View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Friday, December 05, 2003

Belly of the Beast

Sometimes, you just have to go visit evil so you can look it in the eye. So, it was off to the Tattered Cover Tuesday night for a seven-course meal of Israel-bashing topped off by a dessert of anti-Semitism. Nancy Stohlman, a deceptively pretty gal who used to be a chief organizer for the Colorado Campaign for Israeli Surrender, has edited a book. It’s a book of journals written by people born too late to be Sandalistas, so they’ve transferred their activities and affections to the Palestinians. The audience consisted of the actual Sandalistas, come to revisit the misguided idealism of their youth. These are people who think Suckerpunch, er, Counterpunch and Indymedia have the real scoop that the networks are afraid to report.

Of course, Ms. Stohlman first got involved in all this right after September 11th. Her first reaction to the murder of 3000 fellow citizens, for the crime of having shown up to work, was to fly to Afghanistan to see how she could deter the US from defending itself. Sadly, that was probably her best opportunity to get caught in the crossfire.

The festivities consisted of four readings of these journals, “without which we’d never know about the shooting or the APCs or the tanks in Bethlehem.” Obviously, they’d long since given up actually watching network news, or they might have spotted themselves on TV.

Ms. Stohlman started with a reminisce by a Palestinian woman in her 30s, about her crossing from Jordan into the West Bank when she was 5. She noticed that the “Israeli soldiers were different, they wore sunglasses.” So, um were these Ray-Bans, or the really cool Neo-type sunglasses that said, “I can stop your bullets just by thinking about them? ‘Cause if they can do that, they ought to be catching all the bombers.”

Apparently, she was traumatized to this very day by the Border Control, when, having finished going through their luggage, they tried to pry, then to saw, the head off her doll to see what might be in it. Now, this was about 25 years ago. Get over it! It was a doll! I don’t care that your 5-year-old mind momentarily transformed it into a living, breathing being; it wasn’t then and it’s not suffering under whatever landfill it’s in now. When she got to the part about the doll, I saw how ridiculous it was, and couldn’t suppress a laugh. This brought disbelieving looks. How could I? Because the one thing you can’t do is laugh. John Fazenda: First, they came for the plastic dolls, but I was not a plastic doll…

The next reading was about their adventure in Bethlehem, without which we’d never have heard of the place. “Young Arab boys flashing us two-fingered peace signs.” They keep on using that hand gesture. I do not think it means what they think it means… The funniest part was when they called the embassy on their cell phone, and the woman at the other end asked if they wanted to be evacuated. “No, we just want you to know we’re here.” “OK. Well, call back when you want to get out.” As you can see, their situation was dire.

Of course, no gathering of the faithful would be complete without the ritual invocation of St. Rachel of Corrie. Turns out that someone who would actually lie down in front of a bulldozer (not stand in front of it, as Ms. Stohlman would have it), can write. Not well, but she can write.

What she can’t do is translate Hebrew into Arabic. Otherwise that man wouldn’t be leading his children out of his house, thinking it was about to be demolished, when all the Israelis really wanted to do was detonate a roadside bomb they had discovered. Pity about the windows. But really, neither the Israeli sharpshooter, nor the tanks, nor the soldiers, were the least bit interested in the man or his two little girls.

They weren’t really interested in her, either, although apparently the fact that she ended up under an Israeli bulldozer by mistake doesn’t make the Israelis any less racist. While the anti-Israeli Left takes great umbrage at being called anti-Semitic, they throw the word “racist” like they picked it up on sale at Wal-Mart. The Israelis are racist. The US Media are racist. The Israeli media & govrenment are racist. The only people who aren’t racist are the anti-Semites.

But they’re not anti-Semites. It wasn’t until the next-to-last question that someone asked her about the “mentality of the Israeli Jew” that they could do such things. You must remember, Judaism is just a religion, and we believe in freedom of religion. It’s not Judaism’s fault that the Jews can’t get over the Holocaust.

Then there’s the Security Fence, or, Apartheid Wall. “It’s twice as high as the Berlin Wall,” she says, with feeling. But you kind of doubt she’s offended by the Chinese trying to keep out the Mongols. Now that certainly was a great wall.

This is a woman who has stopped thinking. But only about the facts, not about the rhetoric. No, she’s very clever about the rhetoric. At it’s amazing what you can get away with when nobody challenges you. She chose the readings carefully to move the Israelis from a distant threat to a more immediate one, until the callous youth you meet at the end comes to embody all Israelis and the entire country is filled with people capable of the worst monstrosities. There’s no way for one person to ask a meaningful question. She couldn’t stand up under cross-ex for 30 seconds, but when you write a book, you get a platform.

Underlying the whole enterprise is the notion that propinquity bestows wisdom. I was there. What’s lacking is context, historical, moral, or ethical. Sure, Rafah’s airport, border houses, and ocean access have been blocked off. Two words: Karine. A. This may cost jobs, but I don’t think we want to be encouraging either service or manufacturing jobs like those. She’s collected a great many data points, but like the woman who’s still pissed off about her doll, she has no wisdom, no understanding, no perspective. Take her to the Netanya hotel, or the Sbarro’s, or the Moment Café, and it would have no effect. Such a pity. Tsk. Tsk. You should really end the occupation.

When she was asked to do the hard work, to come up with a policy, the best she could do was sputter something about doing “whatever the Palestinians would want done.” One-state, Two-state, Right of Return. “Whatever.” And she thinks the Israelis commit genocide.

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