We were supposed to do a tour in Jericho today but it was cancelled. What was interesting to me telling other Israeli Jews where we were going is that many wanted to come, some did not but all said the same things: “But it’s not safe”. Most Israelis (unless they travel in the West Bank) assume that anywhere Arab is not safe for Jews. This is not a debate about the why (Israelis hear Palestinian violence or threats towards Jews daily for 100 years) or if this is fair or comparable (Palestinians also fear Israeli soldiers/it is a minority who commit violence).
My question is that if there are two peoples living on this land and we have to find a way to live together somehow- how can this be done when we are so cut off from one another and violence keeps us away from even trying to get to know each other? How do we change the mantra of ‘Arabs are violent’ or ‘Israelis are violent’?
People can talk about suffering, but Palestinians have been suffering continuously for 80 years or more. Many Israelis and some American Jews think the harm they visit upon Palestinians is normal because they decide to interpret international law to say that West Bank land is disputed, so they can demolish our homes, take land our families have paid for in the name of such claims as the land being disputed. There is no humanity from the actions of Israel towards our people. I am not talking about the Jews in Israel who show us they care for the suffering of our people, our people who are often boxed into areas, who deal with terrorism from vigilante settlers in price tag actions. I am definitely honored when I see Jewish Israelis beating drums, calling for an end to the occupation, reaching their arms to Palestinians. We have suffered since at least 1918 due to Western imperialism and then Israeli colonialism. What of the men who died for nothing for the lies of England? When will justice visit Palestine?
There is Arab violence, but when it comes to violence we are more on the receiving end,
but we often hear that if Arabs put down their weapons there will be peace, if Israelis do it they will be destroyed. When we don't fight settlements still get built, so when will the Israelis who have said they want peace with us demand an end of this subjugation?
It may sound unreasonable to ask that, but I grow tired of people who say that it is okay that Arabs from the West Bank can't buy land in Haifa, but when people say Israelis shouldn't buy land in the West Bank we hear it's racism. There needs to be a humanist, humane interaction. People need to stand up for what is right.
The only thing that I would amend would be "There is Arab violence, but when it comes to violence we are more on the receiving end [and add] in the context of what has happened in the last 60 years within Israel and Palestine]".
The counter response to your original response might be be what about the violence impacted on the Jewish community in Europe given the Shoah and the pogroms in Eastern Europe, etc? Responses such as what about Palestinian terrorism? Whilst political terrorism is a serious concern and causes the tragic loss of life, it needs to be considered in light of the profound impact of State terrorism. When State's exercise violence to control a population, there is vastly greater impacts on the life and death of people than individual terrorist actions. The classic example of state terror is the Israeli campaign in Gaza in 2008-09, that led to the deaths of 1400 people with tens of thousands injured. The argument that 30 people killed by rocket attacks in 8 years is justification for such violence loses its moral weight if the end result of what that war is considered and if consideration is to given to underlying reasons for Palestinian resistance in the first place ie the failure over the past 60+ years for a just resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The counter response to what I have written would say what about the Arab Jewish refugees from 'Arab lands' post creation of Israel. My response to this is, agreed, Arab nations should have protected religious minorities within their communities. However, Basil's point (to me) is focused on the violence occurring between Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis. Certainly, when limited to that context, the level of violence perpetuated against Palestinians by the state of Israel (and its predecessor) has been far greater.
There is Arab violence, and there is Jewish violence. Do Israelis have to prove they are not violent and persuade Arabs that they are not, though Arabs lose 100 Arabs to 1 to Israeli? No. The expectation is to talk in North American circles of Arab violence. It is not accepted discourse to speak of Jewish violence. That would be deemed prejudiced, I think. Terrorism is often mentioned. Palestinians are told they should stop their terrorism while state sanction violence by Israel against Israeli bedouins or the West Bank is fine because Israel determines what is moral and what is immoral not the international court. It's kind of tyrannical in terms of thinking.
