Thank God for summer internships. And thank God these uncultured Palestinians are finally coming around. We can finally put an end to six and a half decades of conflict.
The Times of Israel recently published an unabashedly condescending piece about two Washington, D.C.-based interns—one Jewish, one Palestinian American—who swapped places for the summer and who seem to have figured out how to fix the Middle East. Featuring Waleed Issa from the Dheisheh refugee camp and former Israeli military officer Or Amir, the article is a textbook example of colonial rhetoric in which the privileged elite are noble and socially advanced while the colonized and oppressed are uncultured and naïve.
The first eight paragraphs deal with Waleed’s dramatically life-altering experience. “By sharing an office with them [Israelis and Jews], I’ve been struck by how they’re trying to do good things for the new generation,” Waleed is reported to have said. At first, he was “startled.” He even said “Holy moly!” But then he became an addict of Israeli news and a firm believer in sharing his feelings. Moral of the story so far: If only Palestinians weren’t so close-minded, they might actually recognize that Jewish Israelis are only trying to help them.
Or receives much less attention in the story because, for her, working with Palestinians is “less jarring.” Her Sephardic Jewish heritage makes her an expert in dealing with Arabs. “[T]he art, food, and culture feels very familiar,” she says, smartly. She also served as an officer with the Israeli military’s Medical Corps. Waleed is impressed. The article’s author absolutely insists Or spent her time saving Palestinians. Waleed, even more impressed now, begins to see a “different angle about the Israeli army.” What’s the moral of the story now? Because Jewish Israelis are so much more cultured, they know how to relate to others. Plus, they’re really into saving the Palestinians who clearly can’t save themselves.
The rest of the article pushes a two-state agenda and stresses, almost desperately, the need for “person-to-person programs”, a euphemism for “dialogue”. Luckily, I don’t need to explain the problem with dialogue-ing because the silly author absentmindedly does so. The exchange program “wants participants to focus on creating new stories . . . rather than ‘stories that endlessly recycle old grievances.’” It won’t even “pretend to solve the historical controversies,” like, say, military occupation, ethnic cleansing, or the systematic rejection of human rights and civil liberties to Palestinians living on both sides of the 1967 borders.
It’s a disgusting article and its author, Ari Ben Goldberg, should be disgusted with himself. But of course, he won’t be because he can’t recognize the condescending racist within him. (If he did, this article wouldn’t exist.) So, to give him and his fans an idea of just how bad his work is, I’ve written a satire about Tyrone and James, a black man and a white man who kind of but not really want to sort of beat back urban gentrification. Here are some notable excerpts from the satire that accurately resemble what Goldbert wrote:
“I never saw so many Whole Foods bags in my life,” [Tyrone] says. “Everywhere you look, there’s a grocery store selling fresh fruits. As a black man, I thought to myself, ‘This is not good news. How am I going to work here for the next six weeks?’”
“But when I started talking to James and getting to know him, he started telling me about his life and what socially-elevated life is like. At that point, I started seeing a different angle about white people and the cops. I saw that he was a hero and helped save a lot of people. He probably saved some black people.” [Editor's note: He most certainly definitely did, no doubt about it.]
“I’m a black man,” says Tyrone. “I want to live among my people in an environment that honors my history and culture. And James’s grandfather who once lived just north of the South Side had a dream that his children would live in an all-white neighborhood. There is no reason these two dreams should be incompatible.”
Racist, derogatory, and offensive, right?
This supposedly novel idea of sitting a Palestinian with a Jewish Israeli face-to-face around a friendship table is overplayed. There’s nothing novel, unique, or even successful about this program except that it caught The Times of Israel‘s attention (which, I’d argue, isn’t much of an accomplishment in the first place).
But not only does Goldberg try so hard to make something out of nothing, he sugars it with a large dose of racist condescension in which the Palestinian—the Other, the close-minded brute, the simpleton—discovers the purely humanistic drive of his mental and physical colonizer, the privileged and upstanding Israeli who only wants to save Palestinian lives.
Patronizing one particular group of individuals in such a way is just as vulgar as traditional forms of racism.