We'll call her Naima (though she anglicizes her name). She's my daughter's pen pal of sorts. They met on a LiveJournal Web site and soon featured on each other's "friends" lists.
Naima grew up in the US and was brought back to Jordan by her folks a year ago. Her dad is quite wealthy, and the family resides in a posh Amman suburb. Naima is the quintessential antithesis to a Muslim fundamentalist. A young adult, she's hardly religious, fanatic only about soccer, a confirmed feminist and an outspoken supporter of gay rights. Naima loves horror movies, watches Japanese anime, reads English-language best-sellers, listens to American heavy metal, struts about in oversized rapper jeans and Goth T-shirts, wears her hair short and in stylish spikes. She hates studying and is partial to off-color expressions.
She's very hi-tech, is into the latest computer gadgetry and downloads pirated software.
She told my daughter that she had crossed our border for "fun days" at Israeli tourist attractions. There's nothing reactionary or seemingly sinister about her. She sounds and looks like a citizen-of-the-world, indistinguishable from her age-group peers anywhere in the West. She's everything Shimon Peres could envision as enlightened denizens of his "New Middle East." Indeed, hopes for peace are pinned on young Arabs like Naima.
That's why those among us who keep harping on the "need for dialogue" and incessantly stress that present hostilities "must be superseded by a round of meaningful negotiations" - by yet another quest for that elusive something at the end of the rainbow - should consider Naima a very relevant touchstone. Precisely the fact that she appears to be the live-and-let-live poster child makes what she wrote my daughter - with whom she had struck up a close and warm correspondence - particularly significant and doubly spine-chilling.
AS THE first shells started raining on northern Israel last July, Naima advised my daughter to "stay safe." But a few sentences afterwards she added: "I'm a full supporter of Hizbullah. I don't consider them to be terrorists. I believe all Israelis involved in this war and in this conflict are terrorists."
Months elapsed before Naima elaborated: "Yes, I understand that a few Arabs had bombed Israel and sacrificed themselves for their cause, killing some women and children, which is why people call them terrorists, but nobody looks at what's happening to the other side: massive killings, children shot, squished to death by their own houses crumbling on top of them after your bombings. What you are doing to the Arabs is what the Nazis did to Jews. If I look up the definition of 'terrorist,' it should say 'Israel.'"
My daughter wrote back: "Israelis don't want to fight but to be left alone. That's why Israelis ceded territory unilaterally in both Gaza and Lebanon - in order not to be called occupiers and to be left alone. The trouble is that the Arabs won't let us alone. They invade our side of the border - even after we withdraw.
"They don't want us to BE - this is the source of conflict. It isn't so-called 'occupation,' but the very existence of a Jewish state. Our BEING is anathema to them. Borders don't matter. This conflict isn't about Palestinian self-determination (otherwise a Palestinian state would have been founded between 1948-67.) It's about destroying Jewish self-determination."
She concluded by expressing the hope that Naima feels "compassion also for Israeli children - many more than just a few - premeditatedly murdered by those 'self-sacrificing' human guided missiles."
Naima rose to the challenge and admitted candidly that "yes the problem really is the very existence of a Jewish state. You are living on land that isn't yours to begin with.
"You acquired it the way Americans did: kill and banish everybody living on it. It's not as if the land was a desert that you made into your state. You killed just enough Arabs and expelled the rest so you can live comfortably. Jews got greedy, ordered Arabs to piss off and killed whoever didn't want to move. How can you expect Arabs to leave you alone?... Israel isn't a state. It isn't a country. It's just miles and miles of occupied land. All Israel is doing currently is trying to get more land.
"Do I feel sorry for children who're dying in Israel? Yes - because their parents are content to live in a land that isn't theirs. Israelis are acting like Nazis, killing off people just because they are Arabs. Israel is the true terrorist."
My daughter replied that "Arabs should be wary of castigating Jews as Nazis - not only because it's a cynical lie - but because the Arabs were Hitler's enthusiastic collaborators under Haj Amin el-Husseini."
She argued that "seeking Israel's destruction is attempted genocide by another name"; that "it's illogical to accuse Israel of plotting conquest when it had just voluntarily given up land"; that "Arabs were those who attacked newborn Israel and became displaced in a war of aggression they launched in order to displace Jews."
She acquainted Naima with "the old Jewish joke about the boy who slays his mother and father but then pleads for mercy because he's a poor, pitiful orphan."
Most of all, she protested "the implication that Arabs have the right to murder Jewish children if their parents live in Israel."
Naima never responded. She simply removed her Israeli cyber-pal from her contacts list. Thus ended what promised to be a beautiful friendship.
My daughter was left stunned that someone as cosmopolitan as Naima "equates justice with either our death or disappearance. What then can be expected of less moderate Arabs? What's left to negotiate other than the terms of our termination?"