Not Just a Friend: One Palestinian's View of Israeli Activist Jonathan Pollak

12/29/2010 04:12 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I know that power - with all the authority, physical comfort, and quality of life it brings - strongly pushes a person into a world of material possessions, and people and things that stimulate their senses. Gradually, they start to protect this material paradise with walls to defend it from threats and keep from it anything that may unsettle life inside. As the blessings in that paradise increase, the walls around it multiply to the same degree.

Only great willpower and moral strength can enable a person to get to know those that live outside these walls, engage with their concerns and wounds, and even struggle for them. As a person embellishes their life in their paradise, the human and moral effort required to live the struggles of others increases. As I began to recognize this truth as someone who lives outside the walls, my understanding and respect grew for those who have been able to break through the walls of their paradise, for those who leave it and come towards me in solidarity to live my concerns and wounds, as a people who live under the oppression of occupation, lacking freedom and justice.

On December 27, prominent Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak was sentenced to three months in an Israeli jail for protesting the occupation. Jonathan's upcoming imprisonment highlights two little-known stories - the support of some Israeli activists for our growing movement of Palestinian-led unarmed civilian protests, and the Israeli government's effort to crush our joint struggle against the Israeli occupation. Over the last eight years, Jonathan has participated in hundreds of Palestinian-led protests in the West Bank against Israel's military occupation. Along with other Israelis and internationals, he participated in our successful protest campaign in my West Bank village of Budrus in 2003-2004, that pushed Israel to reroute its wall and saved our farmland.

Jonathan Pollak is a great man - as great as the material temptations that the paradise of his nation affords him, in which his skills as a graphic designer would allow him to live in safety and unimaginable affluence. He is as great as the human and moral effort he exerted to know the other, to understand them, and struggle on behalf of the other for their freedom. His greatness is also the more for its rarity. He may not be the only one who stands at the borders of his moral and humanistic principles, but he remains, along with his many colleagues, part of a small group in their society. Their unusual status increases the magnitude of their struggle for justice, freedom and true peace.

Jonathan Pollak, the Israeli, and his Israeli colleagues, possess the same human qualities, and believe exactly as I do as a Palestinian, and as does every Palestinian like myself. We believe that freedom, peace and justice are human rights that do not distinguish between one individual and another, wherever they are, whatever their color, ethnicity, religion or gender. We also believe that these rights must be seized by the oppressed from the oppressor and are not given as a gift. They also believe as we do, that the struggle for these rights is the duty of all in the world who are free and all who believe in freedom, and not just the duty of the oppressed. We also believe that this struggle has a price that we all must be willing to pay.

Jonathan Pollak is a friend whose friendship I am proud to share, despite all the efforts of the Israeli intelligence services that tries to depict the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis as either one of treachery or normalization based on our adoption of the notion that Israelis have the right to superiority over us in their daily lives and that we must get used to this or live as servants or traitors. Israeli intelligence tries to distort the image of any Palestinian-Israeli relationship based on joint resistance to occupation, an occupation that is the root of our problems in the region. We want to reach a point where there is no such occupation, and rather relations based on justice and true peace between equals, and not a peace between a slave and master.

I, a Palestinian, admit now that my friendships within Palestinian society are not all based on resistance to the occupation, but I wouldn't dare to build a friendship with an Israeli outside of resistance to the occupation, because of how the occupation distorts the meanings of human relationships, and because dignity would not allow me to have a relationship with someone who feels superior to me because of their power, gender, religion or ethnicity.

Jonathan Pollak is a man trying to prove that those who believe in occupation cannot claim to be humanitarian or civilized. He also wants to prove that resisting oppression and occupation does not mean being a terrorist or killing.

This freedom fighter, Jonathan Pollak, leaves a prison cell only to be sentenced again by the Israeli occupation authorities, and recovers from one of his solidarity demonstrations only to be injured again in the next one. We can't let his work be lost without our appreciation because we lack confidence in ourselves or in our relationships of joint struggle. Palestinians should be proud to give him the name "freedom fighter" against oppression, occupation and racism.

We have all the respect in the world for this freedom fighter and for all his colleagues from all parts of the world, from over forty countries. They left the temptations of life where they are from, and left their families and friends to join our struggle for humanity on this planet, choosing the path of those who sacrificed themselves for freedom in Palestine. International activists like the American Rachel Corrie and the British citizen Tom Hurndall, both killed by Israeli soldiers, are honored like Palestinians who died, and similarly Jonathan Pollak and his imprisoned Israeli colleagues are a part of the movement of imprisoned Palestinians.

We will struggle until we achieve freedom, and a just peace.

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