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The Golden Rings of Betrayal

Report Coincides With New Effort to Break Gaza Siege.

Scene from Das Rheingold. Courtesy: SF Opera
Scene from Das Rheingold. Courtesy: SF Opera

(BEIRUT) - (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.)

The Golden Rings of Betrayal

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?

Professor William Cook and his wife D'Arcy during a recent visit to Salem,
Oregon, with Tim and Bonnie King of Salem-News.com

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 Professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California where he served for 13 years as Vice President for Academic Affairs before assuming his faculty position in 2001. Prior to coming to California, he served as a Dean of Faculty, Chair of Department of English and faculty member at institutions large and small, public and private in four eastern states. He is an activist and a writer for numerous Internet publications including Counterpunch, Salem-News.com, Pacific Free Press in British Columbia, Dissident Voice and Information Clearing House, serving as senior editor for MWC News out of Canada, and contributing editor at the Palestine Chronicle, the Atlantic Free Press in the Netherlands, and the World Prout Assembly, his polemics against the Bush administration and the atrocities caused by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert in Israel, now our 51st state, have been spread around the Internet world and translated into French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Italian. Cook also serves on the Board of the People’s Media Project, interviews on radio and TV in South Africa, Canada, Iran and the United States and contributed for five years yearly predictions to the Hong Kong Economic News. This volume follows his Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, Hope Destroyed, Justice Denied: The Rape of Palestine and continues his scourge against the hypocrisy, deceit, and destructive policies that have characterized American mid-east policy and its destructive alliance with the Zionist forces that have turned Israel into an apartheid state determined to destroy the Palestinian people. In addition to his polemics, he writes plays (The Unreasoning Mask, co-authored with his wife, D’Arcy, and The Agony of Colin Powell), satires (see “Advancing the Civilized State: Inch by Bloody Inch” in The Rape), and poetry (Psalms for the 21st Century). His most recent fictional work creates a morality tale based upon real life figures that haunt our lives, The Chronicles of Nefaria He can be reached at wcook@laverne.edu or www.drwilliamacook.com..

The Plight of the Palestinians: a Long History of Destruction is a collection of voices from around the world that establishes in both theoretical and graphic terms the slow, methodical genocide taking place in Palestine beginning in the 1940s, as revealed in the Introduction. From Dr. Francis A. Boyle’s detailed legal case against the state of Israel, to Uri Avnery’s “Slow Motion Ethnic Cleansing,” to Richard Falk’s “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust,” to Ilan Pappe’s “Genocide in Gaza,” these voices decry in startling, vivid, and forceful language the calculated atrocities taking place, the inhumane conditions inflicted on the people, and the silence that exists despite the crimes, nothing short of state-sponsored genocide against the Palestinians.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.