Ifat Maoz Department of Communication

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Avner's Epilogue

The insight that Avner has gained in the course of his encounter with the other side, is perhaps most clearly expressed in what he says during the summarizing at the uni-national encounter of the Jewish group:

From the last meetings and discussions I’ve had with Nasser, I can understand the source of their frustrations. I feel it’s because of the way he expresses himself; he said a lot of things to make us think. They’re angry. There’s something about the label “leftist” [a political dove] that goes beyond a political viewpoint. What was a shock for them and maybe for me is that we [the Jews] don’t want peace, we want an absence of violence. Nasser asked me: “Tell me the truth, if you could get up in the morning and find there were no Arabs in Israel, wouldn’t you be happy?” It’s true. He’s disappointed in the enlightened among us. If we don’t know what peace is…I mean, for us it’s not an existential issue, for him it is. This disappointed them. Obviously one wants peace for its own sake, but they want something over and above what we want. It’s a process. At first, I felt threatened. That is why I wanted to say things like: “The homeland is important to me.” It was a reaction. I’m more immune now and can understand better. I used to say that I want peace and don’t care about stones, and it’s a pity that a soldier should lose even a finger, fighting for land. Today I know the value of land for them and I have no problem saying that the land is important to me too, and I don’t want to give up Jaffa and Haifa. I’m willing to confront each and every one of them and feel I have the right to do so. At first I felt weak. These confrontations have somehow given me a balance. I can even take the shouting with humor. The one-to-one interactions with Nasser were very significant for me.

Avner describes the changes he went through his exchanges with Nasser. He realizes that although he thought of himself as a political dove, he too would be happy to wake up one morning and find the Palestinians gone. Avner has also learned what is important to him (land) and has overcame his “weakness” about stating it openly; about dealing with the other on a one-to-one basis. His insight about the complexity of his own position in relation to the Palestinian other led Avner to rebuke a member of the Jewish group for attributing Palestinian violence to their genes. Avner recognizes this as an untenable claim that prevents examination and progress in the dialogue.

This is the change in Avner’s definition of his self: He is no longer a smug leftist, offended by Nasser’s accusations, but someone who is willing to acknowledge the contradictions in his own identity and, therefore, in someone else’s. The disintegration of his earlier monolithic identity construction created an opportunity for him to acknowledge various irreconcilable aspects of himself and, through this awareness, create a more significant dialogue with the other opposite him, accepting him too as a multi-faceted human being . Obviously the process is incomplete, but the extract above indicates what can take place in a bi-national encounter of this nature, especially when the dominant side examines its own contradictions in identity as it confronts the minority group.

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