Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lord, have mercy - Israeli border policeman kills self at Sarkozy farewell

In this morning's top stories from the AP:

JERUSALEM - Israeli security guards have whisked French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert away during an airport departure ceremony. An Israeli police spokesman says a border policeman committed suicide at the Sarkozy farewell ceremony.

The emphasis is mine. The story continues to give news of the rest of the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The headline was "Guards whisk away Israeli, French leaders."

So an Israeli soldier --specifically a policeman who works at the border, perhaps at one of the many checkpoints that disrupt the daily lives of Palestinians-- was so upset, so desperate, so conscience-ridden perhaps, that he killed himself in public in front of a head of state, and there is nothing about him in the headline?

I'm glad President Sarkozy is safe, really I am, but this soldier's life is not one to ignore, nor is his gesture, which reminds me of other public suicides (note: this was not a suicide bomb) in the Vietnam and other eras.

We'll have to go to the Israeli newspapers for detail. (Note: there is plenty of diversity of opinion in the Israeli press. You'd never know this from what we hear in these parts.) Just a short report from Ha'aretz so far. The headline was "Border policeman dies from self-inflicted shot at Sarkozy farewell."

I hope someone from the media investigates the story behind the gesture.

And I grieve for the border policeman's family and loved ones, and pray for those who cross and guard borders daily.

Every day I think I won't blog and then something like this happens.

Updates later in the day:

-An anonymous poster raises questions about my speculations; fair enough. I still hope for the story behind the story, and the life behind the headline, and I still say "Lord, have mercy." But posting in haste is not a good idea, and I ought to know better. Anonymous, however, might do us the courtesy of identifying himself or herself.
Padre (and proud abuelito) Mickey, also in the comments, says the latest is that the weapon firing may have been an accident.
-A bit later,
The Guardian says an investigation is afoot to find out whether we are dealing with suicide or accidental firing. Either way, a tragedy in a torn land, and a dead man, one more, among the many.


Anonymous said...

Why do you assume this guy's act of desperation is in any way linked to his job? As I see it, there are a million reasons why somebody might take their life, most of which are not professionally related. Maybe his wife left him. Maybe his son recently died. Maybe he was a compulsive gambler in debt to his eyeballs. Maybe he lost him home to bad investment...

So far, there is absolutely no reason to speculate, and I'm glad for once the media hasn't done so (contrary to their usual habits).

Jane R said...

You are correct, Anonymous, I speculated, and I thought of that as I was writing the post, which is why I wrote "perhaps" to "conscience-ridden" and did not attach a specific reason to the man's desperation. It did strike me, and I stand by my speculation here, that such a public act, in front of heads of state, speaks to intent related to their visit. I know a fair amount about mental health issues, and people who kill themselves for the reasons you enunciate are not likely to do so in this kind of highly charged public, political setting. Which is exactly why I hope media (who are not all bad, though heaven knows I criticize them plenty -- and I have four current or retired members of "the media" in my immediate family, plus my own experience as a somtime religion reporter) investigate what lies behind the death of this policeman.

My point was not just about the tension under which both Israelis and Palestinians live daily, but also that the media places greater value on the lives of heads of state than on the lives of ordinary citizens. Hence my comment on the AP headline. After all, the policeman is dead, and the heads of state still alive.

And so to commemorate his life and manner of death I say Lord, have mercy.

Please identify yourself next time you leave a comment. Thanks.

Jane R said...

Oops, that's "sometime." Sorry for the hasty proofreading.

Padre Mickey said...

I read that the person had tripped and that the gun "misfired", so it wasn't a suicide after all.

Jane R said...

Ah, overly hasty speculation on my part perhaps -- we'll see what time brings -- but still a time for grief and prayer, for him, for his family, for all.

FranIAm said...

It is if nothing else, as you say - a tragedy in an already tragic place.

johnieb said...

I am just reading Dan Berrigan's account of how he counseled a young person, presumably c. 1969-1970, all night about her/ his consideration of self-immolation during the American War in Indochina.

Nearly forty years later, the questions remain, but are very different.

May our loving Godde reveal Her mercy to this person, and all those who were affected by his life.