friendship. What peace of mind exists when one knows that life has been made miserable for people beyond the Wall; what peace blossoms when fear circles behind the back because the government determines the on-going need for greater and greater military power making a police state of a nation inside and outside the Walls built to contain both the body and the soul. What hope evaporates for a future without the shadows that the Wall casts on both those hemmed in and those cut out and life becomes a constant search for unknowns that threaten life and limb even as the very protection the Wall supposes to create destroys friendships with others and isolates each citizen in the sick minds of those who rule the country.

The sins of the fathers began 64 years ago when they swore allegiance to a group of men who had taken control of Palestine from the British Government laying waste both the Arab people and the Mandate government of Britain regardless of agreements made and pledges of cooperation signed between the Mandate authorities and the Jewish Agency. It began with an oath that necessitated selling the soul.

“From the moment an individual takes the oath,* they are committed to a life of secrecy and hence of disloyalty and betrayal to those they are most intimate with in their day to day life. Neither their actions nor their true identity is discernible to those with whom they interact regularly. This is a life that encapsulates the necessity of lies, deceit, coercion, extortion, and obedience to a group that dictates the actions one must pursue; freedom no longer exists, self-direction no longer exists, loyalty to others no longer exists, indeed, friendship with others is compromised or impossible, one becomes the subject of that group, a veritable slave to their desires and wills. The mindset that promotes such control allows for spying, for deception of friends, for ostracism in one’s own community for thinking differently, for imprisonment without due process, for torture, even for extrajudicial executions. It is a total commitment to a cause that supersedes all others determined and dictated by an oligarchy in silence and subject to no legitimate institution and to no one.

“The darkness of the Zionists’ deceit was and is camouflaged by the appearance of civil structures existing within the framework of a legal authority, the Mandatory Government’s accepted agency for the Jewish community in Palestine and, today the presence of lobbies, think tanks, controlled media of communication, and legalization of policies that allow for dual citizenship among others. Fear still operates, fear of the non-friendly, enemy states that surround the friendly, democratic state of Israel promoted as existentially threatening to America’s security, fear for representatives in Congress who dare not confront the desires of AIPAC and its affiliates lest they find themselves bereft of political support and consequently bereft of their position, and fear induced by corporate media that fears offending the power base represented by the lobby.

“Until Israel’s fall 2006 blitzkrieg of Lebanon, when the world had an opportunity to witness the ruthlessness of Israeli Zionist violence unimpeded by concern for helpless civilians fleeing for their lives or orphans unable to take shelter from missiles or children returning home after fearful flight from invading forces only to find toy-like cluster bombs left intentionally to maim or slaughter, the world’s communities felt a sympathy for the offspring of those victimized by the Nazis. Prior to that destruction wrought by a military of enormous power, the people of the world knew little of what went on in Palestine and knew only that the Jews of Palestine in 1948 and 1967 had to fight against overwhelming odds against Arabs of many nations intent on pushing them into the sea, victims of human violence once again. Then came December 27, 2008, Israel’s Christmas bombing of Gaza, Holiday giving with a vengeance. Once again, the might of Israel’s state of the art military – its air force, navy, army – invaded the defenseless, imprisoned, physically destitute residents of Gaza. Once again, the world witnessed the ruthlessness of Israel’s Zionist intent to subjugate, humiliate, and obliterate the indigenous people of Palestine.

Now the world knows the truth: the Zionist Consultancy that ruled the Jewish people in Palestine in 1930s and 1940s, like their counterparts in the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert in December of 2008 and January of 2009, intended to expel the people of Palestine from their land and had the military means to do it against an anemic enemy incapable of defending the people.

“There is an unraveling of the lies of omission that have quilted the truth these many years. As each square rots in the sun now shed on it, the plight of the people of Palestine becomes more and more apparent. Benny Morris revealed in June of 2009 that “there were far more acts of massacre than I had previously thought (with the new documents made available) … and many cases of rape … and (between April-May 1948) units of Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages themselves.” He continued in response to the interviewer’s questions: “Because neither the victims nor the rapists liked to report these events, we have to assume that the dozen cases of rape that were reported … are not the whole story. They are just the tip of the iceberg.”; “The worst cases (of massacre) were Saliha (70-80 killed, Deir Yassin (100-110), Lod (250), Dawayima (hundreds) and perhaps Abu Shusha (70); Ben Gurion “covered up for the officers who did the massacres.”; “Yes … the commander of the Northern Front, Moshe Carmel, issued an order in writing to his units to expedite the removal of the Arab population.”; “From April 1948, Ben-Gurion is projecting a message of transfer. .. The entire leadership understands that this is the idea.”; and quoting Morris himself, “Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.”

“In The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappe states: “The Zionist project could only be realized through the creation in Palestine of a purely Jewish state, both as a safe haven for Jews from persecution and a cradle for a new Jewish nationalism. And such a state had to be exclusively Jewish not only in its socio-political structure but also in its ethnic composition.” Pappe’s accounting of the ethnic cleansing is not pleasant reading. It is a detailed presentation of calculated ruthlessness. Considered alongside Walid Khalidi’s All That Remains, it provides the reader with a visual context that forces consideration of the mothers and fathers and children who once lived and worked and played and prayed in the 418 villages destroyed. It is that human element that can give meaning to “Never Again.”” (Introduction The Plight of the Palestinians, section “Selling the Soul). Such is the sorrowful tale of the sins of the father.

*The Hagana Oath (Secret files of Sir Richard C. Catling, Deouty Head CID, Mandate Police)
For those entering the military forces of the Jewish Agency, the Hagana, the badge is replaced with the Hagana Oath (XVI A 157).

I hereby declare that of my own free will and in free recognition I enter the Jewish defence organization of the Land of Israel, (Irgun Haganana Haivri Be’Eretz Israel).

I hearby swear to remain loyal all the days of my life to the defense organization, its laws and its tasks as defined in its basic regulations by the High Command.

I hearby swear to remain at the disposal of the defense organization all my life, to accept its discipline unconditionally and without limit, and at its call to enlist for active service at any time and in any place, to obey all its orders and to fulfill all its instructions.

I hearby swear to devote all my strength, and even to sacrifice my life, to defense and battle for my people and my Homeland, for the freedom of Israel and for the redemption of Zion.

– William A. Cook is a Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His works include Psalms for the 21st Century, Mellon Poetry Press, Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, The Rape of Palestine, The Chronicles of Nefaria, and most recently in 2010, The Plight of the Palestinians. He contributed this article to Contact him at: or visit:

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