With the Gaza War now in its second week, I feel compelled to write a post about why I can’t/don’t post about Israel/Palestine, a conflict which wrenches constantly at my heart, and prevents me from writing more important stuff. So consider this a one-and-done.
The vitriol with which the world, from it’s most respected papers (The IHT, NYT and the Guardian come to mind), to its most prestigious universities (both which I have attended, and many others), batters and defames the human beings who populate both sides of this conflict is more than I can ignore effectively.
No wonder there are riots. The constant deluge of images, the tsunami of competing statistics and barrage of unconfirmed (though often later confirmed) reports serve not to inform, but to affect. For the size of its newshole, this tiny middle eastern nation might as well be the center of the world. If you took all the dispatches filed on it since the war began, you could paper the whole damn place. Which is why I think it’s time for a little perspective:
There are, on average, 1,000 foreign correspondents reporting from Israel and the occupied territories–a nation with about the same geographic size and population as New Jersey–at any given time. In times of war, like right now, the number swells to upwards of 3,000.
Consider, then, that on the entire continent of Africa–the world’s second most populace continent after Asia– with its myriad wars, legions of corrupt governments, genocides, AIDS and MDRTB, pirates, inflation, starvation and hotbeds of militant fundamentalism, there are an average of 900.*
I won’t get into how or why that’s true, even though it involves Brezhnev and European complicity in the Holocaust and the Ottoman Empire, and we all know how much I love that shit. And I definitely won’t get into solving it, because only assclowns and Bill Clinton try to solve the MidEast conflict. Look, if the people who ended the Cold War and eradicated Smallpox can’t do it, you and your douchy friends in keffiyehs can’t either.
The FACT doesn’t excuse Israeli aggression or Hamas’ cynical contempt for, say, life, and children. And Mickey Mouse. It’s not about who’s worse and who’s right, who is human and who cyborg. It’s about too many damn cooks in the kitchen. It’s about reporters who smoke goatshit thinking it’s hash, and if that metaphor is too heavy for you, it’s about that rumor that Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country which JUST WON’T DIE EVEN THOUGH EVERYONE KNOWS IT’S NOT TRUE. If people dressed for the weather like they read and write about Israel/Palestine, we’d be wearing gas-masks and HazMat suits for sunny with a chance of showers.
Yes, the Israeli blockade of Gaza was amoral (though effective), the response inevitable. I believe that any civilian casualty is a tragedy and that the bombing of a UN school in the Jabalia refugee camp, one of the world’s most crowded places, might be a war crime.
Which doesn’t deminish the fact that any military action by Israelis now serves as cause for displays of violent and barely disguised anti-Semitism across Europe. Jews do not deserve to be targeted for the military actions of the Jewish state any more than Americans should be punished for the far more deadly and outrageous abuses of our armed force. Even less so, since all Americans are citizens of America, but only a fraction of Jews are citizens of Israel.
As a journalist and a human being, I know that the terrible atrocities being committed in this conflict, on both sides, must be exposed, and that the press has a duty to pull back the shower curtain. But I also know that putting more reporters than ever before, each with a thousand looming deadlines, into a place where even Palestinian journalists no longer have good access and foreign correspondents have effectively zero, only serves to dial up the volume worldwide on a conflict that should have stayed in that narrow strip of hell on earth called Gaza.
It serves, in the end, to distract citizens of Islamic countries from how inept their own governments are, and how much they themselves hate Palestinians in person; gives white liberals of our generation something to feel righteous about, and another reason to take that year of Arabic and then suck their own cock when they can bum a cigarette with hand motions; it gives adventurous young reporters a place to experience “war” and then retreat back to their Tel Aviv apartment to do drugs and have casual sex; and finally, it distracts the UN, once again, from the real atrocities happening in Congo, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe, among so many others.
*Some of you have expressed curiosity about the FACT. I learned it in 2006 from a war correspondent and visiting professor at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and am currently working to update/double source it. Meanwhile, guess how many New York Times correspondents there are in Africa right now? Post your guess in the comments.