Wednesday, July 05, 2006

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.)

Friend,

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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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You misunderstand. The "occupation" is by the thugs who occupy offices of government within Palestine.

In what legitimate government do police officers wear black masks to hide their identity from the people? In what legitimate government are the officers ashamed to be identified for their allegedly lawful deeds? Even they know what they are: thugs.

The children of Palestine are victims of these thugs.
The children of Israel are victims of these thugs.
The world is a victim of these thugs and their shameless propaganda.

8:34 PM  
Blogger SB said...

Consider secret and illeagle wiretaping here at home. Consider the monumental spin of calling Palestinians the Occupiers. Consider the blame-the-victim gambit. Consider US media distortion. Consider this administration lies about everything from WMD's in Iraq to the Prez denying he knew Ken Lay except slightly. Consider that a new born child doesn't come in with a terrorist agenda. It is a condition created as horror after horror piles up in the life of a child, a human being. Resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine -- and brut techniques like the wall, like collective punishment, like cutting water, sanitation and electricity off from a million people because of the acts of a few -- resistance to the Israeli occupation isn't the work of a few thugs, it is a salient fact of life in the Middle East. Any while voilent expression of any point of view is self defeating, occupation is the worst possible governing arrangement.

We have to look at both sides of the Wall. And we have to admit that the US military and this administration are as thick in Thugness as any special interest group on earth.

Consider the fact that the above reader signs his or her post -- anonymous.

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"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?"

This is terrific writing. Susan gives humanitarian shape to a seemingly un-resolvable issue. I am going to forward this to my list.

Thanks.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Consider the fact that the above reader signs his or her post -- anonymous."

Now that is funny. So you agree, SB, that hiding behind a Black September mask, that keeping your identity out of the spotlight is a signpost of something being not quite "kosher" with your position? Well, Israeli soldiers do not hide behind masks. Israeli soldiers do not hide behind defensless women and children. The masked thugs of Hamas do hide in such despicable ways. It is understandable why they hide. They have everything to be ashamed of and little to be proud of. All they offer to the people of Palestine is finger pointing, excuse making, and an endless future of kill and be killed. After Israel unilaterally pulled its settlers from the fought over lands, what was Hamas response? Was it an olive branch? Was it a reaching out to increase peace and cooperation between the two people? Was it an admission that Israeli's have a right to live as a free people in their homeland?

No, it was another homicide suicider. It was another bomb. Another missile aimed at a civilian population area. Another stab into the heart of Israel. A very strange way to make friends.

Now some people say that we need to learn and understand the culture of the Hamas terrorists, to empathize with their plight. When was the last time you gave an ounce of empathy to the Israeli's? It seems to be a very one way alley. Do you not understand that Israelis are people too? If you prick them with a suicider homicide bomb, do they not bleed? Where is the justice? Where is the humanity?

--Signed same anon as first time above.

P.S. I did not call the average Palestinian, an ocuppier. I called the Hamas thugs who occupy Palestinian government offices under the false color of legetimacy "occupiers". The spin, madam, is on the other side of the bottle.

8:36 PM  
Blogger SB said...

Violence is a poor way to address disagreements between people, between cultures.

Hamas is not a few thugs, in the same way that Americans are not all war criminals, tho some would argue our leadership has crossed that line. Even the Supreme Court has opened the door to make those charges against the President for Geneva Conventions violations re. Guantanamo tribunals, though there's not much chance his Attorney General will do so.

Hamas is a huge political party not only in Palestine but throughout the Middle East. And they were the elected government of Palestine -- Israel has lost much of the support it had worldwide due to tactics every bit as horrific as their opponents. As did the US lose the support we had world wide after 911.

Conditions in Gaza were already desparate, deplorable. And grow worse by the hour. Life in the refugee camps in Palestine has been desparate for almost sixty years.

Terrorism is deplorable, and comes from gross imbalances in power and property, from hopelessness. It you want to guarantee its rise to the world stage, do exactly what Isreal is doing, what the US is doing in Iraq.

And then convince a huge portion of the population to be blind to it.

Sad.

SB

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And do exactly as some of the oil-rich fundamentalist theocracies in the ME region do by supplying explosives, instructions and incentives to the homo/suiciders.

We agree. Yes very sad.

8:44 PM  

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