Part 5: Not Seeing the Other

“How do you get to a level where we no longer see others as human beings?” Bassam asks himself this question and then proceeds to answer it. He explains that he got to this point through bitter daily confrontations with Israeli soldiers and settlers, as a result of which he had believed in the total extermination of ‘the other side’. While in the Israeli prison Bassam and his jailers talked to each other "in hatred". Both sides felt the need to eliminate the other until Shimon, a prison guard, approached Bassam in friendship.

They entered into an agreed dialogue about "which one was the settler". The guard eventually agreed with Bassam. This was Bassam's introduction to dialogue which "can change the most extreme mind". Bassam watched Schindler's List in prison and found himself crying at what the Jews suffered in the holocaust. He asked himself whether that was the cause of their anger and aggression.

In a striking counterpoint to Bassam’s revelation of sympathy for the Jews, Itamar, while working at the holocaust museum, questions collective ownership of the holocaust; he says of younger Jews, "It was not our holocaust, but we do connect to the pain of those who endured it; so why can't we connect to the Palestinians' pain and understand their actions - why they are defending themselves, and fighting and killing Israelis."

Jessica Benjamin explores exclusion: ‘rejection of otherness’ and how the wish to erase what is other underlies the concept of evil. The key to moving beyond violence is acknowledging the other and trying to understand why people do what they do. Understanding the other is not just a moral imperative but a privilege and opportunity to feel what it’s like to be a human being, regardless of all our differences.

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