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  Print view: The Idea of Enemies is Killing Us

The Idea of Enemies is Killing Us

by Deb Reich
In a globally internetworked world, we are all going to learn to work together because there’s no viable alternative.

Consider this: The “enemies paradigm” and the perspective it represents are obsolete. We humans on this Earth are in the process of moving onward, beyond that worldview, into a different era. In the new era, there will still be groups of people we may see as our adversaries, but they will not be enemies. There will still be bad problems, but we will solve them more ably, working together with the people we used to think of as our enemies. In a globally internetworked world, we are all going to learn to do this because there’s no viable alternative. It begins with adopting a different mental map.

The organizing principle of the new mental map is the idea of No More Enemies. It belongs to everyone on the planet. It’s a simple idea, really. The concept of “enemies” is no longer serving humanity. It has, demonstrably, become very destructive and is overdue for retirement. The old enemies-oriented worldview is being displaced by emergent new paradigms of partnership, shared responsibility, and co-evolving. Humanity is struggling to redesign itself, using new tools. New technologies of medical imaging, for instance, give us a crucial biofeedback loop to evaluate the impact of our own thoughts and cultural habits on our health, our behavior, our society, our planet. That gives us new information to help us co-redesign our way of understanding and interacting with our world. The evidence is there in plain sight...we just have to connect the dots.

We, the people, are not the problem. The problem is the paradigm: the enemies paradigm.

As a Jewish American Israeli woman who has spent years living and working with Muslim and Christian Arabs in Israel/Palestine, I know what I’m talking about. We, the people, are not the problem. The problem is the paradigm: the enemies paradigm.

What we mainly have is this vision

Many of us have already discarded the enemies-based map of reality. We know that we have like-minded partners elsewhere in the Middle East, and far beyond. Our shared mantra, from Rela Mazali: We refuse to be enemies. We are trying to swing the regional momentum away from violence and fear and toward pluralism and equality. But history, the educational system, industry, army, religious extremism and government are all against us (so far). What we mainly have is our vision of a different way: No More Enemies.

In Israel, successive governments have built a gigantic wall of brutality in the vain hope of protecting the folks on one side from the aspirations on the other side: never a sustainable strategy.

In Israel, successive governments have built a gigantic wall of brutality in the vain hope of protecting the folks on one side from the aspirations on the other side: never a sustainable strategy. Our wall is like all such walls: constructed and funded by successive regimes, meant to keep at bay those whom the authorities wish to exclude, and to intimidate those who dissent. This wall is made of cement and electronic sensors and barbed wire, but the mortar binding it is made of powerful existential anxieties, of memories of historical suffering and injustice, and of continuing bloodshed mixed with fear, fear, fear.

And now—inevitably—there is this global picket line that has sprung up around Israel in response. BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions), the Palestinian-led boycott movement is a call for equal rights for every person in this land and is supported worldwide by hundreds of thousands of people across a broad political spectrum. Most of them can agree on little else; oppression often makes strange bedfellows. Although not a boycott enthusiast, I have publicly supported this one as a nonviolent way of leveraging policy change here—because the alternative (business as usual) will be much worse for everyone concerned, longterm.

Clearly, things in Israel and Palestine have gone horribly wrong over the years. There has been heroism, and barbarism, on every side (all exhaustively documented). A vast river of self-righteous rhetoric has flowed under the bridge. None of that has mended what’s wrong here, and the situation is surely not going to fix itself. By rejecting Wallmania and working together, however, we can transform this scenario and get a life for us and our neighbors. The dissidents next door are equally committed. Maybe you’ve seen some of them on TV recently. This is deep change coming, which is why it evokes a backlash. We say: No fear. No more enemies.

Palestinian nonviolence is not new

Did you know that the nonviolent Palestinian independence movement is not new? It is not new but it has been successfully smothered for decades, both by the somewhat discredited romance with “armed struggle” and by Israeli government repression. No longer. As its leaders are jailed, harassed, and even killed, this movement only grows stronger. In recent years, significant segments of Palestinian civil society, including young people, have indeed renounced violence. They have renounced it in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. They have done so sincerely, authentically, publicly, and repeatedly until, right now, there may be more Palestinians than Israelis deeply committed to nonviolent change. And—despite the militants who get all the headlines—the Palestinian people’s commitment to nonviolence seems to be increasing, week by week, while the trend in Israel, sadly, seems to be going the other way.

The world finally seems to be waking up to the fact that justice for Palestinians is an urgent existential necessity—for Palestinians, for Israelis, maybe for the planet.

The Israeli elite (like other entrenched elites hereabouts) is frightened, and that is dangerous. It’s important for people abroad not to demonize ordinary Israelis now, now that the world finally seems to be waking up to the fact that justice for Palestinians is an urgent existential necessity—for Palestinians, for Israelis, maybe for the planet. The Israeli people need your tough love, not your condemnation. The Israeli legislature, seemingly lacking any imaginative scheme for a different and more constructive shared future with the neighbors, is working hard to criminalize domestic dissent here. And the harder it works to do that, the more unequivocally we who dissent are obliged to declare where we stand.

We stand with all our Palestinian and Israeli sisters and brothers who refuse to be enemies. We stand with the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions of compassion. We stand with the peaceful protestors and nonviolent demonstrators and former combatants who have laid down their guns and are risking their lives for a different future, unarmed. We stand with Palestinians in refugee camps and in the diaspora who have waited for two or three generations now, for a chance to come back home. They are people, people like us, and they are homesick. Why do so many Israelis and Jews abroad insist on seeing them as a threat? They are a huge, untapped resource of vibrant human energy waiting to be allowed the chance to contribute to a more beautiful, more egalitarian, and more sustainable community in Israel/Palestine.

The song humanity needs to be singing now, in our region and elsewhere, is called No More Enemies. The history it will celebrate has only just begun to unfold. This is the new Exodus. As it moves us out of the old landscape of enemies and into new and unknown territory, maybe the right troubadour will appear who can find the words and melody for this song, and help us sing it. In harmony.

Deb Reich is a writer and translator in Israel/Palestine and the author of No More Enemies, a new ebook. It is available here. Contact the author at

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This story was published on April 14, 2011.

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