Israel and her Palestinian Mistress
When an Israeli gets themselves involved in a peace initiative - as simple as meeting with Palestinians - they have to consider the effect of it on their lives. Peace is not something Israelis take lightly. How is it going to affect their life and surrounding? What are their family and friends going to respond? I understand that and recently, it has become more dangerous to publicly endorse or to be perceived as a peace advocate.
There are several reasons that could explain this danger. The majority of Israeli society perceive peace as an act of disloyalty. In Israel, the term for peace advocate has become a derogatory term. ‘Smulani’ which refers to one’s political left wing beliefs has become a negative term to label Israelis with. It has become more popular and attractive to be a guardian of Israeli society- Israelis who are committed to protect their people from these such activists. They target them and attack them publically through cyber slander and defamation equating them to be anti-semitic or anti-Israeli.
These pressures lead many Israelis to simply say, “I would love to be involved...but I am afraid of the heat and negative attention my family and I would get.”
Furthermore, being involved in peace is not simply an extracurricular activity one partakes in. You cannot just do it for an hour and then carry on with your life. It is a lifestyle that demands root changes. For example, once an Israeli discovers that some of their favorite products are actually settlement product - and consequently abuse Palestinian rights in the process, they try to avoid buying them. So, instead they choose the less favorable product. Once they become more aware of their daily choices, they become aware how that affects their Palestinian friends. The conflict is part of our life and in order to transform it, a change starts with the day to day life choices.
Israelis and Palestinians have been at war for more than 100 years, and it is only a matter of time before they realize that violence is not the way to resolve our conflict. Once we establish even one relationship with one of our enemies, then we learn to love who they are - as human beings with their own life story. Once we have had this experience, it becomes hard to ignore the responsibility of caring for them. Israelis who are committed to peace genuinely love their Palestinians friends, and this relationship becomes a source of motivation and excitement they haven’t experienced before.
But due to the heat and negativity surrounding peace and anyone involved in it, Israelis meet with Palestinians discreetly. They inform as minimal a number of people as possible. Most likely they whisk away to a foreign country or a private location, away from prying and suspicious eyes. This is what they can do while satisfying their own need for intimacy with Palestinians.
And when there is heightened violence, Israelis realize the imbalance of power and realize the consequences of Israeli collective punishment or excessive use of punishment; they want to make the situation a bit more bearable so they go the extra mile just to maintain the relationship and express sympathy. That could present itself by giving us more materials or finding ways to help us cross checkpoints easier. Sometimes I wonder if Israelis are meeting with me just to soothe their own sense of guilt over the situation.
Moreover, Israelis try to make our time together unforgettable.The activities we do together are well invested and thought through, making them hard to forget. They take us to places that are refreshing and allow us to temporarily forget the hardship of our context for a few hours, like going to amusement parks or to the zoo.
I understand that meeting with Palestinians comes with a high price. Israelis want to meet with us because they want peace, and they are making an effort. They come to the meetings discreetly despite the high risk involved. The meetings are usually brief, passionate and intense. We always leave feeling that we want more time to be together. There are still more aspects and areas to explore between us. There is still a hunger to know about each other because this relationship is valuable and different. Yet with all the secretive nature of the relationship and the feelings of guilt, shame, and the material rewards, it leaves me feeling like the mistress in a forbidden affair.