Daniel Weishut
Trying to reach, teach & touch...

It’s not that I’m a traitor

Recently, I posted on Facebook info on a campaign against Israeli police violence, including this picture. I considered that almost anyone would be able to support this call. However, only three of my Jewish Israeli friends “liked” it.

Ethiopian protest against police brutality. Tel Aviv, May 2015 (Activestills)
Ethiopian protest against police brutality. Tel Aviv, May 2015 (Activestills)

One of the comments to this post read:

Stop violence … U r selfish ….
U don’t deserve be citizen of this country .
I wonder what was happend if you had 15 years old daughter that being murdered by terrorist.

Later that week, a long-standing and beloved friend of mine wrote me a personal email. She complained that she receives notifications from me – on Facebook — wishing Arab Muslims happy holidays, and asserted that as a Jew my pro-Arab stance is inappropriate.

It was then that I painfully realized how much misunderstanding and ignorance there is in Israel of the intent of those at the left side of the political spectrum in general, and of human rights defenders, in particular.

I am a member of various non-governmental organizations to which I feel connected professionally, socially or ideologically. Two of these organizations are despised and considered as anti-Israel, by many Israeli Jews, namely Amnesty International and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. Some call me naive in being part of these specific organizations and accuse me of ignoring the importance of security for Israel. However, in other parts of the world, human rights organizations like these are seen as upholding democratic and humanitarian values (See: Haaretz, July 12, 2016), the reason for which I joined them, in my attempt to make Israel a better place.

I did not write in support of terrorism, on my Facebook page. I wrote in order to increase awareness of unsuitable police violence, as occurred in the last year against an Ethiopian youngster, a Bedouin supermarket employee and a female demonstrator against the gas plan, among others. I wished my Muslim friends a happy Ramadan, like I wished my Jewish friends a happy Passover, earlier this year. I see this as a small gesture of solidarity.

What is loyalty?

It seems that things are perceived differently than intended. I’m considered a traitor, since my attitude doesn’t prove loyalty with the Jewish right-wing majority. Who counts my years as a mental health officer in the Israeli army, taking care of  over a thousand soldiers and supervising colleagues? Who cares that in my posts and actions I uphold Jewish values such as ‘healing the world’ (‘tikun olam’) and ‘welcoming a stranger’ (See: Jewish values in 2012). Everything boils down to the perception that I howl with the enemy.

It is true! Living in Jerusalem, close to the separation wall, I have on the other side a great number of Palestinian friends, with whom I enjoy hanging out and ‘even’ celebrate my birthdays. Among these are many Palestinian Bedouins. And yes, more than a few of them have come in conflict with Israeli authorities. But, this is not because they wanted to kill Jews or destroy Israel…

My friend Yasser, the hair dresser, was kept in arrest for several days for carrying a knife that he had just bought for his work. My friend Mohammed, the owner of a petrol station, is for almost two years in administrative detention, because he spoke on the phone with a distant family member, who turned out to be a terrorist suspect. My friend Mahmood, the taxi-driver, was shot in his leg, while waiting at an Israeli checkpoint. These three Palestinian men, from three different villages near Jerusalem, wanted to make a peaceful living, but caught in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they and their families were made to suffer.

Things to come

In future posts, I’ll elaborate on the stories behind these and other incidents, which touched my heart and mind. I’ll share my impressions from personal encounters with Palestinians behind the wall and with the hardships they endure. My hope is that through these stories more understanding will be achieved of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict looks from a different perspective, through intercultural friendship and in daily Palestinian life.

The stories will not be balanced. They will show a personal view of the situation at the other side. One may argue that showing one side only is not okay, but I believe it is, since ‘our’ side is shown over and over again. One can weigh my stories against many others shared on the Israeli side.

Lastly, perhaps I would have looked at things differently, if my daughter were murdered, as the comment on my Facebook post suggested. However, ‘only’ two of my clients, a colleague, a friend, and my ex-partner were murdered; all Israeli Jews. In addition, as a psychologist I work for years with family members of fallen soldiers. Therefore, I believe that I know enough to understand — also — the fear and agony at the Israeli side.

About the Author
Daniel Weishut holds a PsyD in Clinical and Organizational Psychology, focusing on intercultural friendship, and an Executive MBA in Integrative Management. He has served in a variety of functions in organizations for human rights and social change. He teaches at Bar Ilan University, Hadassah Academic College (Jerusalem) and at the Professional School of Psychology (Sacramento). He has a private practice as psychotherapist and consultant.
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