(It’s been a rough and work-filled weekend from me, as regards providing good bloggy ice cream. I am wrapping up a couple of finished projects for Watercress clients, prepping for three more – from repeat clients no less, so they are entitled to an extra ration of care) and hand-holding a poet, coming down to getting her first book launched. I tell you, I am in two minds about publishing poets after this; a temperamental and high-maintenance variety of author … anyway, this rant dates from 2006, and was one of my more biting ones, written at the time of the last Israeli-Palestine conflict, or possibly the one before that. Yeah, I took sides. This explains how and why that came about.)
So, one of NPR’s news shows had another story, banging on (yet again) about the plight of the poor, pitiful, persecuted Palestinians, now that the money tap looks to be severely constricted; no money, no jobs, no mama no papa no Uncle Sam, yadda, yadda yadda. (It’s sort of like an insistent parent insisting that a stubborn child eat a helping of fried liver and onions, with a lovely side helping of filboid studge. You will feel sorry for these people, the international press, a certain segment of the intellectual and political elite insist— you must! You simply must! It’s good for you!) I briefly felt a pang, but upon brief consideration, I wrote it off to the effect of the green salsa on a breakfast taco from a divey little place along the Austin Highway. (Lovely tacos, by the way, and the green salsa is nuclear fission in a plastic cup. Name of Divey Little Place available upon request, but really, you can’t miss it. It’s painted two shades of orange, with navy blue trim.)
It may have been a pang of regret, barely perceptible, for the nice, sympathetic person I used to be. I used to feel sorry for the Palestinians, in a distant sort of way, the same way I feel about the Tibetans, and the Armenians, and the Kurds, and the Chechens (well, once upon a time, say before the Beslan school atrocity) and the poor starving Biafrans and Somalis, and whoever the international press was holding the current pity party for. Really, I used to be a nice person. I really did feel kindly, and well-disposed to those parties, and I wished them well, since all of them (and more) being victims of historical misfortune.
My appreciation of Palestinian misfortune didn’t diminish the way I felt about the state of Israel, particularly— like I should jettison my preferential feelings for the only state in the middle east with more than a cosmetic resemblance to a fully functioning democracy, the only one with a free press, the one hacked out and fought for by survivors of the 20th century’s most horrific genocide? Oh please. Yes, there are things to criticize Israel but it exists, it has a right to exist, don’t google-bomb me with comments to the contrary, I’ll delete them without a second thought. The right to ride a bus or cross a street or go to a grocery store or a pizza restaurant without running an excellent chance of being perforated by bits of scrap metal and nails coated with rat poison is one of those non-negotiable things.
And no, that really is one of those non-negotiable and bottom-line demands; right up there with being able to go to work on a sunny September morning, without having to make an unenviable choice between jumping from the 102nd floor or burning to death. Or being able to take your kid to school on the first day of the new term without being taken hostage, and having to watch your kid drinking their own pee in 100 degree temperatures. After a certain point has been reached, I really don’t give a rodent’s patoot about the righteousness and worthiness of your cause, or how much you have been persecuted and for how many centuries, blah, blah, blah. And no, I don’t want to argue about American hegemony, sponsored terrorism, or responsibility for x deaths in fill-in-the-blank-here because of our nasty/bad/counterproductive/policies here, there or wherever. Pay attention; the topic is me, my personal feelings and I, and that charming little body of international residents upon the world stage who describe themselves as ‘Palestinian.’
Once upon a time, I did feel sorry for the native Palestinians, as a people who had the bad luck to get trampled under the feet of historical events. It did seem, listening and reading here and there, that they had been hard done by – even if some of it was self-inflicted. This was reflected in another one of those oh-so-drooling-with-compassion NPR stories, which aired sometime early in the intifada. A plummy-voweled reporter was interviewing a shopkeeper in Bethlehem, and in the space of five minutes, the shopkeeper went from applauding the violence, and enthusiastically upholding the aims of the militants, to lamenting the fact that tourism was way, way down, and he hardly made anything at all from his business, which was selling souvenirs to foreign Christian tourists. Neither the shopkeeper nor the interviewer betrayed the slightest inkling that one might just possibly have had something to do with the other. While the shopkeeper might be forgiven for a certain lack of self-awareness, I had always expected a little more from NPR— but then there is a reason for the bitter joke that NPR stands for National Palestinian Radio.
