|GREAT NEWS! If donations to this week’s Mondoweiss birthday drive continue at the current rate, we will complete the campaign early—by the end of today. Raising at least $20,000 from you and others will secure us an additional $20,000 gift from a wonderful challenge donor! Please help us unlock these funds so we can continue delivering Palestine news to readers who need to know.|
In the summer of 2012, Mondoweiss publisher Scott Roth and I were conducting a video interview with the Palestinian activist Badia Dweik in occupied and segregated Hebron. As we moved along Shuhada Street, a boy rode toward us on a horse and called out angrily in Hebrew.
“He’s saying ‘Arab,’” Scott said, smoldering.
I’d met Scott the year before. Almost immediately, we realized that we shared an understanding and abhorrence of the Jewish community’s role in supporting apartheid. We both were committed to redeeming that community as a part of bringing justice to Israel and Palestine. Jewish history was and is alive to both of us—and it’s part of why we are both continually appalled by what we see done in our name.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the transformation I experienced and the impact on Mondoweiss from the arrival of Adam Horowitz. Today I want to convey the importance of our bringing Scott Roth on board as the third partner in this work. When we named him as publisher in late 2012, Adam and I wrote about Scott’s independence and leadership abilities, and explained how useful to the site his “incisive manner and moral clarity” would be.
That has proved to be the case, over and again. To understand why, it’s helpful to know a bit about Scott’s background. Growing up in a Zionist community in New York, Scott first went to Israel as a child—and visited again and again through his youth. He even dreamed of becoming a politician there one day. But in his teenage years he noticed elements of the political culture that disturbed him. And in 1998, when he was 22, years before I would reach similar awareness in my 50s, he took a stand: “I can’t go to that country.” His horror at the injustices inflicted on Palestinians led him to alienation and a personal boycott.
Then Scott got involved in journalism and started to think about how he could contribute to Mondoweiss—ideas, writing, strategic thinking as well as donations. At that point, he realized he would have to go back and see Palestine. It was on our second trip together that the boy trotted his horse down Shuhada Street.
The boy could not have been more than 15 years old—his voice hadn’t even changed. He hectored Badia for being outside the perimeter for Palestinians. Then he demanded that nearby soldiers intervene. And two soldiers complied, telling Badia “stay away.” Badia defended his own right to walk the street, pointing out the specific line where the law allowed him to be. But it was frightening—and a living demonstration of the apartheid rules of Hebron, the entitled certainty of even its youngest settlers that they must and do control the entire territory.
Scott’s eloquent commentary on the incident, along with the horrifying video, became one of the most-read posts on Mondoweiss and has remained so over the years. He wrote:
A system can become so distorted that meanness itself takes over; injustice itself takes over. People are human, but if you keep them in a system that is absurd, the framework of life becomes so distorted that they cannot avoid doing harm.
This is true of all people, and all distorted systems. It has nothing to do with being a Jew, a Muslim, a Christian. The person has no channel and no outlet for fairness, for simple human back-and-forth, when the system is unjust and absurd.
An unjust system backed by one-sided force is like a foolish boy on a horse. Something childish driven by something powerful.
My friends from the U.S. civil rights movement tell me that there was a typical turning point in the paths of many Northern activists: when they first went to the American South. To see Jim Crow for yourself was an overpowering experience. It shook your soul, it gave you purpose.
Both Scott and I had had our Jim Crow moments long before the boy on the horse, but the moral horror of that encounter became its own epiphany about what our work would involve.
Scott is unblinking. He does not allow anything to get in the way of what we have witnessed in Palestine. Not the Jewish community, the American mainstream, the foreign policy consensus, the “experts.” He reminds me to listen to those on the ground, to believe my firsthand experiences, and to stay true to the understanding of the colonial project as “something childish driven by something powerful”—something that must not stand.
The work we do at Mondoweiss to gather stories, photos and video; to share this content as broadly as possible; and to give Palestinians a platform to speak out for their own liberation; is all made stronger by the input and judgment of Scott Roth. As we move into a new stage of our development, where we have more staff and take on more challenges, I feel very lucky to have another moral and intellectual guidestar in our senior leadership.
Three days ago, we launched a birthday fundraising drive at the suggestion of a strategic supporter of our work. When our readers responded with an avalanche of gifts, he increased his offer: if we can raise $20,000 by tomorrow, he promised to give us $20,000 more. The drive has been immensely successful so far; assuming donations continue to pour in, we will be able to complete it early—by the end of today.
Support from readers like you makes Mondoweiss independent; it enables us to tell stories to the widest possible audience without toeing the political line of any one funding source. We never have, and we never will, allowed financial pressures to determine what stories we cover or how. But that can only continue if you and others continue to contribute financially. Your support makes an enormous difference.
I’ll direct readers once more to the timeline we’ve posted with key moments in Mondoweiss’s history, and let me close by asking again: if you value the perspective and concrete information Mondoweiss offers in stories like “The boy on the horse,” please donate today to help strengthen our news gathering and analysis.
Thanks for understanding and sharing our journey over the past 13 years. We will strive to live up to your trust.