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October 16 2023
I talked about the book on Wednesday at McNally Jackson Soho with two people I (center) love and admire beyond words: Catherine Lacey (left) and Elvia Wilk (right). Friends and family came out and the vibes were pillowy. I still feel blessed, days later. Some of the audience questions drew out behaviors that were otherwise just habits. Elvia emails herself all her ideas, I create dozens of Google docs, and Catherine said “keep a journal close but don’t worry that you don’t write down everything.”
On Friday, I went to Times Square for the Palestine rally. The New York Post was desperately trying to make “Day of Jihad” happen but no dice. There was a small band of people on the north side of 42nd Street waving Israeli flags at the rally, which took place on Broadway below 42nd, stretching down several blocks. Neither side was cursing or tossing projectiles. In the two hours I was there, everyone kept it civil. The only stressed out people were the cops, who kept barking at people to fill in unoccupied areas bounded by the eleventy billion barricades they showed up with.
Hamilton Nolan went to the same rally and wrote a post about how lots of daft people are spending their God-given time on Earth yelling at kids. Not everyone, though: “Most of the people there were young. But there were also quite a few elderly people, some hobbling on canes, who had painfully dragged themselves out to stand and be a part off the supportive crowd. Because they knew it was important. Because they understood what is at stake. They were not there to compete with the young, to mutter snide takedowns of the speakers, to talk about why the rally should have been framed differently in order to attract the support of more moderate figures in Washington. They were there because people are dying. They had perspective. They had wisdom. I hope that we can all get there, one day.”
This dispatch from the Palestinian Youth Movement has the heft of Baldwin: “Now and onwards, you must not allow your friends and comrades to turn their backs on the Palestinian liberation struggle. You must not allow them to falter in the face of the events of this week, or to devolve into insipid both-sideism or pragmatic armchair generalismo, or to publish cowardly denunciations that do nothing more than provide a left cover for an impending genocide on the people of Gaza.”
Haymarket has made these three books on Palestine available or free download.
I re-watched The Zionist Story, a “home-spun” documentary made by Ronen Berelovich in 2009. At the end of the film, Berelovich says, “I made this documentary because I have a huge debt to the Palestinians. Part of my debt is taking an active part in the occupation as a paratrooper and reserve soldier. In Israel, about 5% of the population serves as reserve soldiers and, except for the professional soldiers, they are the only Israelis who ever get to see first-hand what actually happens in the occupied territories. The rest of the Israelis see only army-controlled glimpses on television. Being part that of the 5%, I saw occupation from close and I will never take part in that again, even if means going to prison for desertion.”
I kept returning to Isaac Chotiner’s interview with Tareq Baconi, who also published an essay in the NYRB that same day: “Now that the violence of Gaza has spilled into Israeli-controlled territory, the fantasy that Israel could ever maintain its security by keeping Palestinians siloed interminably has come undone.”
The footage is not at all easy to watch (I think trigger warnings were invented for these things) but I have been following the Instagram stories of Motaz Azaiza, a reporter on the ground in Gaza.
You may find succor in this new playlist by Teju Cole, assembled to accompany his new novel, Tremor, an astonishing book that comes out this week. Nothing else I’ve read this year has made as much of an impression on me, or felt as useful. I made this playlist to get me over the hump, drawing on playlists Cole has made over the years and tracks Time Is Away have played on NTS (which others have compiled on Spotify).