It wasn’t the constant stream of Palestinian spokespersons over the years; some of them murmured honey-sweet words of reason, others oozed oily duplicity, and still others demonstrated the art of going conversationally from 0-to 85 MPH flat-out insane rant; it wasn’t the growing realization that everyone of them had one set of words for American cameras and microphones, and a completely different set for other circumstances. It wasn’t the repellently toad-like, indifferently shaven Arafat, gangster and would-be generalissimo, proprietor of the least-convincing beard in modern history. And it wouldn’t have been the slow realization — which to do them credit, was at least alluded to in some news and features on NPR — that the hopes of Palestinian exiles, returning from exile in America, or Canada, or Europe with training, experience and high hopes about what could be made of a new homeland were gradually crushed and ground to dust by the rapacious corruption of the inner circle of the so-called Palestinian Authority.
It also wasn’t the display of every sort of social dysfunction from honor-killings, and mob-fueled lynching, children dressing in suicide bomb-belts, the desecration of the Church of the Nativity, the spewing of every sort of vile anti-Semitic propaganda beginning with knock-offs of the spurious Protocols of the Elders, not even reports of open rejoicing in the streets at 9/11. Not the corruption of every institution in every-day contact; the International Red Cross, the news media, the UN High Commission for Refugees – what the hell were they doing, in refugee-camps, half a century later? Good thing Korea had not the profit of that experience, or Singapore, or the Armenians, or the Germans. Not even when I began to suspect that any news reports from the Palestinian territories were suspect, that western news agencies had to work with guides, interpreters, stringers, local photogs, were vulnerable to threats, threats to bend the news coverage a certain way. Not then.
It wasn’t that the poor, pitiful, persecuted Palestinians were waved around by the entire Arab world like some sort of token woobie, cat’s paw and favored victim group for 50 years; and it wasn’t when their favored hero-leader also managed to make their name mud among the common citizens in Lebanon, Kuwait, and Jordan. By embracing and publicly favoring Saddam Hussein during Gulf War 1, Arafat managed to alienate Kuwaitis – who after liberation, threw out resident Palestinians bag and baggage. (Palestinians also cheered on Saddam Hussein’s Scud strikes on Israeli targets, never mind that such were at least as likely to kill Palestinians as they did Israelis.) Got a real statesman-like touch there, did Arafat. I won’t even get into imagining the thought-processes that led to him being embraced (metaphorically or literally) by the likes of Jimmy Carter and other political and intellectual elite; it’s probably some sort of Alice-though-the-looking-glass process. Everything loathsome is enabled, apologized for, covered up or excused by some kind of miracle alchemy – just because it’s the favored victim-class that does it, and even then, it’s always someone elses’ fault!
No, the last and final tiny thread of human sympathy was shredded when I read accounts of the murder in an ambush of an Israeli family; a pregnant woman and her four daughters, caught in a bad place in the road, and executed, all of them, the smallest of them toddler aged, children coldly dispatched while still strapped into car seats in the family station wagon. Before the mother was killed, her executioners fired into her eight-months-pregnant belly, just to be sure of the unborn child.
After that, for me it was “build the wall”, pull up the drawbridge and fill the moat with alligators and piranha. There is no living with a people who can defend that kind of vileness as a legitimate act of war, or political policy. Build the Wall, let them turn on each other like scorpions, stinging each other, glorying in death. I read these days that the Palestinians are cheering on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, looking forward ecstatically to the day when and if a mushroom cloud blooms over Tel Aviv.
Never mind that nuclear fall-out will kill at least as many Palestinians in Gaza and on the West Bank. I just know on the Day After, NPR and it’s ilk will be banging on again about how sorry we should all feel for the Palestinians, but I’ll only have a couple of words.
Bed. Made. Lie Down.