Poor Palestinians? Poor New Yorkers! By Julia Gorin January 14, 2005 As the world hopes that the outcome of last Sunday's Palestinian elections will finally put the Palestinians on a path toward ending their decades-old suffering and desperation, it occurs to me why, as a New Yorker, my sympathy for their "plight" has always been at a callous minimum. I recall watching a TV interview with a Palestinian woman complaining of the "cramped" refugee camp conditions, but all I could focus on was the size of her living room. There I was, holed up in an Upper East Side studio with a husband and a pit bull, envying the Palestinian woman's space. Because let's be honest: New Yorkers are glorified rodents living on top of one another and scurrying around one another on the sidewalks. Essentially, we're an ant colony for the rest of the country's amusement. I've heard that on the mainland they have these things called houses. (I saw one once, so I know it's true.) And just about every one of them comes with what's known as a backyard. Apparently, this is the American dream that people come here to acquire. Why didn't we get that memo? I'm in this country over 25 years and still living like a refugee! That's why every time another score of Israelis gets bombed and I hear the Palestinian "desperation" justification, I think, "Something's not right." Because I lived in the East Village for seven years, and I didn't blow anybody up. The world blames the Jews for the Palestinian "plight," meanwhile look at how Jews live in New York: It's more than 60 years since we got out of the ghetto, and still the Jews are piling on top of each other into three square feet on the Upper West Side. I'm not trying to make light of whatever legitimate grievances the Palestinians may have, but when this New York sardine is subjected to reports of their crowded conditions, I just can't feel sorry. Just like when I see Palestinian children playing with munitions for the cameras instead of toys or swings (apparently, even after the billions the West poured into Palestinian aid, the PA never built so much as a playground). Besides, New Yorkers can one-up playing with shell casings outdoors: the toddlers in my building, bereft of a backyard and living in spaces without space, resort to rolling around in the hallways on over-trod, toxic, allergen-infested carpet. I can hear them outside the door even now, squealing gleefully as if they're living a normal life. Most recently, I'm hearing screams of injustice that in its final conceptualization, the Palestinian state will be somewhat disjointed rather than a contiguous body, forcing people to use underground tunnels to get around. It makes a New Yorker want to scream, "Hello?! do the words 'five boroughs' mean anything to anyone?" To get anywhere in New York, you either have to go over bridges and through tunnels or spend half your life underground commuting by subway. If until now, Palestinians have managed to stay above ground a full day, already their quality of life is better than in the Big Apple. (I guarantee a Palestinian's Vitamin D count is higher than a New Yorker's.) When politicians and press were treated to a tour by Yassir Arafat of the "devastation" to the Jenin "refugee" camp during the 2002 Israeli raid on terrorists, Arafat pointed to a car that had been flattened when a tank rolled over it. I looked closer, and saw that it was an expensive make either an Audi or BMW, I don't recall now but the point is, New Yorkers don't even have cars! Most New Yorkers, when there is no time for a public bus or subway, grudgingly take a yellow taxi the new "stretch" model of which means that instead of sitting pigeon-toed or with feet in ballet First Position, a New Yorker can now sit with his feet facing forward in a natural position. This is "stretching" in New York. If you think genocide bombers are "desperate", try spending an evening with a single woman over the age of 35 in the city. That's desperation! And yet these yentas don't pack their bodies with nails and explosives and go to a club full of 20-something hotties to make a statement. Furthermore, it has been my observation that people who stay in New York past the age of 40 go insane (here it's called "eccentric" or "neurotic") a result consistent with crowding experiments done on mice. Daftness has come prematurely for me; after 14 years in Manhattan, I've started to catch myself talking to myself (my best friend, who lives alone, started even before I did). All of which proves that "suffering" and "desperation" can be a lifestyle choice and it has been for New Yorkers and Palestinians alike: Just as some choose New York misery, Palestinians have chosen misery by rejecting a state every time it's been offered, by rejecting jobs programs the Israelis have created for them, and by destroying housing developments the Israelis have built for them with the rest of the Arab world doing nothing to help, save for Saddam Hussein awarding them $25,000 to kill and be killed. So let's not over-dramatize.