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by Keren Batiyov
July 27, 2004

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“Few are guilty, all are responsible.”

-– Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel


I read this morning
of torture tools;
there were pictures too –
remnants of Uday Hussein,
medieval-type incentives
to ensure that the athletes of Iraq
understood fully
that anything less than first
won them iron masks with spikes
and barefoot runs on hot asphalt.

And we will murmur,
at this Iraqi outrage,
conveniently forgetting
the hoods and leashes,
the dogs, the beatings,
and the rapes
employed by our own troops.
After all, it's only torture,
if the enemy does it.

And we’ll not even pause,
because most don’t know,
at what Israel does to Palestinians,
daily, and for over 50 years –
the theft of land, demolition of homes,
detention, destruction, humiliation, starvation,
murder –  expedient ethnic cleansing.

And we’ll close our eyes to Sudan
and the rest of the African continent,
to the Timorese and the Tamils,
to all those whose skins
aren’t quite white;
we’ll avert our eyes from the poor,
the hungry, the unemployed,
the victims of abuse,
and the disenfranchised among us –
they must have, after all,
done something dreadful to deserve
these punishments.
Yes, we’ll shut our eyes,
and our ears,
and our hearts,
claiming ignorance,
and lack of time.

And I fear today,
that They have won;
that the race was held
and due to lack of shoes
and sodium, Truth trailed in second
earning her the Iron-maiden mask
and eternal silence;
that Light was swallowed
by the fogs and pollutions
of our own making;
that Beauty has given us her last bloom,
and that maybe Heschel was wrong –
that not only are we all responsible,
we are also, every one of us,

Keren Batiyov is a poet, a Jew of conscience, a feminist, a human rights activist, a mother of two and grammy of three, a committed Zydeco dancer, and an active member of the South-Central Pennsylvania Arab-Jewish Dialogue Group. She lives in Harrisburg, PA, where she wrestles with God, issues of social justice, Life, and the powers that be. She can be reached at:

Other Poems by Keren Batiyov

* Poetic Justice