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