August 1, 2012
Gore Vidal’s passing is marked worldwide by a citational frenzy: all those quips, those acidic one-liners, from the past 86 years. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, all have their favorites; the Guardian has 26 of them.
It is important to remember, though, that Vidal also lent his name to writings that were not especially aphoristic, not penned by him alone, and not highlighting his individual contribution.
In 2006, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict peaked in June, when one-third of the Palestinian government and 64 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council were detained by Israeli troops. There were also two parallel abductions. Two civilians – a doctor and his brother — were taken from Gaza by the Israelis, an incident not reported except in the Turkish press. The following day the Palestinians retaliated by taking an Israeli soldier prisoner, an incident that became a media sensation.
On 18 August 2006, eighteen authors wrote to the Nation, condemning “a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.” Their letter said: “That this ‘kidnapping’ was considered an outrage, whereas the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and the systematic appropriation of its natural resources–most particularly that of water–by the Israeli Defense Forces is considered a regrettable but realistic fact of life, is typical of the double standards repeatedly employed by the West in face of what has befallen the Palestinians, on the land allotted to them by international agreements, during the last seventy years.”
There’s probably no way to put this in sparkling prose, but does it matter? Gore Vidal signed the letter, as did Arundhati Roy, Jessica Hagedorn, Toni Morrison, three names rarely seen in his company. That does matter.