When in Israel, I reside in the village of Tekoa, nestled amongst other villages, both Arab and Jewish. We do not enter Arab villages for fear of our safety. Arabs who work on construction in our villages must be under the security of a Jew carrying a weapon. This is how it is. It is nearly impossible to form acquaintanceship much less friendships. It is very disturbing.
There are workplaces in Gush Etzion and in other areas of Judea and Samaria where Jews and Arabs work together. Rahmy-Levy's is an inspiration as both Jews and Arabs are supervisors. All of the safety precautions, the security wand at the entrance, exist, of course. There are also other sites where Jews and Arabs work together in harmony (Jewish owned businesses and production plants) including the lovely nursery not far from Rahmy-Levy's. Looking into these situations a little deeper, one must understand that the Arab people of the Westbank differ extremely. They are made up of vast family units (clans); some of them have no gripe against Jews and even welcome them as their own source of incomes have risen significantly as a result. Other factions are anti-Jewish in the extreme and harbour considerable ideological hatred. So it depends on which villages (families) you are talking about. Islamic education in the Westbank often destroys any chance of harmonious relations by portraying Jews as "monkeys", as a people who steal and thirst for the blood of its neighbours. This even occurs in UN schools. So the problem is deeply inbred. On the Jewish side, the trust factor is imminent. Even if we were to change the discourse, it would take at least one generation to note any significant change.
Your post is missing many things, and you omit many things. You omit the fact that many Palestinian land owners in the West Bank have had their lands seized by the Israeli Defense Forces, and, in turn, Israel placed Israeli Jewish colonists there in violation of the Geneva Convention because one is not supposed to put one’s citizenry in occupied territories. Even if Israel’s supporters seek to say the land is disputed, it wouldn’t justify placing colonists there and seizing privately owned land. This is, indeed, theft, and Muslim and Christian Palestinians have been victims of that theft. Thus, it’s not about Muslims teaching that Jewish Israelis stole their land. This is what Gush Shalom, a Jewish organization has also stated. This is what the U.N. has stated. This is what many American Jews have stated. Did Muslim imams brainwash Palestinian Christians, Jewish Israeli human rights activists, and American Jews? It’s impossible. You’re trying to use the race card and stated that the occupied, dispossessed people are primitive. South Africa’s white rightists tried to insist that the blacks were primitive. Before one speaking of in-grained bigotry, the thinking that it’s acceptable to grab the lands of Palestinian land-owners is ipso-facto in itself racist, so it negates talking with any credibility about the Palestinians being racist. And talking about Palestinians who have had dealings with settlers making money is kind of laughable as talking about black people in the US in the South making more money by working with the white boss man who controlled him. Israel controls the Palestinians. You don’t get it, do you? Yes, Muslim clerics in some cases preach bigotry, but so do many Jewish clerics and leaders in all organized religions. It’s not unique to the Palestinian Muslim clerics. If Jews were treated like the Palestinians, what would you say? Would you be defending the behavior of the Palestinians? No. My post in no way seeks to judge all settlers, to say there aren’t good and bad settlers and Palestinians, and that Jews and Palestinians should live in peace, but acting as if no land thefts occurred is factually incorrect, and acting as if the Palestinian violence has nothing to do with what Israel has sown in the hearts of the people due to unjust actions is not grounded in reality. Israel is a state that tries to push out Muslims and Christians out of East Jerusalem to have less and less of a non-Jewish presence. Anyone in the world can tell you that's racist.
Hey Corey, I just stumbled on your post. I haven't been visiting MEpeace much lately, and I really enjoyed reading the debate you instigated. Your first exchange with Stewart Mills and Basil Keilani has put forward very interesting ideas that should maybe be discussed further.
After reading these exchanges, my mind has been racing with the themes the three of you touched on: Perception (of Self, Other and Threats), Identity politics, Fear, Violence, Contact hypothesis...
Did you finally visit Jericho?
HI JC. Great to hear from you and to keep the discussion going. The point of my posting was to first allow non-Israelis to know something about Israelis and to generate thoughtful discussion. From personal experience (and writing my thesis on the subject), the contact hypothesis does not tend to work and other factors take over (collective identities, pride, culture, etc.).
