Hit Send: My Letter to the New York Times

Dear New York Times Staff,

NYT     I was disappointed but unsurprised to learn of an article that saw exposure in your publication on January 6th. It portrays the Palestinian Authority as being party to revisionist and hateful education in Palestine. Having lived and worked with Palestinians for more than a year, I know this piece is derivative of settler propaganda and lax journalism. I did encounter a disadvantageous bitterness in a few Palestinians (of course) and I have my own criticisms of the Palestinian Authority but this piece is an embarrassing example of what Dr. Edward Said described as “orientalism”. Special-interest groups who assembled and spoon-fed your paper that material are merely appealing to the cultivated ignorance of the United States public. The privileging of the Holocaust narrative, no matter which side is lionized, is ludicrously Euro-centric. The historical Holocaust is all but lost in these retro-fittings used to mask the abuse and displacement of Palestinians – a real barrier to peace. It isn’t even an Arab brand of bitterness; that’s how far detached the supposed curriculum is and how far our discourse has fallen behind reality: stereotypes sprinkled over tropes. It has little to do with what Palestinians actually learn in school or how their education is supported (or thwarted) by this country.

The veracity of the curricula, which many others are busy debunking, remains irrelevant. Even if those were actual Hamas or Hezbollah curricula, these would be nothing but a rancid pile of red-herrings: a stench to draw attention away from the occupation and the illegal settlement project. Just as The American Studies Association and the Modern Language Association are beginning to openly debate Israel’s discriminatory border policies, just as the European Union grows impatient with Israel’s flouting of international law, just as companies feel the tremors of the growing BDS campaign– just as all of that is happening, someone produces this content. These curricula were cards in-hand, played expertly at the appropriate opening. It is all pure smoke-screen, especially the notion that Palestinian prejudice is institutional and Israeli prejudice is isolated in extreme pockets. How laughable: I moved across check-points on a weekly basis and saw the army toying with people. I know about the violence that takes place without impunity (settlers, soldiers, cops) – and chuckled bitterly when a Likud politician publically stated they intended to do with the Bedouin (Arab Israelis, not Palestinians) “what the Americans did with the Indians”. With so many instances of Arab dehumanization taking place, it would be small wonder if there were reactionary school curricula! Apartheid is sickening and Israel needs every distraction they can to continue realizing their ‘manifest destiny’.

Manifest Destiny: when we look back at our nation’s history, we see examples of white people glorying in their dreams of entitlement. Israel wants to take the land from its inhabitants and Americans cannot seem to grapple with this kind of gilded-age theft, possibly because we have not truly faced the theft perpetrated on this continent. Meanwhile, The New York Times has lost the semblance of substance in order to keep selling these fantasies about Israel. Unfortunately, it is Israelis who will suffer consequences in the coming years because America has loved what they should be, not what they are. Though I have met excellent, kind Israelis who love human dignity, I know that there are bratty, bigoted, greedy Israelis as well – just like there are unsavory people in every country. No one is exceptional. If we cannot find compassion for embittered Palestinians, I believe we will stab Israelis even harder in the back for resources lost. Billions of US tax-dollars pour into that country. Israel needs a friend that will tell the truth, not blind allegiance. The Likud-led coalition is leading them down the darkest of paths. Thank you for receiving my letter: I hope The New York Times becomes part of the solution rather than the problem, else I will never find reason to subscribe.

With realistic hopes,

John Daniel Gore
Speaking for himself.

Epilogue: I feel at peace. I nearly hesitated to post this letter at all, fearing I would become defined by my scathing critiques. There is so much more to me than the issues I have worn on my sleeves for nearly three years. I want to transition from an activist to a teacher and artist — hopefully a friend and partner to someone before this decade is gone; I want to love… yet I feel compelled to fight hate. Since I had already documented the previous incarnations of this work, it was fitting to submit the final draft. The cold critique is most appropriate for a chilling business like Israeli apartheid and the system of curtains drawn around it. This little ‘opus’ brought me back into right relationship with my emotions: neither walking on eggshells like the Coarse Draft nor indulging in bombastic polemic like the Angrier Draft. Sometimes, we in the solidarity movement do more harm than good but this time I kept my veins ‘icy’. I can go back to healing, now.

Thank-you for reading.

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Coarse Draft

I am stumbling back into the practice of writing. A request to write letters to the New York times just went out on one of the listservs I still follow from my work e-mail account. The prospect is daunting to me both because of the seriousness of that request and the shiploads of emotional baggage attached to the topic. I decided that the best thing I could possibly do is just write SOMETHING — just ANYTHING — that I can come back to on Monday…

Dear New York Times Staff,

I trust you are receiving many letters from well-intentioned progressives about an article referencing Palestinian ‘incitement’ in Palestinian Authority schools, as well as letters from Israel sympathizers congratulating your publication on running the piece. I spent eighteen months in the West Bank, though I confess to having only a basic grasp of Arabic and no contact with Palestinian Authority curricula. In Bethlehem, many of the schools are parochial and still others are UN run schools in refugee camps – communities forcefully evicted by violence decades ago. It is going to become obvious that my experience of Israeli racism and cruelty far exceeds the resentments I encountered among Palestinians (with whom I lived and had many opportunities to examine). Your piece reflects a major challenge in US media, which is overcoming the problem of proportion.

When the conflict occurred in Gaza in November of 2012, over 160 people of Palestinian heritage died during just those eight days as compared to 6 precious souls lost in Israel. Shortly after that episode concluded, 60 people were rumored to have disappeared into heaven-knows-what-dungeon just in the Bethlehem area where I was living (as compared to zero Israelis) and a boy was shot in Hebron. These occurrences are not unusual. I lived constantly with Palestinians who have lost their ancestral lands, have restricted movement, make their living in a captive economy, and seem to receive nothing but disrespect from a United States media that barely acknowledges they are living in an occupied country – a state recognized by the UN (even if it was only as a non-member) that same November. They still welcomed me. Conversely, my few brushes with Israeli culture have convinced me that they need to wrestle with the same demons we did in the 1960s and South Africa, likewise, in the 1980s. Their policies are in violation of international law, courts, and resolutions but, more importantly, are just as conniving and unfair as the tactics employed in this country during the 19th century to displace Native Americans.

Many of us doubt those samples actually are from the Palestinian Authority curriculum and the PA, itself, denies the accusations. I wouldn’t be shocked if those pages came from a Hamas curriculum, nor appalled because they are under such vicious siege. The PA is certainly flawed but they are also in a terrible position, too. My tendency is to believe that the pro-settlement movement in Israel is responsible for bringing such hateful material into the light in order to do inciting of their own — and they do plenty of it. Recent explorations of academic boycott by the American Studies Association and the Modern Language Association show that there are a growing number of educated people who can see the lack or proportion and understand why it is necessary to embrace nonviolent tactics to curb Israeli racism and oppression…

 

…I need some water… I’m venting…

 

This is going to be a tough process for me; I wonder if I should say anything about getting stopped and frisked by Jerusalem PD of if that is going to make me look petty.

 

Thoughts?