Why I can’t help but love Christopher Hitchens

From my copy of Hitch-22, which Hitchens signed over wine (“For Randa & Russell, with infidel greetings”) in the green room at the Hay Festival in Wales last year, just weeks before he was diagnosed with cancer.

Suppose that a man leaps out of a burning building– as my dear friend and colleague Jeff Goldberg sat and said to my face over a table at La Tomate in Washington not two years ago– and lands on a bystander on the street below. Now make the burning building be Europe, and the luckless man underneath be the Palestinian Arabs. Is this a historical injustice? Has the man below been made a victim, with infinite cause of complaint and indefinite justification for violent retaliation? My own reply would be a provisional no, but only on these conditions. The man leaping from the burning building must still make such restitution as he can to the man who broke his fall, and must not pretend that he never even landed on him. And he must base his case on the singularity and uniqueness of the original leap. It can’t, in other words, be “leap, leap, leap” for four generations and more. The people underneath cannot be expected to tolerate leaping on this scale and of this duration… In Palestine, tread softly, for you tread on their dreams. And do not tell the Palestinians that they were never fallen upon and bruised in the first place. Do not shame yourself with the cheap lie that they were told by their leaders to run away. Also, stop saying that nobody knew how to cultivate oranges in Jaffa until the Jews showed them how. “Making the desert bloom” makes desert-dwellers out of people who were the agricultural superiors of the crusaders.

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