What’s not to love about an Arab who regularly posts love letters to Israel in the form of Facebook updates? That is, if you’re a pro-Israel Jew who wishes with every fiber of your being that there would be a kinder, gentler Islam and that peace would not be beyond our grasp. And so it is that I send a friend request to everyone’s favorite Arab Facebook friend.
You probably know who I mean.
It is almost embarrassing how much I want M to accept my request and how much I enjoy his welcoming words in his flowery Levantine style. It is absolutely embarrassing to note how self-impressed I am when M asks me and a select few others, in a private Facebook message, why we don’t speak out more on his behalf.
Privately, I preen.
M thinks I am that influential, though I am just a writer for a nonprofit, Kars4Kids, albeit a writer involved in pro-Israel activism on the side.
I ask if I can interview him for a blog. We agree on a time for a Skype call. I wait. M doesn’t show.
Days later M apologizes, reschedules. Again, he is a no-show. He mentions something about being on the run again, more death threats.
Finally, we manage our Skype call. We get through a number of my questions. At one point, I think I hear a toilet flush. I pretend I don’t hear it. We agree he’ll answer the rest of my questions by email.
I wait. M doesn’t follow through.
Then one day, he sends me a link to a webpage all in Arabic. I can’t read Arabic. He swears up and down that the webpage is an anti-Israel article written by a well-known Arab Israeli journalist. One I respect.
High Up Sources
The article, M tells me, was written many years ago. He swears up and down that it says what he says it says and that his sources are very high up.
It doesn’t sit right with me. I tell him I want to have someone translate the piece into English, so I can verify what he tells me.
M is offended. He makes me feel guilty for spurning his offer of truth. Is he not my friend, M asks? Would a friend lie to a friend?
Hem And Haw
I hem and haw, and hurt, he lets me go.
I look for someone to translate the article and find someone. He’s busy, perhaps tomorrow.
Before my translator friend can get to the work, M writes: it was all a huge mistake. The journalist he smeared the day before is a prince among Arab men.
Gobsmacked And Offended
I am gobsmacked.
Had I spread the slander to my contacts, my credibility would now be in tatters. I would be reviled for sloppy work and for besmirching the name of a respected journalist.
I log on to Twitter and confront M’s tweet: “[Respected journalist M smeared the day before] is a prince among Arab men.”
Lights My Fuse
It lights my fuse to read this. I tweet, “Funny. That’s not what you said yesterday.”
M messages me on Facebook. “My contacts misled me. I apologized to [said journalist]. It’s all been worked out. Please remove your tweet.”
I do so.
One week later, M messages me, “Dear precious varda, it was a moment of weakness and treason from someone I trust, I care for you much, and respect the wonderful things u ve always said and done…….I did injustice to [said journalist], and it was because of a sleeper who abused my trust……forgive my dear and I truly hope we start a new page at least as fellow zionists!”
And I see M has unfriended me.
It is a spear to the heart.
I try to reason with him. People who are “dear” and “precious” aren’t written off, I tell him.
He Blocks Me
M will not budge. He writes something a bit firmer, more hurtful, and blocks me.
I am a writer. It hurts to have my words stilled. It’s unbearable. I want him to know what I feel. I want to discuss this.
I message M on Skype. He asks, “Varda, what do you want from me?”
I explain: he put me at risk, my credibility. M answers me with more flowery words, and then I answer him from the depths of my heart, with full feeling, regarding his ending of our friendship:
I Feel Betrayed
“I am surprised how much it hurts. I want to help you. I believe in you. I feel betrayed. But it is your choice. I won’t bother you further.”
M unblocks me. He sends me a friend request. He makes it seem chivalrous: he thought my actions showed I no longer want his friendship.
We chat. I tell him I’m not like him. I am no good at flowery language. My people are from Lithuania, renowned for being cold and unemotional.
M writes, “Ukraine has beautiful people, yet they hate Jews in such a strange fashion. I remember how when the Nazis arrived the locals took the initiative to round up Jews. Amazing, why so many people hate Jews.”
And suddenly I hear it. Not the error in geography. The trope.
The words trip off something essential inside me, turning my veins to black ice. Now I know him. Now.
Had he said, “Some of my best friends are black,” I would have laughed, would have appreciated the joke. But suddenly I know. I know it in my gut: M hates Jews absolutely.
The flowery language covers his truth. A truth as old as the ages. A truth I didn’t and don’t want to know or own.
But I do.
I wait a few days as my gut churns for having exposed my hurt to him, my core. Over imagining M was different, the Great Arab Hope—the one who would bring peace in our time.
Then I unfriend him and shelve my hope somewhere way back in my closet, on a high shelf. I can take it out once a year, dust it off, and consider whether I want to keep it or give it away.
Or throw it out.