First of all, it’s a phenomenon that I genuinely don’t understand. Like, to a fault. When someone makes my head pound with anger, or consistently says things I find utterly untenable, I ignore that person as much as humanly possible. Which, when you’re in my business, can be a problem. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, settler leader Dani Dayan, Washington Post columnist Jen Rubin — love them or loathe them, I have to know what they’re saying. I often depend on people with steadier dispositions to keep me informed, and occasionally find myself an hour or a news cycle behind the curve. So there’s the “huh?” aspect.
And then there’s the fact that I thought I knew who hated me: The right. The Israeli right, the American right, the Jewish right — people who live on that side of the fence and who happen to have come across my work hate me. They call me the worst things they can think of, and feel they’ve righted some wrong in so doing, and I either ignore or block them (depending on the effort they’re making to inform me of said hatred), because engaging with all of that is genuinely pointless. If the person in question happens to be in a position of power (hi, Dani Dayan!), I engage for the sake of furthering my own cause, not because I think that we’re likely to come to a place of mutual understanding.
But late last night it was brought to my attention (and I foolishly went to where the information led) that my name has become shorthand for… something? among an entirely different set of people, who are located roughly speaking on the left. I think that the general, shared notion is that I’m not sufficiently pro-Palestinian, and (I imagine) that speaking from a position of Jewish/Israeli/American/white privilege, I get everything wrong and really should just shut up. In yesterday’s case, I’d made a Jewish mom joke involving Ramadan and the recently signed New York Jets player (and Palestinian-American) Oday Aboushi, who I’d been defending against the most egregious slander (click here), and, by dint of ignorance, stepped on a sensitive issue — but I’m given to understand that this is not the first time I’ve been terrible.
Everywhere you go in life, there are people who never read beyond the 140 characters in front of them. There are people who read with eyes already closed. There are people who build an identity and/or a community based on an idea and that identity/community is more important than… I’m not sure what the end of that sentence is. The truth? That seems too grand a conclusion though, because try as hard as I might to strike an honest and consistent balance between what I believe to be the legitimate rights of Palestinians and Israelis (or any other rights and issues), I certainly can’t know for sure that I have ahold of the truth and someone else doesn’t. All I can do is try.
And I suppose that’s the thing: Context matters. Nuance matters. Past behavior matters. And for my money, more than anything else, honesty matters. The people who make a principled point of hating “Emily Hauser,” on the right or left, aren’t being honest. It’s not about me. It’s about them. My name and the occasional disembodied line from my work are tools they use in a battle in which I have no part.
For what it’s worth, this is why I very rarely join the rampant online exchanges that amount to talking about someone behind their back. Unless I am absolutely, personally certain that the person in question is consistently, and influentially, a bane on the human or civil rights of living, breathing human beings, I’m just not going to go there. Aside from anything else, I only have so much time and energy, and I want to devote them to fighting for achievable ends. Name-calling and snark neither help nor convince anyone.
Now, of course, I presume that one of my hate-readers may very well read this, and present it as whiny, or an indication of my lack of fortitude, or hate-amusing, or I don’t know. Something. That has nothing to do with me. But I can’t do anything about that.
I can however continue to do the work I’ve done for 25 years, continue to struggle for and toward civil discourse, and continue to do my best to be honest and accountable. For the all the rest, as we say in Hebrew: אלוהים גדול — Elohim gadol. God is great.
PS Which is not to say that there aren’t reasonable arguments to be had with me. There most certainly are. But that’s something very different.