Ifat Maoz Department of Communication

Nasser: So the solution is to throw us out…

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Nasser: So the solution is to throw us out…

Avner: That’s not true! You just want to be a minority: that’s all. If I didn’t have a state I would go anywhere I could to live in my own state, never mind the land. Your attitude to land makes things very difficult for you. You’re divided among yourselves and you cannot resolve it.

Nasser: You want to resolve our problem and you tell us to leave. Maybe things could be good for us here?

Nasser suggests that what Avner really means is that he doesn’t want the Palestinians in Israel. Avner is outraged (“That’s not true!”) and throws the problem back to the Palestinians (“You just want to be a minority”). And then Nasser asks him softly, “Perhaps things could be good for us here?” But it seems that Avner doesn’t grasp the concrete intention of this question—to make him think about what could be done to make things better for the Palestinians—or he does not want to deal with it. The cat is out of the bag in Avner’s later remarks during the uni-national discussion. There Avner says he was frustrated by the discussion because he discovered that politically he was more hawkishly oriented than he had thought. He had thought that he knew what was “good for us” and what “was good for them” and during the discussion with Nasser he was surprised to discover otherwise.

Avner: You cannot persuade me to agree with the idea that we live in conflict and want our children to live in conflict. I don’t understand the logic of it. This idea of land isn’t clear to me.

Nasser: You don’t appreciate it because you have the land. You want to get rid of us. Do you want me to convert [to Judaism]? Soon you’ll want us to celebrate your Independence Day.

Nasser repeats his initial claims—accusing the Jews of wanting to get rid of his own national group, the Palestinians, or at least of wanting to eliminate their separate national identity by making them more like Jews. In these sentences he also shows his own fear of assimilation into the majority group, the fear of losing his unique identity as a result of living as a minority in Israel. It may be that this sense of threat, which has still not received acknowledgment or empathy from his Jewish counterpart, causes him to re-emphasize his separateness and his group identity in his interaction with Avner.

Avner: I have now reached a new awareness that the conflict will continue even when a Palestinian state is established. This can be acceptable and legitimate. What I don’t understand is, what status do you perceive for yourselves once there is a Palestinian state? Will you be Israeli citizens? Will you be first and foremost Palestinians or Israelis? Or will you create some sort of synthesis? What obligations will you take on yourselves? You’ll really have a problem. The question is whether you are willing to take on the status of a minority.

Nasser: We have been here all the time, so how can this be a Jewish state? Any Russian Jew who has recently immigrated to Israel has more rights than I do….This is racism, the Jews are a racist nation.

Several Jews (answering simultaneously): The Jews here don’t see themselves as living in a state that isn’t Jewish.

Nasser (smiling): We’ll change you.

Nasser ends the encounter with a powerful statement (“We’ll change you”), emphasizing that his identity is part of the collective identity of the Palestinians in Israel that is distinct from the Jewish Israeli identity. Avner, for his part, expresses apprehensions regarding the role of the Palestinian minority in Israel after the establishment of the Palestinian state. Still, this confrontation reflects an important turning point in the dialogue between these two. Avner expresses a willingness to contain Nasser’s position within his own (“We have now reached a new awareness that the conflict will continue…”). This is different from the exclusion and rejection that he demonstrated earlier in response to the positions, experiences, and fears expressed by Nasser. It seems that in the confrontational dance between the two, the first step toward acknowledging and accepting the other is taken by Avner—a member of the majority group. This may reflect a general characteristic of asymmetrical majority-minority disputes; their resolution may demand that a member of the majority group make the first step of accepting the other, acknowledging his or her positions (Maoz, 2000b).

Avner reflects on the bi-national process that followed the Jewish uni-national meeting:

What frustrates me the most at this workshop is that I came here knowing exactly what I want, and what is good for them, and with each meeting that passes I leave the workshop agreeing less with them. Not because of the ideas they present, but because of how they present it. And I am angrier with myself than I am with them. Sometimes I’m angry with myself because I don’t have the courage to say: “This and this is important to me. Right, it might sound primitive; maybe I sound like some hawkish representative. But it’s important to me.” Why can’t I say so? That’s the feeling I have at this workshop. Now I can say that I am afraid of what will happen, of the idea that the conflict will not end with the establishment of a Palestinian state: I told my family this at home and they said, “So what’s new?”

We see that Avner expresses frustration. But it may be that the confrontational and frustrating nature of the discussions also helped to reveal in him a more complex representation of himself in relation to the other. Avner is now also able to recognize within himself a more complex construction of his collective identity that includes, alongside the dovish, peace-loving parts, hawkish sentiments that he did not acknowledge earlier.

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