|Directed by:||Bernard Dufourg; Francois Rabatth||Rating:||TV-14|
|Release Date:||2004||Running Time:||60 mins|
|More Info:||Wikipidia on Amnon Lipkin-Shahak (former Israel Defense Chief)||Category:||Israel|
A behind-the-scenes look at Israel’s secret diplomacy, My Dearest Enemy shares the much-anticipated meeting between powerful leaders of opposing camps, Israeli Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and Palestinian Hani El Hassan.
“We kill Palestinians. They kill us,” retired Israeli military officer Amnon says, “I was fighting terrorism, and terrorism for me was Palestinian terrorists.”
My Dearest Enemy follows a heated conference between two men who have the power to instigate change. Amnon was the chief-of-staff of Israel’s military, and Hani was one of Yasser Arafat’s right-hand men. The filmmakers worked exhaustingly to organize this unofficial meeting between two powerful people who have more in common than might be expected.
“We’ve worked on this handshake for more than a year,” the filmmaker says as Amnon enters the room and greets Hani. This is the first time that the two leaders have met face to face, but it’s not the first time they’ve come in contact with each other. In 1968, Amnon lead an Israeli offensive that faced Palestinian guerilla soldiers lead by Hani, and in 1973 both men were in Beirut during Israel’s raid on Lebanon. Now, instead of interacting from behind guns, the two sit comfortably in an air-conditioned room, talking over finely prepared meals and red wine.
But in order to discuss the future, they must first address the past, and they don’t see eye to eye on that either. Israel’s 1973 raid on Lebanon after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics is one of many events in history that the two men understand differently. Amnon believed Israel was taking just revenge on the leaders of the PLO ’s violent Black September wing, who were known to be involved in the massacre. Hani, on the other hand, argues that Israel was simply carrying out a reprisal at America’s behest.
Instead of staying fixed in the conference room, My Dearest Enemy offers a glimpse into Amnon and Hani’s personal lives to expose the roots of their political beliefs. Breaking from his discussions with Amnon, Hani goes to visit his childhood home in Haifa, which has now become the holy site of Elija’s tomb. The day trip stirs up resentment and frustration in Hani, who is forced to remember his bitter, violent departure from the home that had been the peaceful sanctuary of his youth. Walking beside the stone walls, he remembers how Israeli Haganah soldiers spoke disrespectfully to his mother and abused him before forcing the family to leave their home. “Amnon always talks of trust,” Hani says, “but how can I trust someone who stole my land and who takes a little bit more of it every day?”
The conversations between Amnon and Hani are antagonistic, but it slowly becomes clear that they’re both fighting for the same thing—peace, which they both agree will come through compromise and the establishment of a Palestinian state. “My son, my children will build this state,” Hani says. And Amnon shares in his hope.
My Dearest Enemy recognizes that political diplomacy can be as dangerous as warfare in the trenches, and these two men both posses a bravery that’s unfazed in either arena. When Amnon is asked if following in Yitzhak Rabin’s footsteps as an Israeli politician willing to negotiating for peace makes him fear for his safety, his response is composed and confident: radicals have already put explosives under his house, he confides, saying, “I was not afraid then. I am not afraid now. I am afraid of the fact that people are still getting killed.” Amnon has put aside his own worries for the sake of future generations.
At the end of the meeting an ominous weight has lifted and the two seem full of hope as they relax into casual banter — that has profound resonance. “Do you know who has the best cooperation now – now, during the Intifada – between Israelis and Palestinians?” Amnon asks Hani. “Criminals. They work together perfectly,” Hani laughs. But Amnon keeps a straight face because the lawbreakers’ example proves a serious point – peace can be achieved. Israelis and Palestinians can get along.