The last week or so I’ve been trying to do something which ought to be easy, but it is also proving to be really hard. I am trying to put myself in my own shoes. These are the shoes I had when I was a supporter of the armed struggle for Palestinian self determination. I can remember considering myself a supporter of the PLO. I can remember sitting myopically waiting for my glasses in the optometrists at Punchbowl at the beginning of the second intifada when a young man came in selling casettes to support the struggle in Palestine, and feeling guilty for not buying one. I can remember striding along feeling the same righteous indignation I still feel about lots of other stuff. But I cannot reconstruct the thoughts of my younger self that should accompany these memories. What was I thinking?
The answer came to me the other day, mediated like so many profound insights through country music:
Oh, I knew there'd be hell to pay. But that crossed my mind a little too late.
'Cause I was thinkin' 'bout a little white tank top, Sittin' right there in the middle by me.
An' I was thinkin' 'bout a long kiss, Man, just gotta get goin', where the night might lead.
I know what I was feelin'
But what was I thinkin'?
What was I thinkin'?
I was thinking of the newspaper images of Sabra and Chatila refugee camps from the invasion of Lebanon; I was thinking of the Time magazine article mentioning how Abu Wossname’s gardener was killed by Mossad in Tunisia; I was thinking of the description in the Tablet of the 14- year old boy shot in his own living room with a remote control in his hand at the time of the first intifada.; I was thinking of the pictures of Mohammed Ali Dura’s father trying to shield his son. I know what I was feeling. But what was I thinking? What was I thinking?
I'm pretty sure I cannot put myself in my old shoes because I had no shoes. I was not thinking, I was just riding along on a wave of emotion that I had caught back in 1982. When I finally stopped to think, it was obvious that the Palestinian leaders were not interested in finding a peaceful solution to the problems of their people, and that they had done their darnedest to brainwash them into being willing accomplices in their own degradation. It was obvious that Israel, despite having done some bad things, was really trying for a reasonable solution and had already made big sacrifices for it. It was obvious that the vast majority of the Palestinian civilian casualties I read about were more or less by accident, while the vast majority of the Israeli civilian casualties I read about were more or less on purpose. I cannot remember exactly how long this process of changing my opinion took, but I think it was only a couple of weeks. Looking back at it, I am pretty sure it was not exchanging one informed opinion for another, but forming an informed opinion for the first time.