By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK | 7 November 2023 (IDN) — As political theorists, activists, politicians, and others struggle with ways to understand the current war in the Middle East, clarity came to the prize-winning author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates on his return from a 10-day tour of Israel and Palestine.
He had heard the frequent descriptive—complexity—pop up in opinion pieces and other scholarly writings about Israel and the conflict with the Palestinians.
“What I expected on the tour,” he said, “was that it would be hard to separate right from wrong, to understand the morality at play, to understand the conflict. ”But what surprised him, he said, was that he immediately recognized what was going on, having grown up in a society replete with racism, violence, and inequality.
“It dawned on me that I was in a region of the world where some people could vote, and some could not. And that was obviously very familiar to me.”
During a visit to Hebron, he had another view at close range of the reality of the occupation. Walking up to the marketplace, he was stopped at a checkpoint. An Israeli guard, probably the age of his son, queried him about his religion. Not really religious, he replied. Well, what were your parents? The guard asked. Also, not religious. What about your grandparents? Well, my grandmother was a Christian, Coates admitted. “And then he allowed me to pass. “
“It became clear to me what was going on,” Coates concluded. “Your mobility is inhibited; your voting rights, housing, and water are all inhibited based on ethnicity. That sounded extremely familiar to me.”
History is always complicated, but …
“History is always complicated,” he continued, “but the way that it’s reported in Western media is as though one needs a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern studies to understand the basic morality of depriving a people of basic rights like the right we treasure most—the right to vote. And then declaring that state “a democracy”… It’s actually not that hard to understand.”
“There’s no way for me,” Coates summed up, “as an African American, to come back and stand before you, to witness segregation and not say anything about it.”
“The most shocking thing about my time over there was how uncomplicated it all was.”
“It’s not that hard to understand for people of African American ancestry. I know that, A, because of my upbringing, and B, because of my vocation as a journalist, you can’t behold evil and then return and not speak on it. And segregation is evil.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do the political calculus on this,” he continued. “And I think at a certain point, we have to stop and say, “They believe it.” They believe bombs should be dropped on children. They just think it’s OK, or at the very least, they think it’s the price of doing business.”
Coates is an American essayist, journalist, and writer who explores contemporary race relations. Among his published works are Between the World and Me (2015), The Beautiful Struggle (2008), and “We Were Eight Years in Power (2017)
Last month, Coates and several other participants in the Palestine Festival of Literature in London signed an open letter in the New York Review asking the “international community to commit to ending the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza and to finally pursuing a comprehensive and just political solution in Palestine.” [IDN-InDepthNews]
Image credit: The Official Website of TA-NEHISICOATES
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