Time Magazine has an article under the banner Postcard from Ramallah. It describes a compelling exercise in freedom of speech and conscious worthy of celebration, regardless of what one thinks of the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories or even the wall/security barrier/fence itself. Sadly, the story is told with such rage at Israel, that it’s hard to see that. Once again those who share the author’s bias will stoke the furnaces of their own rage. Those who don’t share that hostility will use the presence of ugly bias to deflect the real lessons to be learned from this amazing project.
The truth is that it is hard to take seriously any author who opens their work with the following: “Few things are as monumentally ugly as the Israeli separation wall on Jerusalem’s edge.” Either the author, Tim Mcgirk has had a very sheltered life or has no awareness of how many things are going on in this world that are much, much uglier. That or he just hates Israel so much that he cannot help himself from making truly stupid and totally insensitive remarks.
“Few things are as ugly”? How about burying a child whose remains are so mangled that they are contained in a bag? That’s what happens when your kid is buying pizza or sitting in their S’derot living room at the wrong moment. It’s also what happens when they are watching TV in a Gaza home that happens to be next door to a Hamas leader. And whatever one thinks about the politics of either of those situations, both are a hell of a lot uglier than any wall.
The project Mr. Mcgirk describes however is anything but ugly. In fact, as described it might be one of the healthiest and most powerful expressions of political/social activism in the region. A group of Dutch and Palestinian activists have teamed up and for 40 dollars anyone can have a message inscribed on the Palestinian side of the wall by one of three artist/activists, Faris Arouri, Yousef Nijim and Raji Najam. They even send you a PDF of your message after it has been put up. The only rules? No hate and no anti-Semitism.
Activism with ethical obligations to those one opposes? Genuine boldness combined with real sensitivity? These guys are amazing! How many social and politcal leaders right here at home could take a lesson?
This is politics at its best and whatever one thinks of the barrier and how it has been used, what these guys are attempting is wonderfully revolutionary. And to those who object, let me suggest that you spend forty dollars and have your non-hateful objections posted for all to read.