Not Giving Up

Not Giving Up

Moving fighting words this week from a conversation on police brutality to Black women to the Middle East isn’t a disruption really, since the same principles apply: structural supremacies, power colluding with power over the heads of the disenfranchised/dispossessed who are being silenced; power accruing to power and powerlessness to powerlessness, in an endless repetitive circle; all of it disguised by the usual banalities that manage to be boring as well as lethal at the same time.

We need to refocus on the Middle East for a number of reasons. First, timeliness — oh, not about the length of the conflict itself, which has been going on, depending on when you start counting, for millennia, or at least since 1948. Besides, this can’t be literally timely because I’m writing it in stages starting last Tuesday, and the various developments keep changing. No, timeliness in terms of an actually negotiated, haggled over, renegotiated, and re-re-renegotiated “pause” in hostilities. Not a truce, you understand! Not a cease-fire! Not a respite, a break, a lull, or a lessening of hostilities. Just a . . . well, pause. Apparently, terminology describing peace is too difficult for combatants’ tiny minds to wrap themselves around; they can’t even agree on what to call not murdering each other.

Nevertheless, Israel and Hamas agreed to a deal and then — oh halleluiah! — to extend the fragile pause in fighting by two days. Then, by two more. The deal, mediated by Qatar and Egypt, would see additional women and children hostages released from captivity in the Gaza Strip each day in exchange for Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails plus the entry-admission of humanitarian aid trucks bearing food, water, medical supplies, and fuel for the desperate Gazan population.

Please don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful for any cessation, no matter how brief or tenuous, of deadly rhetoric and deadly acts, but it’s also true that that compromise, that “settling for,” that gratitude–that’s how they get us.

Earlier, Hamas stated on Telegram that it is seeking an extension to “increase the number of those released from imprisonment.” Under the terms of the agreement, the pause could be extended by a day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas beyond the initial 50. Yet a few days ago, the whole thing almost tanked over an argument about whether mothers should be allowed to join their young children, or whether separating them was preferable. (No cynical laughter, please, this was an actual discussion.)

Political and military leaders on both sides of the conflict take such a discussion very seriously, because they are still spouting rhetoric about the bloody violence they will each wreak on their enemy as soon as the fragile “pause” is over.

Meanwhile, there are the people. There are the Palestinians, not only in Gaza, but in West Bank. And there are the Israelis, throughout the country. The people by and large — mostly large, mostly very, very large — are joyful in welcoming the pause.

In West Bank, there was dancing in the streets. People hugged each other and laughed and sang. Hundreds of Palestinian teenage male prisoners–arrested under “administrative detention” for unspecified crimes like marching, picketing, and, for little boys, stone throwing–unashamedly let their weeping mothers kiss them in public. There was ecstatic waving of the Palestinian flag – the Palestinian flag, mind you, not the Hamas flag.

And all over Israel — except where the zealously religious ultra right wing holds sway and the illegal settlers have tried to put down roots — there was comparable celebration at the release of more hostages each day. People wept for joy and grief, unable to tell the difference. Hostages, freed now into their families’ embraces, found families reduced in numbers because of massacre by Hamas. Joy was shaded by sorrow and loss on both sides.

But still it shone through — that intangible Something in the human spirit that’s so famished and parched for hope.

You may well ask of your television set, as I did, why is it only a “pause”? Why have both sides agreed on one thing only — that they are extending it in miserly bits, two days at a time? Why so grudging with peace and so generous with war ? All anyone would need to do is to put the “pause” on a permanent loop to repeat itself, just as they do with war, to repeat itself again and again, over and over. You wouldn’t even have to call it peace if that’s too upsetting. You could call it “suspension of hostilities” or “a shift in perception.” Hell, you could call it something as weighty as an armistice or as inane as a schnookendooffle – I don’t give a damn so long as people don’t have to kill and die in it.

Because you see, the people on both sides of this anguish are saying exactly the same things! Over and over they say I love you I missed you I longed for you to be back home Are you hungry? God, you look so tired! How thin you are. Oh see here where they hurt you! 0h how I love you How I missed you oh my god. Both prisoners and hostages, now freed, weep with relief, all pretense of unemotional manliness peeling away like burnt skin. And I want to run through the street screaming Don’t you see? They’re saying the same thing! Listen to them! Hear them!

But their leaders don’t hear because their leaders don’t listen. They don’t even listen to themselves when they demand the release of “womenandchildren” as if it were all one word. And this is how they get us. Psychotically, willfully ignorant, they don’t even know that the entire reason for the “women and children first” trope, used for an emergency like a shipwreck or a prisoner exchange, is because both sides of male combatants and yes — they are male combatants — agree on this alone: that women and children represent the future of the species, and therefore the assured continuance of victims to be ground up reliably in the jaws of their wars. That this requires women to be perceived primarily as wombs and children mainly as canon fodder is considered apparently collateral or irrelevant. So no, their leaders don’t hear them, Israelis and Palestinians alike, weeping for joy, dancing in the streets over a few days of peace.

They don’t hear them for other reasons, too. They’re listening to other voices.

Elon Musk met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. The billionaire’s visit comes as he faces criticism for loosening content restraints and content moderation and for having himself enthusiastically amplified — by retweeting — anti-Semitic tropes on X, the platform he now owns, formerly Twitter. Earlier, Israel’s communications minister said that Musk agreed to operate Starlink satellites in Gaza, but only with Israel’s approval.

And I want to run through the street again, this time shrieking, You idiots! You don’t even know who the real adversary is! You shake hands with this white South African sociopathic madman because of his wealth and his power in technology, while your own people suffer, as usual, as always.

So you can welcome Elon Musk and make deals with him, even if he’s virulently anti-Semitic — but Hamas damn well better not be?

Or maybe it’s OK if Hamas is anti-Semitic so long as they express it over Starlink satellites that (what a bonus!) have Israel’s approval?

This is verifiable madness: a peniscentric collusion of mutual murder, that’s who the enemy is. That’s an intersectional Venn diagram of power and greed and death.

Oh, and now Israel and Hamas are agreeing to extend the humanitarian pause in Gaza by one day, Qatar announces; the pause in combat had been set to end Thursday, but an eleventh-hour deal extended it, dribbling out life giving time in 24 hour increments — time for emergency aid, time for a few more prisoners and hostages to be free. Only 24 more hours… But people are floating a new term: “restarting the war.” It gets used in sentences like “won’t it be difficult to restart the war all over again?” This inaccurately assumes that the war was ever ended, but never mind, never mind. It’s something to hold onto, it’s something.

So we women, with a weariness born from centuries of stubbornly lugging hope around, we wait for release of the hostages and the prisoners, we prepare their favorite foods, we welcome them with open hearts. And we rejoice, yes, dancing in the streets, wearing Mezuzahs and Keffiyehs both, and not giving up, not giving up again.

Hope is all we have . . . Hope is how they get us . . . Not giving up . . . Hope is how they get us . . . Hope is all we have . . . Not giving up . . . But hope is how they get us . . . But hope is all we have . . .