Ceasefires are good.

Ceasefires are good. The decision to no longer actively try to kill each other is good. Few dead babies, fewer destroyed homes, less fear all around — these are good things. But they are not peace.

I think very few people (those who know me in real life, and/or those who know me/my work online) have a sense of just how entirely the recent Israeli-Palestinian violence consumed my every waking hour (and most of my sleeping ones, too) from November 14 through November 21. I was churning out copy for three different outlets (The Daily Beast, where I ran four pieces, The Atlantic, where I ran a particularly research-heavy one, and a couple of posts right here on this wee blog, where I knew people would be turning for additional background), I was on HuffPost Live three times, was invited on to various radio shows, and was in the process of being scheduled to be on Al-Jazeera when the news changed drastically.

And then there’s the activity that people who aren’t on Twitter (or least: the political/activist sub-section of Twitter) won’t really get, but: I was on Twitter all the time. I was vetting news stories and opinion pieces, analyzing events in real time, answering questions, helping create a space for people who wanted to express something other than blind hatred, fielding an enormous amount of anger and ill-will, and following events as closely as I possibly could — I knew what was happening before news outlets reported it, because I was reading the reports of  people actually on the ground, and as Andy Carvin first proved during the Egyptian revolution, being in a position to curate that onrush of information is a much sought-after skill. In short, though I was doing it long-distance, I was reporting. Which meant that I was also reporting in my sleep. Plus I had some other work to do, too. (And I continue to beat back the mess created by someone who decided, in the middle of all this, to hack one of my email accounts in such a way as to subscribe me to 900 different professional newsletters. Because that’ll show me).

And then, much more quickly than all that started, it ended, and the press reported the ceasefire and the world pivoted and it was almost-Thanksgiving, then Thanksgiving, then Black Friday, and done.

I describe my level of involvement with the unfolding of events in order to say this: All of it was fine. I was tired and emotionally spent? So what? My house wasn’t blown to smithereens. I wasn’t in fear for my children’s lives. All I can ever do for anyone over there is be a Jewish Israeli who bears witness to the pain and suffering of both sides, and if that’s my role, that’s fine and I’m privileged to fill it. I’m privileged to hear from Jews who were afraid they were the only ones thinking certain thoughts, I’m privileged to hear from Palestinians who were afraid there were no Israelis who saw their truth. I don’t like dreaming of war, or being accused of terrible things, and/or having my email hacked, but it’s a reallyreally small price to pay, particularly given what people are actually living through.

My difficulty — my ridiculous, petty, and unimportant difficulty — comes when the guns fall silent, and I look at an agreement made between two sworn enemies given to violence, and all I can see is a chance to rest before the next bout of violence begins. When I look back on a quarter century of peace advocacy, and realize, yet again, that not only have we gotten nowhere in our efforts, but our goal — a genuine, durable, peace — is in fact more impossible now than it was during the first intifada.

Despair is a luxury, and it’s one for which neither my children nor the Israeli and Palestinian peoples have time. There are people to be fed, and other people who need to be heard. I don’t have the time, nor do I have the right, to sink into despair.

And yet here I sit.

I don’t know exactly where the future will bring us, and I know that some are looking at the events of last week and seeing reasons for hope (Hamas’s willingness to not block Abbas’s UN bid is a good sign! Netanyahu and Obama found a way to work together! That one Hamas cleric said breaking the ceasefire would be a sin! Some Israelis thought it was a good thing to stop pounding Gaza!) — but I weary of the desperate effort to claw hope from hopelessness.

Aside from any other consideration, the Israelis currently in power are about to get re-elected, and because of this war, their mandate will be bigger, and more right-wing. They have not heretofore shown even the slightest interest in resolving the conflict — quite the contrary — and there is simply no reason to think that post-election, short of an enormous amount of US pressure, they will do anything but become more set in their war-mongering/occupation-perpetrating ways. None.

Unless I’m very much wrong (and please God, let me be wrong), my job here is to serve as a witness to the end of something. I will fill that role — paid or unpaid, apparently — but that’s the role.

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  1. You do a great job Emily.

  2. Emily, I can’t remember what recent trail of blog-hopping led me to your blog, but I have been reading your work every day since then. For the first time I begin to feel informed about what is happening in this conflict.

    Many years ago, I stood on a line in a passport office in Los Angeles. A older man was “causing a scene”, weeping, crying out something like, “No. No. My country is Palestine. How can you say this is not a country? My country is Palestine!” He was escorted out by security “till he calmed down.” The memory of his ravaged voice and his grief is potent and demanding, even all these decades later.

    Thank you for your ceaseless work. I pray for true, fair, durable peace for the broken hearts who want Home. I pray for you, and your family, and your dreams.

  3. Darth Thulhu

     /  November 27, 2012

    Despite your claims not to be one, I think the evidence of the past few weeks shows you to be a Big Damn Hero. Maybe a calm hero, but a hero nonetheless. Staring into the Abyss and unflinchingly reporting what you see with empathy and grace, despite the despair, is hero’s work.

    I wish I realistically foresaw a happier outcome than you, but not only will Israel soon have a farther-right government, the Palestinians will soon have more militant leadership as well: all of Israel’s behavior this millenium has done nothing but undermine the Palestinian Authority and increase the political power of Hamas and groups even more violent than Hamas, allthewhile alienating every regional ally it used to have.

    Over a dozen years, Israel has entrenched and empowered the boldest of its enemies, hamstrung its more reasonable enemies, and isolated itself from every ally. I cannot see that as anything but a new generation of Zealots repeatedly sowing the wind.

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