A black guy and a Jewish guy walk into a bar...
I have rule that I work really hard to stick to--I only blog about things I'm prepared to argue about. I try to avoid posting my 3 A.M. rants which come courtesy of a fifth Guinness. I've broken that rule before, and paid for it. Hence the silence around Israel in general, and Gaza in particular. I have my thoughts, and I've read my Tom Segev, my Benny Morris, my Walter Lacquer. But I try to give folks the respect I'd want for me and mine. I don't take kindly to fools who think that a couple readings of Native Son and Colored People makes them an expert on the black condition. I'd never want to make the same mistake.
You know what you're going to get from Ta-Nehisi--if you don't like video games, books, hip-hop, sports, the X-Men, black people and/or Worf, you're probably on the wrong blog. Those are my limits. That said, having come here in the wake of Matt's departure, I've been struggling with those limits. When something happens--like what's going on in Gaza--I think it's important to have some sort of discussion here from a progressive perspective, even if I'm not really qualified to lead it.
So I have an experiment I'm going to run. For a few posts a week, I'm going to turn over this blog to a good friend, Eyal Press--a fellow writer, a fellow progressive, a fellow beer lover, and a fellow football fan. I wanted him to blog some about Gaza, because, frankly, we've spent much of our friendship comparing notes about the perils and boon of nationalism and identity, and how they play out in our respective experience. What I've always liked about Eyal, is what I like about all writers I follow--nuance without lapsing into "on the other hand"-ism, and strength that doesn't harden into rigidity.
The fact and I'm black and Eyal is a Jew has been a sore point--but not as sore as the fact that I'm a Cowboys fan, and Eyal loves the Bills. He can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe he was in the stadium for the Bills comeback against the Oilers, and for their thrashing of the Raiders.
I guess, I should offer up some bonafides also. Eyal was born in Jerusalem, and moved to Buffalo, New York when he was a child. Eyal has written for The Nation, The American Prospect, The Raritan Review, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic. His book Absolute Convictions chronicles the abortion wars in Buffalo, to which he had front row seat--his father, an obstetrician, was a constant target of pro-life protests. Dr. Bernard Slepian, who was murdered in 1998, was a family friend.
Here's Eyal in his own words:
Growing up, I visited Israel every summer, often traveling through the country with my cousin and his friends in Hashomer Hatzair, a progressive Zionist youth group. My attachment to the country runs deep. But I'm also among the many progressive Jews who went to the college when the first Palestinian Intifada erupted and who have come to view the occupation as a calamity. I'm not a pacifist but I've seen enough wars go awry (Lebanon in '82 and 2006, Iraq...) to be deeply skeptical.
My grandfather was a socialist-Zionist who fled Bialystok for Palestine in the 1920s. Had he not done so, he almost certainly would have shared the fate of relatives who stayed behind and didn't survive World War II, which is one reason I don't run with the crowd on the left that views Zionism simply and solely as a colonialist movement, forgetting the part about Jews being murdered and persecuted relentlessly for centuries on end. (It had a colonial element, to be sure, but it was also a liberation struggle.)
Israel is a highly contentious and emotional issue. As always, I don't ask that you guys agree with Eyal--I just ask that we all agree to respect each other. I hate to wave the hammer, but I'll be watching the comments, and coming down hard on ad-hominem. If you're looking to exchange ideas come on down. If you're angry and looking to vent, I'd ask that you step outside.