Jon, I’ve been watching you
First, thank you for airing the interview you conducted with Mustafa Barghouti and Anna Baltzer. I’m sure your staff received thousands of letters from Arab-Americans thanking you for airing that piece. I’m also sure you received many letters from viewers chastising you “allowing” such voices on the air. You might wonder why we were so jubilant that something like that got on TV. Well, it’s because nothing like that ever gets on TV. So, thanks!
And like I said, I’ve been watching you. Aside from being a comedic influence on me (Yes, I watched “You Wrote It, You Watch It”), I rarely miss an episode of the The Daily Show. I always notice the remarks you make about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I pay special attention to anything you every say about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. You are always levelheaded, fair, and funny. As a Palestinian-American, frankly, I get excited listening to what you have to say. And your words have a greater weight because you a re a recognizable American voice, but more importantly, because you are a recognizable Jewish-American voice. As you know, whenever a Jew or Palestinian speaks on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it has a different sort of gravity.
There’s something important to understand about us Palestinians in America. We are constantly disappointed, constantly feeling slighted, constantly getting misrepresented. Frankly, whenever we hear a Palestinian voice is going to be on TV, we immediately assume it will be attacked, trapped, or discredited. Your willingness to provide an open and honest forum for Barghouti and Baltzer to speak was not only a breath of fresh air, but also a courageous act, whether you meant it to be or not.
So Jon, I’ve been watching you… and all I have to say is: Come out of the closet, already! Come over to our side! It will feel better, I promise. I see it in you. You have a nagging attraction to truth and justice. You’re perfect for us! You have what many people find to be an annoyingly high level of humanity and conscience. C’mon, you know you really want to openly hold Israel responsible for occupation, and separate the legitimate and just cause of the Palestinian people from their incompetent and corrupt leadership. My commitment comes not from the fact that I am Palestinian, but rather from the strong belief that I’m on the right side. It lets me sleep better at night. You will too!
As you well know, in a sort of wicked irony, the Palestinian experience has come to mimic the Jewish experience. Palestinians and Jews now share more than just a political conflict that has stretched for much of the past century; they also share a history of refuge, discrimination, diaspora and powerlessness. The Palestinian has inherited the Jewish political soul, made to feel like a foreigner in his own land, battered by his enemy, abandoned by his protectors, and left to fend for himself against incredible odds.
Jon, as you also know, the problem in most analyses of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that they rest on faulty assumptions. The first is an assumption of parody, and Israel knowingly forwards this misconception. What we are talking about when referring to the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis is not the relationship of one nation with another, but rather of a military occupying power with a civilian occupied populace.
Also, Jon, most speak as if the Palestinians and Israelis have equal control. In other words, most discourses revolve around the incorrect supposition that the Israelis control Israel and that the Palestinians control Gaza and the West Bank, while in fact Israel exercises complete military control in most of the West Bank and Gaza and complete discretion in the rest of it. This is evidenced every day as Israel demolishes homes, places leaders under house arrest and sets up degrading and protracted checkpoints for Palestinians as Israeli settlers travel freely.
Finally, Jon, as you know, the most damaging misconception has its nexus not in Israel or Palestine, but rather right here in America. Most analysts who speak on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict talk as though our officials in Washington and around the country can be even-handed. The facts are that American politicians and policy makers aid the Israeli military and government to the tune of $5 billion yearly. Israel is the recipient of the largest amount of aid we dole out every year, eating up about one-third of our annual foreign aid budget. How many people could we give health care with that?
Jon, stop making me beg, especially when deep down, you’re already there. I can gather all the Palestinians I know (it’s a lot) and we can have a sit-down.
It’ll go something like this:
You: “Hi, my name is Jon.”
Us: “Hi, Jon.”
You: “And I support justice for Palestinians.”