What Do You Know About Palestine?

By

Maybe you know a lot. Maybe you can offer an impromptu academic analysis of the the causes of the Second Intifada. Maybe you’ve toed the dirt in Jerusalem or made eye contact with someone inside one of the West Bank’s twenty refugee camps.

Palestine Speaks is a book meant for you.

Maybe you don’t know much. Maybe you didn’t know there were two Intifadas, say nothing of just one. Maybe you can’t quite point to Palestine on a map.
Maybe Palestine is just a talking-point which makes scattered appearances in occasional conversations about politics.

Palestine Speaks is a book meant for you, too.

“Gaza” and “the West Bank” are terms shuffled around from headline to headline in contemporary United States media, but rarely contextualized and which are typically embroiled in the mainstream news’s infatuation with spectacle. We might know that the Gaza Strip is more or less the world’s largest internment site, but we don’t know who lives there. We might know that after 22 days of bombing in 2008, approximately 300,000 people had to rebuild their homes, clinics, shops, and farms—but we don’t really know who had to walk among the charred rubble and gag on its smoke. We might even know (especially if we listen to “This American Life” of the tunnels through which crucial supplies are smuggled from Egypt past the Israeli blockade, but we don’t know who risks his life to transport them—or who must wait for their arrival in order to survive. For many in the Western world, the Palestinian people have been “flattened into a stereotype of a young man with a stone in his hand and a keffiyeh around his neck,” reduced in our regard to a faceless nation of militant extremists.

That ain’t right, of course. Such an approach belies the tangled complexities of a land and its people, both torn by five decades of conflict. This gross oversimplification is, to speak plainly, wrong, in both the factual and moral senses. And it’s time for independent journalism to hone in on a more accurate truth.

Palestine Speaks is an upcoming collection of personal narratives and interviews about daily life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with which I am proud to be affiliated. Speaks editors and longtime collaborators Mateo Hoke (of San Francisco) and Cate Malek (who works in Bethlehem for an NGO) have assembled a crack team of interpreters, advisers, and guides in their mission to bridge the disconnect between the U.S. and Middle East. The book’s network of possible voices is vast—including a woman in her 90s whose family was split during the war of 1948 and whose husband was never able to return to her after the land was partitioned, a farmer separated from his fields by the separation wall who is forced to submit to laborious checkpoint processes to tend to his crops and is often denied access, and a 20-year-old hip-hop artist who grew up in Bethlehem’s Dheisheh refugee camp.

We can’t do it without your help. We’re raising $7500 through a Kickstarter campaign to create this book, from start to finish. This campaign doesn’t just fund the printing of an existing manuscript, it funds the entire journalism process. This is pretty awesome, and we’re excited to make the project a reality.

So what’s in it for you, dear sweet Rumpus, beyond extensive reciprocal flattery and a fuzzy-socks-on-the-soul feeling of altruism? Well, when Palestine Speaks reaches its goal and the team is in Palestine, the Speaks team will write Rumpus-exclusive dispatches, the topics of which dispatches (from Hamas to hip-hop) are totally amenable to Rumpus reader suggestion. That’s pretty awesome! I’ll also develop a series of Rumpus-exclusive photographs and other images chronicling life in an occupied territory. That’s like two journalisms for the price of one! Double-rad! And if you donate $25 or more, you’ll receive an ebook of all the interviews, plus a special self-published physical copy of the book if we reach a total of $10,000.

We’re not interested in any Israel-Palestine blame game, as that approach slights the millions of reasonable people on either side of the separation wall who want nothing more than a peaceful life for their children. We won’t pretend we have some keen insight which will mend all wounds. What we have are are cameras, notebooks, the grace of our interviewees, and some of the most intimate stories of modern life under occupation you’ll hear.

The Palestine Speaks team is unbelievably grateful to Stephen and Isaac for their support, and we hope you’ll take the time to watch our video (below), visit our campaign page, and share it with those folks whom you think might take interest in it. Most importantly, we hope you comment on this article or contact us through our Facebook page if you have any questions or comments. We are adamant: This is a project not by the few, but by the many.


Timothy Faust is a fast-talking Wisconsinite living in San Francisco, CA, who loves sports, shouting, storytelling, and occasional bursts of sentimentality. He works for the internet during the daytime and practices photography on the evenings and weekends. He shoots the Monthly Rumpus and keeps hoping to win the raffle. More from this author →