The Other Side Of the Wall
Open letter to an Israeli writer who sends me stories to publish
(I wrote this last week after reviewing a manuscript which, while nice, seemed wildly out of synch with reality. As the situation in Gaza continued to get worse I decided it could be an open letter, and have posted it as such.)
I have looked at your stories and find the warm and caring community/family sense therein hopeful and kind. Of course you are concerned about your own children, the children of the settlement. But what about the Palestinian children on the other side of the wall?
How can you not acknowledge what is happening to them, and your role in it? And if you deny that, how are you different from the Germans who carried on with their own lives and did not speak up in the early days of persecution of the Jews? What a deeply sad and overwhelmingly horrific irony. Even speaking up seems mind numbingly ineffective. At the very least, we must become informed, we must speak out against what Israel is doing today.
Today the news, what little of it actually gets into the US public media, tracks horrific scenes of a whole population, more than a million people in Gaza, half of them children, cut off from electricity, clean water, medical care, aid, food, jobs and subject to collective punishment organized by Israel whose power is gigantic, whose arms are paid for by the United States, also a gigantic and corporate perpetrator of violence, against the will of more than half of our people. This blindness of yours is commonplace here.
I grew up, like most Americans, with huge respect of the people of Israel who in the Diaspora found their way to a homeland. I read Leon Urus and was impressed by how brave everyone in Israel had to be.
But I have come to understand the other side of the wall — I see that the people of Palestine live an apartheid nightmare, and I will not celebrate in print a way of life that feeds on that.
If we are not resisting Israeli militarism, these horrific invasions of people Israel has already shoved into mass prison camps in their own homelands, then I don't understand how we can call ourselves moral human beings. And today even resistance doesn't seem enough. We must stop this madness, these senseless cycles of retaliation in violation of human rights, the Geneva Conventions. Help us figure out how to do it.
Write about standing with Women in Black against the occupation. Write about the brave Israelis who oppose the wall. I'll publish that. Write about Rachael Corey. Write about the 8-year-old Palestinian child who saw her family murdered by Israeli missiles -- during a picnic on the beach. Write about why a people turn to suicide, weaponize their bodies, to fight against your way of life, which is imitated in Iraq, as America builds encampments, outposts for Empire, but no Iraqi infrastructure. Write about how the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the worst sort of government imaginable, has become the model for how the US acts in Iraq. Write about how a whole people could think it alright to occupy someone else's homeland. How will that foundation ever support a happy community?
These are our problems, yours and mine, problems of Israel and the US, problems of the world. Join the women of Israel who are standing up against the occupation. It is women who can show the men what thay have become and pull them to a kinder way of living. It is women who must do this, or sacrifice our sons and daughters in perpetuity to violent injustice. A friend who lived in Israel for 8 years in 60s and 70s said today, "Don't these people have children?" As parents, as human beings, we must call for Israel to stop shelling Gaza. Even the father of the captured Israeli soldier calls out for moderation, for sanity. Give voice to that.
I send this because you seem like a good person. Your writing aches to be significant. But how can it be if you ignore genocide in your own back yard, on the other side of the fence. How can we ignore this?
(The writer didn't respond to any of my questions, asked that I destroy her manuscript. I did so. And pray Israel isn't intentionally starting WWIII. The thing is, I never really thought Israel was stupid. I thank this unnamed writer for helping me articulate a common cultural blindness which grows more dangerous by the hour.)
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.
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