I grew up living under the Israeli military occupation, in a situation where my friends and my foes were clearly defined, those who were for the occupation and those who wanted the occupation to end. I witnessed the Israeli army and Jewish settlers attacking Palestinians and Israeli peace activists. So when it came to Israeli society it was clear, there was the left and the right, the settler and the Israeli on the other side of the “green line”, the secular and the religious, the activist and the soldier … the friend and the foe.
In the early 1990’s a redefinition of my friend and foe was created. It was not just about the occupation; it was now linked with those who supported and those who opposed the Oslo Peace Process, and for the first time the definition included Palestinians. Any Palestinian who opposed the Oslo Process was an enemy of peace and an enemy of Palestinian national aspiration, therefore, my enemy. Any reaction by Palestinians towards the occupation, violent or nonviolent, was not only seen as being justified or not, moral or not, strategic or not, but was almost seen as anti-Palestinian if it did fit into the framework of Oslo.
During that time, the Israeli settlers and especially the religious ones were given more weight to the title of the “enemy” because they now became the obstacle to achieving peace. Negotiations were happening with right wing leader, so they were kind of our friends. The Israeli army, which a year before was shooting, arresting, and even killing Palestinians was now conducting joint patrols with Palestinian security forces to protect “the peace” from Palestinians who opposed it. Even though the paradigm of definitions was flipped inside-out during the Oslo era, the majority accepted all these changes because they trusted the leaders and trusted them to deliver what they promised, freedom and peace.
The promises were not fulfilled during that time and do not seem to be achievable anymore. The old definitions and redefinitions of my “friend” and “foe” no longer hold ground because the frameworks in which these definitions were created, the frameworks that promised us liberation and peace based on the Oslo two-state solution model have simply collapsed.
This does not mean that peace and justice cannot be manifested in the land, on the contrary; today presents a real opportunity. A new paradigm needs to emerge that is not a repetition of the old frameworks but is founded on deeper and much more challenging understandings of peace and justice, on values that were in the past ignored and neglected.
In this new paradigm, my Israeli friends are not the ones who want to arrange a cease-violence agreement with me and call it “peace.” They are not the ones who want to hold on to all that they gained (land, power, resources, etc.) and give me the least amount to survive on and call it “freedom.” They are not the ones who are so afraid of me that they want to create self-rule for the Palestinians and call it “statehood.”
My friends in the new paradigm will be the ones who stand for human and equal rights for all in this land (Christian, Jew, and Muslim), rights that will not be constraint by any physical, emotional, or mental barrier. My friends are the ones who will recognize and acknowledge the atrocities that were committed against the Palestinians and the injustices that pursued them. My friends will stand for resisting all systems and structures of oppression, fear, segregation, control, racism, and discrimination in this land no matter what they are and no matter who inflicts them.
My friends will challenge themselves to recognize my historic rights without thinking that this denies in any way their rights. My friends will recognize my deep-rooted historic love to this land without fearing that my love in any way infringes on their love for the land. My friends will recognize the right of all peoples in this land to live in freedom, equality, honor, respect, content, safety, and prosperity. My friends will trust me and respect me and seek the same from me.
So who could be my friend in this new framework? Anyone who believes in peace and justice and is not motivated by fear is my friend. My friend can be a settler or a secular lefty, a devout Jew, Muslim, or Christian. My friend can even be a supporter of the two-state solution, the one-state solution, or any other political solution.
Yes, there will be those who would still believe in violence and war, in segregation and separation, or in continuing the illusions that were created during the Oslo process. Such voices on both sides need to be challenged because I believe they are a foe to their own people before they are a foe to the other.