Friend­ly Fire: How Israel Became Its Own Worst Ene­my and the Hope for Its Future

January 13, 2020

In this deeply per­son­al jour­ney of dis­cov­ery, Ami Ayalon seeks input and per­spec­tive from Pales­tini­ans and Israelis whose expe­ri­ences dif­fer from his own. As head of the Shin Bet secu­ri­ty agency, he gained empa­thy for the ene­my” and learned that when Israel car­ries out anti-ter­ror­ist oper­a­tions in a polit­i­cal con­text of hope­less­ness, the Pales­tin­ian pub­lic will sup­port vio­lence, because they have noth­ing to lose. Research­ing and writ­ing Friend­ly Fire, he came to under­stand that his patri­ot­ic life had blind­ed him to the self-defeat­ing nature of poli­cies that have under­mined Israel’s civ­il soci­ety while heap­ing humil­i­a­tion upon its Pales­tin­ian neigh­bors. If Israel becomes an Orwellian dystopia,” Ayalon writes, it won’t be thanks to a hand­ful of the­olo­gians drag­ging us into the dark past. The sec­u­lar major­i­ty will lead us there moti­vat­ed by fear and pro­pelled by silence.” Ayalon is a real­ist, not an ide­al­ist, and many who con­sid­er them­selves Zion­ists will regard as rad­i­cal his con­clu­sions about what Israel must do to achieve rel­a­tive peace and secu­ri­ty and to sus­tain itself as a Jew­ish home­land and a lib­er­al democracy.

Discussion Questions

How did Ami Ayalon, a life­long Zion­ist who was for­mer head of Shin Bet and com­man­der of Israel’s navy, trans­form from hawk to dove? Empa­thy. Ayalon real­ized that ter­ror is inevitable when there is noth­ing to lose, that peace is pos­si­ble only after trust is estab­lished, and that refram­ing the Pales­tin­ian debate requires com­pas­sion for a peo­ple who, like the Jews, have long been viewed dis­mis­sive­ly as the oth­er.” For the past two decades, Ayalon has devot­ed him­self to a two-state out­come. In 2002, with the Pales­tin­ian activist Sari Nus­seibeh, he estab­lished the People’s Voice peace ini­tia­tive in an effort to forge a new way for­ward to end the occu­pa­tion. This impor­tant book exam­ines the dom­i­nant nar­ra­tives at work in Pales­tin­ian and Israeli views of the ori­gins and course of their con­flict. By reimag­in­ing” the past, Ayalon posits a peace­ful future.