Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Brief Intermission

Well, I'm back in New York City; bathed, air conditioned, free of fear, unharrassed by soldiers or settlers. My wife and I go to bed on clean sheets; I no longer sleep on the shared floor of a small house, under blankets layered with activist sweat and grease. I've started a great new job, graduate school classes have begun again, and I've had a week to get caught up on my life in the "real" world. And now it is finally, unavoidably time to write about Hebron.

I've been putting this off for several reasons. First of all, I have almost no hope that the people reading these posts will be moved to any meaningful action, and the writing takes a great deal of time, not something I have in large supply. Most of my readers are American Jews who will apply no serious economic or political pressure to Israel no matter what atrocities are committed. There will be no boycott, no surge in ISM volunteers, no massive campaign contributions to key politicians. Perhaps a few more people will decide that they "oppose the occupation," meaning that they decide not to like it anymore, not that they actually do anything about it. At most, maybe a couple will sign a petition, or send an email to their Congressperson, to be ignored as the token gestures they are.

A deeper reason, though, is that every word I write is a condemnation of my people, and an uncovering of our deepest shame (assuming that we, as a people, retain the moral capacity to feel shame). Like Ham, I look on the nakedness of my drunken father, but then I go one step further and take pictures of his ruined body to share with the world. A kind of ethical pornographer, if you will; it is not an enjoyable role.

Most powerful of all is that I simply don't want to remember. I want to wake up and find that it isn't true, that it was only a terrible dream. There are no fanatic settlers tormenting children in Hebron, under the protection of the Israeli army, by order of the Israeli government, which is elected by the Israeli voters, who are mindlessly supported by the Jewish people. The defining characteristic of my beloved people for the past five decades hasn't been and isn't our dispossession and subjugation of millions of innocents. We haven't sold our souls and our heritage, and defamed the memory of our own martyrs, for a bloody, ethnic nationalist fantasy.

But of course we have. And writing, even more than reading, makes it impossible to forget the truth.