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’?

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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.     

"Muslim clerics in some cases preach bigotry"?  Come on, Basil, the whole Mideast is full of Islamic bigotry towards Jews, Christians and, actually, towards one another (Sunni-Shia).  Does the incredible amount of terror in these lands not mean anything to you?  Terror and hatred is instilled in the mosques, the families and in the schools.  Those who reject peace and instill terror are used as models, the streets and town squares, by illustration, named after them.  The Koran itself makes no hesitation about how Muslims should view Jews and Christians, as the sons and daughters of apes and monkeys (pejorative in the extreme).  You are being wholly disingenuous and your comparison of the teachings of Muslim clerics to the clerics of other religions does not hold water.  How can we have a discussion about "peace" when you simply won't affirm what is totally obvious.  As to the term "Jewish colonizers", as if Jews do not have a right to the land which was in their name several millenia before there was such an entity as "Arabs", "Muslims" or "Palestinians", that's another myth of recent creation.  In fact, Jews in the late nneteenth and early twentieth century bought land, the worst land, farmed it, both deset and swamp, and, as they became increasingly successful, people from Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Kurdistan and Greece, etc., moved in thanks to the openness of the Ottoman Empire which considered this a backwater region.  Many were either converts to Islam or Muslims to begin with.  There was no state called Palestine nor was there ever any mention of this notion until Al-Husseini became Haj.  Upon returning from Germany, where he spent the war years as a personal guest of Hitler's, he spurred on the notion of a region entirely composed of adherents to Islam.  As to those "Palestinian" Arabs who left the land of what would become the new state of Israel, or what is referred to as the Nakbah, the situation is not easily described in a few short sentences.  Even before the Israeli War of Independence, a huge number of what were then termed Arabs left the region following their leaders, the professional, administrative and business classes, the farmers and small tradespeople stampeding after them.  In fact, they were told to leave by governments of the invading militaries (see "Stand for Us") with a promise to return once the "Jews were wiped out" in which case they would regain not only their own properties as well as the Jewish ones.  Jewish administrators even went into Arab villages to plead with Arabs to stay put; this especially occurred in the Haifa/Acre areas.  Recognizing what they thought would happen to them should the Jews prove victorious, they feared Jewish cruelty.  In fact, such cruelty never occurred but they knew what would happen to Jews should their own kind have won.  We can only look to the 1929 atrocities of Hebron to get a picture of Arab cruelty.  In some cases, Palestinian Arabs were removed from their villages for strategic purposes, however.  This is the consequence of war.  The war, of course, was brought on by Israel's Arab neighbours and has been ever since.  Thanks to UNHRC, the refugee problem has remained, a good way for Arab governments to receive funding, to employ their own people (95% of the employees are Arabs) and to continue to benefit by directing injustices in their own regimes towards Jews.  The fact that there are even "cmaps" (now small towns) even existing in the Westbank and Gaza should tell you something about the refusal of Arab people to have mercy upon their own people, to keep the refugee problem open, a giant sore with no concern about the injuries to these people.  One of the problems existing is the refusal of people like you, a child of a refugee, from recognizing that the very existence of refugees is an Arab problem, not an Israeli one.  One more item, Basis:  900,000 Jews from the Mideast and North Africa were dispossessed after the Arab onslaught on the Jewish people in 1948.  They left without any property whatsoever yet they had lived in the lands of Islam for centuries.  Removed and dispossessed, within ten (very torturous) years, they were integrated within the body politic of Israel.  As Golda Meir said, "We were almost too successful" meaning that we could not point to our refugees as an indication of Islamic injustice.  When I read the notions of MEPeace discussed, I realize that the arguments against the nation of Israel mirror the same arguments one can read in much of the media elsewhere, i.e., uniformed and directed towards the nation of Israel but really hatred of Jewish people.  If you really want "peace" (I've not yet read of any genune attempt on MEPeace) then you have to start by taking repsonsibility for the injustices of your own people, stop repeating propaganda, actually educate yourself and become honest about the real state of things as opposed to sophisticatedly using Israel as your whipping boy.  Unlike yourself, I have described (with firsthand knowledge) one of the places where Jews and Arabs actually meet in common accord (Rahmy-Levys and establishments where Jews and Arabs work together).  Why haven't youor any other discussant referred to that scenario as a basis for what people might do to encourage more harmonious relations?  Instead, you refer to it as "laughable".  Of course, and by your own admission, you have never been there (Palestine/Israel region) and would rather compare the situation to Black/white colonialist relations of the earlier United States as opposed to what's really occurring there.  When I was first invited to MEPeace over a year ago, I was excited but then discovered that mainly it was just a forum which pretty much demonized the state of Israel (and, by implication, the Jewish people) with its requisite number of English speaking children of the Palestinian diaspora, the usual "liberal" discussants as well as Jews who are trying to find acceptance amongst the members of the gentile world (often referred to as "self-hating").  A year later, and I find my first impressions confirmed.  Calling yourselves "peace lovers" should be an embarrassment but I am afraid that such ignorance abounds that the forum members, in general, are quite blinded by their own perceived morality.  As noted, I was the only discussant who actually described an area and situation where Jews and Arabs in the Palestine/Israel region actually got along, no thanks to MEPeace members, no thanks to the UN, no thanks to any clerics, Jewish, Muslim or Christian, but thanks to a Jewish businessman (Rahmy-Levy) who, an uneducated and unsophisticated man) understood what it might take to achieve harmonious relations in a region of distrust, violence and terrorism.  It isn't easy and it probably won't last.  Instead of making silly comments about "colonialism" based on the usual stereotypical Marxist thinking Basil, you might actually attempt to discover more about the situation, reflect on it and consider whether there might be an inherent model there which would be useful to "peacemakers".  Unfortunately, and, in spite of my attempt to provide this forum with a real illustration of non-violent and beneficial relations Jew and Arab in the Mideast, neither you nor anyone else on this "elite" board has made any genuine attempt to further this understanding.

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.



Thanks Corey,

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)!  

If you walk through as a Jew in full orthodox clothing you'll get the same reaction as if you went through the black ghetto with a Nazi helmet on... You'll be lucky to make it out alive... But there are lots of anti-zionist jewish bloggers who went through Gaza and the West Bank and had a positive experience... It depends on if you are an a-hole or not... Like France!   

You have to love the comparision of Orthodox Jews to Nazi's always a winner in my book.  The idea is that if you dont show that you are Jewish they will not beat you, great!

Not comparing Orthodox Jews to Nazis, just comparing reactions. People often have expectations about people based on what they wear. You can't walk through a Palestinian area dressed in full Orthodox regalia without making the Palestinians nervous that you are a settler out to take their land.

So if a Jew is walking in a Palestinian city they will harass, attack, kill etc... him because they are afraid he is trying to build a settlement?  Does that make any sense to you? Or do they just hate Jews? If the same Jew would walk around Egypt would he not possible be attacked for the same reason?  Arab media is full of hate for Jews, they stiull distribute the Elders of Zion.  This has nothing to do with settlements.

Jeff if you saw a man in a German uniform in one of your precious settlements you freak out... And i don't even mean a nazi uniform I mean just a normal one! And just to state one could wear a yarmulke alone and be fine! 

Fact I like the Iron cross but wonder weather or not I should display it on this website... Tell me you would not be offended and I will agree with you!



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