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Ep. 10 A Lament for Israel & Palestine

Listen to this episode on Spotify here, or Apple Podcasts here.

I recorded this episode while sick and overwhelmed with grief. I make no attempt to offer a political analysis of the situation—not in order to avoid hard questions or "side-taking," but because these analyses are everywhere, and many are very good (I will link some articles below).

Key points in this "speaking":

  • Nationalities, races, religions are human imaginaries. I don’t want to support an imaginary, but rather the suffering human being.

  • There is never a justification for violence. Justification is only a relative reality, referring to a conceptual understanding of before and after, cause and effect. Violence is only violence—in its immediate, fleshy pain.

  • The economy of retribution never ends. There’s no redemption, no resolution, no winning, and no losing. There is only stopping.

  • When the game ends, it ends with no resolution. But you realize after it ends that it was never meant to resolve (resolution is for stories, and reality is not a story).

Further Thoughts & Reading:

  • Behind this "speaking" is the assumption that you are not in a position to call the shots politically, as most of us are not. If you have a more immediate connection to the war, with the ability to effect the outcome, then political discernment and tactical reasoning are necessary. But regardless of your political reasoning, empathy should not be meted according to a person's worthiness. Empathy can—and, I maintain, should— be felt for all suffering creatures, whether or not we think they deserve their suffering (I also think that the idea of "deserving" anything is absurd, as the world almost never replies with any justice to our actions). Nevertheless, political discernment is separate from empathy and should not be dictated by it, especially because empathy is extremely limited by one's moral imagination.

  • I am also assuming that much of our arguing about who is right and wrong stems from emotional self-preservation. We don't believe we can bear the weight of all human suffering, so we defend ourselves through blame and political anger. I keep thinking about anthropologist Naisarbi Dave's brilliant assertion that love is actually a rational act: Love, what presents itself as passion, is in fact an act of moral reason, allowing us to know in advance what to save, providing us in advance the answer to nearly every ethical question (my self, my family, my own, my passions)." In other words, "love" (as defined in the West) is an exclusionary act, a careful circumscription of who is worthy of my attention or care, so the needs of the world do not overwhelm me. In contrast to this definition of love, Dave advocates an "ethic of indifference"— not apathy, but indifference as a radical openness that allows the other to speak their own needs, whether or not they are bound to me socially or ideologically.

  • What do I mean by "just stopping" the cycle of retribution? It sounds idealistic, but only because it refuses the logic of death: that of reciprocating each action until violence flattens the earth. In fact, this is a tactic of ordinary proportions. Next time you get into an argument with your partner or friend, and you realize it's going nowhere, just stop. Abruptly. Better yet, end it with a laugh. Feel the freedom of letting it go completely, like a massive exhale. It's hard, but will reveal immediately the absurdity of holding onto categories of "right" or "wrong." From there, the conversation may continue from a place of intimacy and vulnerability. But the argument will have ended— now progress can actually be made.

  • What does it mean to be “here” for someone who is not here? Is there value to serving as a witness of atrocities and injustice, even if you cannot help in any material way? I'm not sure, as what we choose to witness is quite arbitrary, and often more motivated by personal pains than by the pain of others. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.


"There were, of course, facts—many of them unknown—but the narratives came first, all infused with histories and counter-histories, grievances and fifty varieties of fury, all rushing in at the speed of social media."

Israel-Palestine Conflict Guide:

"Kindness" from Palestinian poet Naomi Shihab Nye:

“[…] Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

It is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.”

Listener Insights: If you want your insights to be shared (with your name or anonymously), comment on the blog post page corresponding to the episode, email me, or answer the Spotify questions attached to the episode.

Please comment below with any other articles that offer individual stories or an in-depth analysis of the war.

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