To the Woman Five Rows Behind Me at the Boston Palestine Film Festival This Evening

October 4, 2007

Dear Madam,

Good evening. Tonight, I had the opportunity to be lambasted by you. From the moment that I opened my mouth to question the choice of tactics used in the short film “The Iron Wall,” stating that the violent images and judgmental language used to refer to the Palestinian occupation could alienate moderate sympathizers of the Palestinian independence movement, I knew there would be someone like you to call me out. And so you did. Holding me with a look of righteous outrage and conviction, which my eyes met for the entirety of your monologue, you told me that if I doubted the brutal reality of the Palestinian occupation, I could go to Palestine and see it for myself. You told me that you had seen violence and tyranny first-hand. Your stare convicted me of ignorance and complacency towards the oppression of Palestine, as another uninformed American fooled into believing Israel’s conspiratorial lies. For your efforts at pointing out my guilt and apathy, you were rewarded with thunderous applause from the activists throughout the room.

In your righteousness, however, you missed one crucial fact. My question was never meant to undermine the cause of Palestine. It was meant to undermine the tactics that continue to poison our debate over Palestine. Until people hear the truth, and not propaganda, Palestine will never receive sympathy from the West.

You and I have the same vision, dear woman. We both envision an independent and democratic Palestine existing alongside Israel. Where we diverge is in how to rally the world to this cause. You adore a film decrying the situation in Palestine as “apartheid,” declaring that Israel controls foreign media and governments, and featuring a Palestinian man in his basement ranting about how Israel wants to eliminate the Arab population in Palestine. I prefer the truth: that Israel is trying to secure itself, albeit in a misguided way, and that Palestine is fighting for a state of independence.

The more violent and disturbing your rhetoric against Israeli policy is, the more harshly Americans will judge the Palestinian cause. After our exchange, several people asked when “The Iron Wall” will appear on broadcast television in America and Israel, where the public will see it and sympathize with Palestine. The truth is that it never will. Why? Contrary to your beliefs, it is not because Israeli Jews control the media. It is not because a world Zionist conspiracy has “corrupted” the views of most Americans and denied us the ability to think freely. The film will never be seen by most people because it is blatant propaganda. When you show English graffiti in an Arab ghetto in Israel ordering Arabs “to the gas chambers,” rational people know that the true view of most Israelis is not represented. When you feature sound bites by Israeli activists stating calmly and clearly that Israel is attempting to expel all Arabs from Palestine, rational people know that the true view of most Israelis is not represented.

I believe that Palestinians have suffered tragic abuse at the hands of Israel. I believe that the remedy for this is Palestinian statehood. I do not believe in using propaganda and misrepresentation in order to further this or any cause. As you become more and more militant, you give ammunition to your enemies. The more you talk about massive international conspiracies, Israeli domination over world affairs, and the godlike nonviolence of every Palestinian, the more people will be disgusted at what you say.

I agree with you in that what I saw in the film tonight was wrong and disturbing. Israel’s house demolition, settlement, and wall-building policies are tragic abuses of human rights, and I am heartened when people are made aware of the true situation. All too often, however, films like “The Iron Wall” tear people away from our cause. You mistake the cheers of activists in a single room in Boston with a sign that you are finally telling the noble truth that the people will believe.

My argument is in favor of telling the truth and letting people see issues clearly, then allowing them to embrace the view they find most morally appealing. Your rhetoric against me was, at best, misguided, and at worst, the kind of speech that makes people turn their hearts against the Palestinian cause.

I dissent from your view. I embrace your cause. Do not let your rhetoric make enemies of the very people you need as your allies. Do not build a wall in your heart to dwarf the one on the ground.

Agreeing with you more than you will ever know,

Matt Cavedon