The Golden Rings of Betrayal

By William A. Cook

[NOTE: On the 21st of June Haaretz published an article, ‘Lebanon allows Gaza-bound ship to sail to Cyprus.’ Two ships may be involved, one with a contingent of Americans, approximately 10, another with a group of women including Nuns, the Miriam. This new effort at breaking the Israeli siege of Gaza follows the attack on the boats that sailed from Turkey where 9 people were killed by Israeli naval forces. The exact date for the sailing has not been announced but expectations were high for this Saturday. The Council for National Interest in Washington, D.C. has been a major organizer for this venture. Dr. Cook joined the CNI contingent and is now in Lebanon. The timing of this event coincides with the publication of his The Plight of the Palestinians and the publication in Arabic of his The Chronicles of Nefaria printed in Amman, Jordan.]

Not five days ago I sat entranced as the LA Opera transformed the Chandler Center into a rapturous world of metaphor with its rendering of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, the first of the four operas of the Ring Cycle. On Sunday the 20th my wife and I fell further under the bewitching wonder of the metaphors that give substance to this world of unreality that probes the reality of ours. Today, the 22nd, I fled the imaginative brilliance of Wagner’s genius to immerse myself in the unimaginative brutality of this barbaric 21st century as the artist’s themes find fulfillment in this most advanced civilized world where our western world began, the geographic womb of Abraham’s unmerciful and malicious g-d who sought the destruction of his own creatures at the hands of His chosen few. 
The brilliance of Wagner’s Das Rheingold rests in the absoluteness of its central theme: attainment of ultimate power and wealth requires abandonment of human love. Paradoxically, the truth of this theme abides in the nature of humans alone, humans who exist by virtue of fraternal and sisterly love, a love that rents asunder the laws of the state.
Sigmund and Sigelinda, offspring of Wotan, the all powerful god, and a mortal woman, give birth to the human race through their incestuous love. This union is the seed of human bondage, the lifeblood that binds all into a human family sustained by heartfelt compassion and love. It is this essential force that binds all that must be abandoned to attain power, to live without human sympathy, the natural element that makes all of us one family. Yet so powerful is the impulse to greed, so natural in the human beast, legends have evolved to describe it: the myth of the Flying Dutchman, the Wandering Jew, the Heart of Darkness to mention a few.
Wagner’s earth glows through the gold that lights the depths of the Rhine giving beauty to the natural world. Rhine maidens find fulfillment and joy being in its presence. But the ugly dwarf, Albrecht, arrogant in his disdain for true love, caught in his self-hatred of his isolation, seeks to steal the gold to gain power over humans and forego love forever. Thus begins the betrayal of creation … theft of that which belongs to all to enrich self by whatever means necessary.

So as I left Los Angeles and its magnificent portrayal of Wagner’s images, I flew into them in Beirut and Shatila with Gaza as the culminating picture. Here indeed the metaphors of self-hate, aggrandizement and betrayal thrive. This spit of land sandwiched between Lebanon and Egypt, nothing more than rolling hills and valleys where the sun blisters the earth in summer and freezes the skin in winter’s winds, the graveyard of ancient kingdoms each covered in its time beneath the sands of time, has erupted once again into a land of destructive power by sheer force of superstitious beliefs and a manufactured ideology called Zionism.

Subjugation, humiliation, isolation, starvation and decimation have become the lifeblood of the Israeli state to demean and destroy those who have nothing, the ultimate power that exists by abandonment of human love. The siege of Gaza mirrors in large the siege of Rafah and Jenin years ago, test cases for absolute control without remorse or consequences, abandonment of human love. But what is that to me or anyone in Los Angeles enraptured by Wagner’s Rheingold?

Certainly a person must live the life of his or her awareness. To celebrate the achievement of the Los Angeles Ring Cycle amid the splendor of the Chandler Valhalla and know the hell that is the life of the Palestinians necessitates action if only a gesture of recognition against the enormous power that subdues them, some flicker of human concern for the 60 years of suffering, isolation, and indifference. What arguments can the Zionists make that can override the horrors of their slow and methodical destruction of the Palestinian people?

Such were my thoughts as I flew to Beirut and Gaza. There is something deeper than politics with its machinations and duplicities, something deeper than borders and the justifications for defending arbitrary lines that have been annexed by stealth and power, something deeper than ethnicities that depend on hair color and skin tones to give license to racism and bigotry, something deeper than religions that thrive on pomp and ritual to sustain the impossible beliefs that distinguish them from this known world, something deeper, richer, fulfilling, substantive and glorious in knowing that respect for all, recognition of the value of all, and acceptance of the dignity of all, sharing the wonders of the world’s natural beauty with all, indeed, sharing the wealth of its harvest with all, enriches all and gives meaning to the sacredness of all. Must we fulfill the truth of Wagner’s metaphor after five thousand years of human civilization? Must we betray our birthright for rings of gold?

– William A. Cook is a Professor of English at the University of la Verne in southern California. His most recent book, The Plight of the Palestinians: a Long History of Destruction has just been released by Palgrave Macmillan and is available at Macmillan or Amazon etc. He contributed this article to Contact him at: or visit:

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