My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: XVI. Friendship and Politics
Deviations from the Norm and Social Support
I will focus now on what happened in my social environment; a development that took me by surprise. I shared the story of the incident with my closer circles of friends and found that it united opinions and affected my relationships. Reactions were dependent on the attribution of the cause of the event as either internal (dispositional) or external (situational) (Heider, 1958). In other words, locus of control over the event played an important role in the evaluation of the situation (Rotter, 1975). My Palestinian friends perceived the situation as something beyond my control (external locus of control) and did not consider the event something exceptional. Arrests are part of life for Palestinian Bedouin men, and I got the impression that few were never arrested. In contrast, most of my Israeli friends perceived the situation as one that I had invited (internal locus of control). Suddenly, it was possible to discern the collectivistic views of my Israeli friends. I had broken “their rules”.
The tense situation between Israelis and Palestinians creates a great deal of mistrust. More than a few of my acquaintances would admit to the notion that Arabs are not to be trusted. Many of my Jewish friends were concerned about my actions and me; some of them expressing mistrust toward Palestinians in more subtle ways. Some of these friends condemned my behavior and some even considered the incident a rightful punishment of my behavior. They hoped it taught me a lesson of being more careful, and choosing my friends among Jews. They pointed at the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict and could not appreciate my friendship with a Palestinian, which in their view was too dangerous. Furthermore, as one Jewish friend said, she felt that in some way I am being (ab)used by Bashar. As a result, neither my Palestinian friends, nor most of my Jewish friends were particularly supportive, but for different reasons. In fact, my continuing involvement in the friendship with Bashar even after this incident put strain on and changed the relationships with some of my best Jewish friends. It needs to be noted that Bashar experienced pressure on him for befriending a Jewish Israeli as well, but to a lower degree. He explained that Bedouins, being a nomadic people, do not so much identify nationally. They would judge a person by other measures than his nationality, like by his personality.