No, the Jericho visit never happened. The tour company to bring Israelis to Palestinian towns is not currently running- there was a lot of Israeli interest but the complications with getting Israeli army and Palestinian police permissions (based on the threat of violence), kept delaying the trips until I assume they got tired of trying. I personally visit Palestinian towns but I do so at my own legal and physical risk. Nothing major has happened but I do have to pretend I am not Israeli when going back into Israel (It is not legal for Jewish Israelis to visit some Palestinian areas) and I got caught on the Palestinian side of rock throwing riots between Palestinians and the Israeli army. Always interesting here :)
Hi Corey it would be interesting for you to explain a little further your critique of the contact hypothesis.
Anecdotally it would seem to be an important tool in confronting prejudice.
If we consider prejudice of people towards whatever collective group - white, black, green, blue, homosexual, heterosexual, religious, atheist, man, woman, transexual, intersex etc.
It would appear logical that some personal exposure (ie contact) to members of that community or exposure indirectly through a trusted source (eg friend, family member, teacher).
I am sure my own prejudices have been challenged by a combination of personal exposure (contact) and discussion with trusted persons.
My own thesis looked at the role of empathy in helping transform conflict (or breakdown prejudices). The question is how to build empathy for another? Surely some contact - either directly or indirectly that affirms a positive view of the group in question is a start in such a process of seeing conflict through another persons eyes.
Hi Stewart. I was away for the last 2 weeks with limited internet access so I apologize for the late reply.
Allport`s Contact Hypothesis states that groups in conflict can come together to discuss their differences when certain criteria are present within the group: participants from the groups are equal in status, when there is personal and sustained interactions between individuals from both groups, when there exists some form of cooperative interdependence whereby both groups work towards a common goal, and there is consensus among the relevant authorities on social norms favouring equality.
In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is a power assymetry between the two groups, having sustained interactions is very difficult for social and physical reasons, the two groups have disparate and competing goals (peace means something different to each group), and there is no consensus with those who do have power (politicians, leaders, etc.) on any issue including simple equality.
In my research on past encounter groups involving Israelis and Palestinians, the goals of the Contact Hypothesis in this context are creating a positive change in attitude, weakening of stereotypes towards the other group, reducing tensions, changing perceptions, attitudes, and feelings, reducing prejudices, promoting co-existence and tolerance, reducing violence, learning about one another in the hopes of finding solutions to the conflict, increasing belief in peace, increasing the ability to see the other side’s perspective, creating greater willingness for contact with the other group, strengthening co-existence through closeness, commonalities, and cooperation, and correcting power imbalances between the groups.
The problem is, that since each group has such differing goals politically (each wants to have control) and differing goals to come to the encounter (Israelis want to get to know the Palestianians without having to change, Palestinians want to change the structure of relations to their advantage), all the literature pointed to dynmaics of competing victimhoods, competing narratives, argument and lack of listening with little long term change occuring. The little research which was done on impacts points to short term changes in humanizing the `òther` which quickly dissolves once they return to their communities where they risk social ostracism showing empathy to the enemy and the impact of the beliefs and media replace the positive gains in perspective they gained. However, research does show that once the same participants are brought back together with the other group, the change in views occurs much more quickly.
I think the Encounter Hypothesis is a terrific tool once there is a stablization in the power symmetry and there are at least some shared goals. In situations like Israel-Palestine, it is better than the alternative of seperation, but it is not very successful.
The second part of my thesis was exactly as you stated: how to create empathy for the other- or how to have someone put themselves in the others' shoes. I proposed using conflict theories to show that these dynamics are predictable and natural and then ask participants to suspend their own beliefs for a moment to understand the other. It would require very strict and strong facilitators to do this and no guarantee that it would work but I had no better ideas.
It would be good to upload your thesis when you get a chance. Or at least some other sections from it. Sounds really interesting (and disparaging at the same time)!