After we published Jodi Rudoren’s comments on Palestinian culture in Gaza, she responded on Facebook. Below are her two separate posts on the matter.
A blogger just posted this incredibly unfair analysis of my Facebook posts, taking everything out of context to support his agenda. Luckily, he included fat excerpts of my posts, so people will be able to see how it was twisted; his analysis just does not stand up to scrutiny. There are many, many depressing things about this conflict, of course, deep-seeded depressing things about two peoples profound distrust and misunderstandings of each other. But a perhaps less important one that I find equally depressing is the way upper-class international intellectuals so blatantly and purposely distort in order to inflame. Sometimes, it really seems like no one in the world actually wants to solve it.
Good morning from Gaza City, where the night was quiet after that huge, close bomb that blew out windows at Al Deira and especially the Beach hotel. Thank you for a round of very thoughtful, honest, smart although certainly tough to read comments about my FB posts and Mondoweiss’s critique of them, which also got tons of Twitter traffic overnight. I’d like to try and address some of it, though I know some people would say I can only make it worse.
First, a note about tone. My feeling is that my posts on social media have to adhere to the same fairness standards as my work in the NYT itself, but not to the same tone or content standards as I try to bring a bit of reflection/behind the news. So while people are right that I would absolutely never use a term like ho-hum in the newspaper in this situation, I might well use a different word, and probably many more of them, to describe what I have experienced as a kind of numbness and, frankly, strength in the face of all that is happened to the people here. Steadfast probably would have been a much better choice.
I did not at all mean to imply that people were indifferent to the suffering, or uncaring, or unfeeling — they are passionate about their cause, deeply connected to the land being destroyed, with incredibly close extended families loved and honored above all else. What I meant was that their reaction to the literal things that had been happening this week was (mostly) outwardly calm, even, stoic. There is little panic and little public display of emotion (whether sadness or anger) that you might see in other cultures. Talking to people has made me think this is a mix of resignation, routine and resistance, along with a religious viewpoint that views death in this context as a sacrifice, of course, but also a worthy one.
Regarding the “limited lives” comment: Virtually every Gazan I met in my trips before this one as well as this week have talked about the ways Israel’s occupation/blockade/airstrikes have limited their lives — their mobility, their educational and economic opportunity, their electricity, their futures, their hopes. The incredible Andalib Shehadeh I profiled recently described this as the “psychological siege.” This is one of the main complaints about the situation I hear here (and also in the West Bank, though less and in a different way; mobility being the main focus). I truly did not mean to judge their lives against mine or anyone else’s, I was (trying to) speak of their own assessments.
I also think that the poverty, import limits and the cycles of loss and violence have made many people less attached to material things than people in say, Brooklyn or Tel Aviv are, so that leaving a small, not very personalized home that UNWRA built for you after yours was destroyed in an attack four years ago — I’m talking about an actual person I met over the weekend, moving out after a bombing three houses down the road that killed a neighbor — maybe hits less hard than….than I don’t know what, actually, but I also didn’t mean to suggest this was a bad thing. On the contrary, people here (like some in other places, of course) seem to very much embrace the notion in the Billy Joel song “You’re My Home” (incidentally, my wedding song) that it is the people that make the home not the stuff.
One of the main themes I am hearing from people on the street here is about how this escalation is different from others, more like an actual war, because of the pain Gaza has been able to inflict on Israel, the paralysis to society in the south and the shock of sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. While the death counts and destruction tallies are lopsided by any objective measure, Gazans (and I) see what a powerful impact the rockets are having in Israel even when they do not hit anything or hurt anybody (and of course many have). There is no way to measure such impact, of course, or compare it, but I think in terms of the pressures on the leaderships of the two places to come to terms, the pressures from within their populations, I think Gazans may be willing to yet take a lot more in exchange for their aspirations for freedom, the end of the blockade, a state. The cultural, political, sociological roots of this are truly complex, but unraveling them and explaining them feels like a part of the job.
As for my accusation that Weiss had taken the posts out of context, that was wrong. What I should have said was that he provided his own inaccurate context or embellishment, rather than doing what any good journalist — any decent person? — would have, which is to ask what I meant.