Talking politics with an Israeli chap
Posted by worriedlebanese on 17/06/2007
Just as I was finishing my second lesson of modern hebrew in a public library, the person next to me interrupted me and asked if I found it difficult to learn hebrew and why I was learning it. After a brief discussion, I “came out” as a Lebanese and he as an Israeli. I told him what difficulties I was encountering (mostly having problems distinguishing certain letters), but once I reestablished the proper probounciation of some letters (the ‘ain and the het) it became much easier to me to understand some words because of my knowledge of Arabic.
After finishing my lesson, and very proud of my microscopic progress, I met him at the Cafeteria as we had agreed. And there started a 3 hour lengthy discussion on Israel and Israelophobia. Truth to tell, I didn’t find the discussion very interesting. He was very defensive and kept on justifying what he saw as right. While I was trying to explain the differences in perception, failing miserably to make my points understood. Well, I had too many to start with, and as I wasn’t taking a pre-formated role, I guess it was rather unsettling for him. He very quickly noticed that I wasn’t hostile to Israel, but he then was surprised to see me critical about Israeli politics and understanding with Israelophobes. But even then he was surprised to see that I wasn’t very comfortable and apt in defending their point of view. I think that made me very suspicious in his eyes. My failings were probably interpreted as proof that the Israelophobes are wrong (politically, morally, ethically, legally), that Israelophiles were right (in every way) and that I was a crypto-Israelophobe, probaby for genetical reasons, because in his eyes I was very stereotypically an Arab.
Disappointed as I was with the discussion that centered on the wars betweens the Arabs and the Israelis (bad versus good), on the justification of violence (for survival) and the condemnation of Israelophobia as a prefiguration of the future and a declaration of genocidal intent… I asked myself, what exactly did I learn from this discussion?
– There is a very strong narrative in Israel concerning the Israeli-Arab struggle, and it’s probably even more tightly “argumented” than its Arab and Islamic equivalent(s).
– Israelis are as suspicious of Arabs as the Arabs are of Israelis. They both see hidden intentions and agendas everywhere and perceive themselves and the other as a monolythical whole.
– The Mizrahi Jews have a larger problem than other Jews to tackle with regard to the Arabs because they are not reconciled with their original identity. The guy I was talking to was a clear example of this. His father’s family is from Egypt and his mother’s from Tunesia. He refused at first to acknowledge that any of them spoke Arabic?! Later conceding that they might have spoken a few words to communicate in the market.
– My meta-narrative awakens suspicion and does not bring about a common understanding.