Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Here is the complete review of Deb Reich's NO MORE ENEMIES, JRK

A review of Deborah Reich’s NO MORE ENEMIES, available from Amazon.com
John R. Kleinheksel (www.friendsofpalestiniansandisraelis.blogspot.com)
Our culture is more and more polarized. We accuse “others” of our woes, unable to see “the enemy” is we. One of the key issues of our time is how to build bridges to “others” instead of walls. How will be refuse to treat persons as “enemies”, turning them into partners? It's true in other cultures. It's true in Israel/Palestine.

With characteristic clarity, Martin Marty skewers the chattering class in re the Anders Breivik massacre in Norway. The world jumped to the conclusion that a Muslim extremist must have done it. O no, wait, he was a Christian extremist! “No, this is not one of us”. Left untended, we demonize Muslims or Christians, or Jews, and keep them at arm’s length, to isolate or even eliminate them. He concludes his “Sightings” column for August 1, 2011 with this illuminating paragraph:
The back-and-forth polemics continues. To what point? Each “side” finds it important and urgent to use a broad brush to paint the “other” most monstrously, in order to deflect criticism from themselves and to assure themselves of their own virtue. That obscures what should be a clear-eyed critique of “self-and-other” among all when clarity is so important. The instant and inaccurate portrayal of “the other” makes the self look good in his or her own eyes. It does not provide the accurate data about. . .the people we need to understand more than we need to fire people up, motivated by Islamophobia and Christianophobia, neither of which needs more heat in our flammable or inflammable world.

I’ve discovered a working mom in Israel, who is determined to do something about it. Somehow (perhaps through Sam Bahour), Deb Reich got on my FPI list (Friends of Palestinians and Israelis) and offered to send me a copy of her recently published book, NO MORE ENEMIES (NME). I’ve read it and recommend it to all persons seeking to advance Israeli/Palestinian reconciliation efforts. She refuses to be anybody’s “enemy”.

Born in Manhattan, educated at Barnard College, Ms Reich is a single Israeli mom, raising two children in Karkur, a small town near the Mediterranean coast. With single-minded determination, she is working to reconcile Israelis and Palestinians Arabs by building lasting friendships with “the enemy”, making them “partners” instead of adversaries. And she’s networking with scores of individuals and groups seeking to transcend literal and relational barriers.

There are four parts to her 383 page book. Part I seeks to explain NME, that “the very notion of enemies is obsolete” (p. 3). In Part II, she seeks to apply her vision to Israelis and Palestinians, giving many “stories” (Part III) of how to “live behind enemy lines”, drawn from her own experiences with friends, neighbors and colleagues between 1981 (when she moved to Israel) and 2010.

Throughout the book, she hammers home her thesis that “the enemies paradigm simply does not promote good solutions. The ‘other group’ is the partner you need in order to fix what’s broken” (p. 212). Part IV gives a smorgasbord of practical suggestions of actions to take, websites to visit, and agencies and entities that are working toward the NME paradigm. She advocates creating a literal “Toolbox” with items/objects to remind us of the many ways we can address “the other”. It is an invitation to a “transformation process” that has taken her “40 years to figure out” (p. 268).

As a fair-minded Christian I truly admire Deb Reich’s wholehearted commitment to “liberate the latent cooperation bound up in dysfunctional relationships [with] ‘enemies’” (p. 271). She knows it takes “energy”, the energy latent in each of us, to get this done (Christians would say it comes from the “one” who helps us love our enemies like he did!) She also knows it is we who are often our own worst enemies. It is we who need transformation.

Here is a typical brilliant flash of insight that sparkles throughout the book:
If you take part in systematically oppressing or disenfranchising or discounting a whole group of people over a long time, you are not merely depriving them unfairly of . . .basic human rights, you are also binding up their vital, mysterious human energy (and much of your own) in a sterile and ugly cycle of joint struggle, suffering and death (p. 270.)

I want my readers to be introduced to just a few of the websites Ms Reich has suggested, as windows into groups that are contributing to turning enemies into partners.

Women Organization for Political Prisoners: www.wofpp.org This is a group of women united in their opposition to the Israeli occupation. They wish to support (listed) women political prisoners incarcerated for opposing the occupation.

The Madaa Community Center in Silwan: www.madaasilwan.org is a Palestinians community center established in 2007. Silwan is just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, occupied by Israel. They are using nonviolent techniques in the struggle to avoid displacement. They are promoting dialogue and training youth for leadership.

Artsbridge Institute: www.artsbridgeinstitute.org Artsbridge creates a safe space for shared self-revelation while staying with the language of empathy, curiosity and compassion. It was used productively at Wahat al Salam – Neve Shalom, near Jerusalem in 2010.

Compassionate Listening: www.compassionatelistening.org teaches listening skills to create powerful cultures of peace. Their next delegation to Israel/Pal is March 18-28, 2012.

School for Peace: www.nswas.org Ms Reich has translated their Israeli/Palestinian Identities in Dialogue: The School for Peace Approach, available from their website.
Rabbis for Human Rights: www.rhr.org.il The lead article by Rab Yishai Ron, alone is worth a visit to this site.

Israeli Committee Against House Demolition: www.icahdusa.org Born in the USA, Jeff Halper has long sought to advance a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians based on coexistence and human rights. He patiently, persistently works for an end to the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

When I asked her where she got this deep desire to turn enemies into partners, she referred me to a column she wrote in 2002 to explain it:
Up Xenophilia
Nearly everyone’s heard of xenophobia (fear and loathing of foreigners and their strange ways), but what about its obverse -- xenophilia? I checked an unabridged dictionary, and there it was. Xenophile: someone attracted to things and people strange and foreign… as this columnist has always been.
Well, maybe not always; is it genetic, or learned? To teach us world history, my 4th grade teacher, Miss Ladd, organized a creative multinational food fair -- way to go, Miss Ladd! Every kid in the class chose a country, and the moms pitched in to help (dads didn’t cook yet in 1957). One fine day we must all have gathered in the classroom and eaten our merry way around the globe, though uncharacteristically I have no memory of the repast, or even of my family’s contribution. Still, my xenophilous tendencies seem to have crystallized by the 4th grade.
Xenophilia isn’t an intrinsically Jewish impulse, maybe; but it’s not a sin, either. Most people are evidently happiest sticking with their own kind, without a fuss. Relatively few seem to find foreign ways either irresistibly fascinating or intolerably threatening. Alas, the Philes tend to become anthropologists and the Phobes, politicians. Pick any nation: With its xenophiles safely shipped off to some aboriginal hinterland or busy in academe, the xenophobes in government get busy rallying the masses to make war on the neighbors (and the neighbors likewise, of course). Maybe we need a Society for the Promotion of Xenophilia in Government (unless what passes for our legislature has already made it illegal).
“That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of nations, is as shocking as it is true,” wrote Thomas Paine in 1792; “but when those… in the government… make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between nations, it becomes the more unpardonable.” Well said, old boy.

Deb Reich is a courageous Israeli mother, consistently working in her homeland for an end to seeing “the other” as an “enemy”. She is not alone. The cascade of voices, the pounding of feet, the working hands and open arms are increasing, some day to transform the lives and landscape of the present “unholy” land. Dear lady, may your anti-tribal tribe increase!

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