Friday, March 26, 2004

Get Salon!!

Every day I come across interesting, well-written, insightful articles on that remind me why the $30 annual subscription fee I paid is insanely low for the quality journalism I'm enjoying. Case in point, check out "A Tale of Two Miseries," an article by Gary Kamiya about life in the Middle East. Here are some excerpts.

"I have just spent two days with decent and intelligent people, Palestinians and Israelis, who because of the stupidity of their leaders and the shameful folly of my government are living a life I would not wish on a dog."

Life for the Palestinians:

"An Israeli military truck clatters by and I look up and for a second my eyes lock with those of a young soldier -- the kind of sensitive, skinny Jewish nerd with glasses I grew up with. What's a nice Jewish boy like you doing in a place like this? We ought to be playing hoops, you burning my ass with your slick fake to the hole and your automatic 17-foot J, or me turning you on to Nietzsche. History isn't supposed to come out like this. You deserve better, and so do these people you rule.
I met with Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi, whose house is across the street from the Muqata. After a precise political analysis of the situation, this elegant and refined woman -- I believe she studied English literature -- gestured out across her well-appointed office in her nice modern building and said, 'We are in a state of collective pain and trauma constantly. Sitting here it's very deceptive. I'm traumatized. We all are. We need to step back, to have some normalcy, some semblance of real planning and serious thought. I have to steal the time to be able to think, to analyze, to write. Otherwise you're always in a mode of crisis management, in a mode of trying to overcome your own anger, your own sense of injustice, your own grievance, your own victimization. It's exhausting, it's debilitating. And yet I'm not the one whose house is demolished or children have been killed. My house has had to be renovated four times. We had our windows and doors blown in. We had the stones from the Muqata flying in. They destroyed the garden. And you have to keep rebuilding the garden, making your investment in life, as opposed to the death that you see. We keep planting trees on the sidewalk, and they keep uprooting them, and we keep replanting them. It's a battle, but you have to show that you have a commitment to life.'
Many of these things are of course of far greater significance than a simple checkpoint. But it is the checkpoint that I will remember, because it's the only one I lived, if only for half an hour. It will remain, for me, a small vision of hell, like an obscure background in a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Those silhouetted figures with guns, that smell of diesel fuel, the debris, the blank look of poor people fumbling for their papers, making their way home. One of the outer circles of hell, to be sure. But I felt in my bones it was not right. And as an American, I will carry that memory as a badge of shame. Because I pay for it, I support it. That soldier in the twilight is me."

Life for the Israelis:

"Thursday, 1 p.m. I am driving through the modern, Jewish part of Jerusalem, with Eilat Negev and Yehuda Koren, two Israeli authors and journalists. They point out where the 1967 borders of Jerusalem were, where the city expanded on what was Jordanian territory. They take me to their neighborhood of Gilo, where Palestinian sniper fire from across the valley forced the authorities to build a bulletproof wall. 'We used to jog here,' Yehuda says. 'Now we don't anymore.' From the hilltop you can see the nearby town of Bethlehem. 'We used to drive there, go shopping -- they had really good markets,' he says. 'That was six or seven years ago. We can't anymore. We wouldn't dare go there.'
Eilat and Yehuda say that making the simplest decisions, like where to eat, or whether to go out at all, involves agonizing calculations. I know a little what they feel from my few days of ignorance, parachuting in full paranoid regalia into Israel two days after the biggest escalation in the conflict in years, pouring a few drinks down before wandering around the Old City at night. But it isn't the same, of course. "It isn't about how good the food is, or is there parking," he says. 'It's all about whether you think a bomber will go there. So you try to think --"Should I go late?" But you can never be sure.'
The sheer number of suicide attacks has dulled Israeli attitudes, Eilat says. 'People used to call from Tel Aviv after a bombing to see if we were OK. Now they don't.' Nor do TV and radio any longer stop all their programming for special programs for a whole evening after a bombing: 'You can have a bus bombing at 8, and by 10 the Miss World pageant or whatever is on again,' Yehuda says. In a tiny country like Israel, where everybody knows everybody, this is a monumental change."

What the US can do:

"But both the Palestinians and the Israelis I talked to agreed that there was one party who could break the deadlock: the United States. 'It's like two people fighting,' Yehuda said. 'You need someone from the outside to step in and break it up.' Every Palestinian I talked to agreed -- but most had become so despairing of a reasonable U.S. policy that they didn't even bother to bring it up. Clearly they'd grown weary of grasping at vain hopes. Mention of Bush brought a bitter grimace, sometimes the dark smile of a gunfighter. This man is detested."

Right now gift memberships are only $20 and include the following freebies: 6-month subscription to New York Review of Books, 1-year subscription to Wired, 1-year subscription to US News and World Report (which is a piece of shit, but the other freebies are well worth $20 though), and a bunch of more benefits. Let me know if you want to join.