Thursday, April 06, 2006

Empathising with the enemy

Transformation of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict by overcoming psychological and structural obstacles

(update 9 June 2018)

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of the most significant conflicts of our era. Not in terms of loss of human lives (the Syria and Yemen conflict have lost more human beings from conflict in recent years). It is significant because of the amount of daily political and media exposure it receives in western countries. It is significant for those who have loved ones (regardless from what background) living in the region. It is significant for those who seek to ensure the international community upholds principles that are fair and just to all parties.

This blog is an attempt to show that peace is possible for Palestinians, Palestinian-Israelis and Jewish-Israelis. The hope is that each community will be able to be brave and fearless in addressing wrongs committed in the past, and to work towards building a community for all in the region.

This blog contains:
1. My Master of Arts Thesis in Peace and Conflict Studies [PDF] from the Sydney University (completed January 2003).
2. A series of reflections and links relating to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The thesis (and my subsequent writings) seeks to understand fundamental reasons for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and outlines a model for its resolution.
For my latest news see Israel and Palestine diary.

The bottom line of this blog:

There are 12 million human beings in this region that we know as the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and Israel. My hope is that peace can be found for all our fellow human beings regardless of their background. Part of this process involves acknowledging how we have inflicted violence on another. This is the process of truth and reconciliation.
Each nation has their stories that we would prefer to keep quiet - 'our skeletons in the closet' -especially when it comes to nation-state creation stories. As an Australian I am aware of European atrocities towards Aboriginal people. Yes too I am aware of Aboriginal violence against Europeans, the point is when I went to school the history I was taught misrepresented the circumstances of the events from 1788-1988. It was not until 1988 with the bicentenary in Australia that it became mainstream for teachers to teach about European invasion rather than settlement. It was not until 1992 that our courts in the case of Mabo overruled the 'terra nullius' doctrine that Australia was an empty land 'a land with no people' doctrine.
Similarly, Israel and Palestinians too are not blameless and have their own skeletons. However, Israel as the militarily and economically stronger power needs to acknowledge that occupying another people as they have done since 1967 and blaming Palestinians for the war and their dispossession in 1948 only fuels violence against Israel and only hurts their loved ones and their families who are sent to enforce the military occupation each year. Similarly Palestinian leadership which fails to teach the necessity to end violent attacks within Israel or fail to teach children about the trauma of the Holocaust undermines steps towards establishing a sense of peace and security for Jewish-Israelis.

The way this blog is arranged:
The contents of the blog are found by scrolling down the right hand side of the blog. The contents include:

The thesis [PDF] included 4 chapters, bibliography and an Appendix.

Following the thesis include the following reflections:

Author’s perspectives

Historical debate
Reflecting on the debate in the 1940s between two leading Australian Jews on who favoured creation of a Jewish state and one against.

Peace activists
Examples of Jewish peace activists in Israel, US, UK, Australia and Canada.
Including a section of videos on real life heroes and bravery e.g Tristan Anderson

History of partition and the UN trusteeship
These blogs reflect on a background to the UN General Assembly partition plan and why this was rejected by the UN Security Council (Why was partition rejected?, UN trusteeship).

General History sites
Links here direct a user to the Guardian and Mideastweb.

Videos and photos shows the conflict through the eyes of Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis through images.
e.g. Acts of intimidation; the shooting of American peace activist Tristan Anderson (March 2009)

Deaths and Injuries due to conflict
This section looks at fatalities for Palestinians, and Israelis as a result of the conflict.

As a way to acknowledge the trauma suffered by the Jewish community links are directed to the history of oppression and persecution of Jewish people during the middle ages through to the Holocaust and afterwards.

Other blogs by the author
The author has initiated some general blogs on global peace building. He sees that there are four challenges to global peace
1. The human food and health question
2. The peace, security and ideology question
3. The energy and resource question
4. The global apathy question.
Another blog looks at the importance of interfaith dialogue.

Summary of the thesis
The primary thesis here advanced is that violent inter-group conflict, such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, will continue while fundamental psychological and structural obstacles exist.
Overcoming these obstacles requires the development of 'psychological bridges'. These psychological bridges or conciliatory qualities when applied at the individual and societal level enable the fundamental needs and fears of each party to be addressed.

The first chapter provides an overview of conflict resolution theory, a broad discipline which has developed from psychology, sociology, anthropology, politics, history and law. The results show conflict resolution is traditionally viewed through the paradigms of realism, legalism or idealism. The conclusion of the first chapter is that idealism holds the key to conflict transformation and reconciliation whilst realism and legalism only serve to ‘manage’ conflict.

The second chapter proposes a general method for conflict resolution. Violent conflict is argued to be a consequence of fundamental need deprivation as such this chapter identifies eight fundamental human needs.

The fundamental need system developed in this chapter is based on four fundamental rational needs: control, security, justice and rational stimulation; and four fundamental emotional needs: esteem, meaning, identity and emotional stimulation. What this chapter develops is that the attainment of these fundamental needs provides a sense of peace and reconciliation for an individual. 

The second part of chapter two identifies that the attainment of these fundamental needs requires the overcoming of psychological obstacles which are enabled by psychological bridges. Those psychological bridges include five fundamental conciliatory qualities: hope or a belief in the possibility of conflict resolution; empathy of the ‘other’; nonviolent or inclusive worldviews; and the action of building trust—as evidenced by cooperation.

The third part of chapter two identifies the necessity to implement within the structures of society those factors which encourage fundamental need satisfaction. These changes are required within the social, political, religious, legal and economic systems.

The third chapter provides practical approaches to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This chapter outlines issues relating to the fundamental needs of meaning, identity, control, security and justice. Analysis is made of agreed and contentious political positions on the issues of security, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees and water, as well as religious, educational and economic issues.The chapter concludes that the Israeli leadership only superficially demonstrates a movement towards peace. The evidence of a the West Bank Wall built beyond the Green Line, continuation in settlement expansion by Israel highlights that the tried and tested expansionist approach of ‘getting facts on the ground’ is preferable as it advances future bargaining power. Secondly this chapter concludes that the Palestinian community needs to address elements which perpetuate threats and breaches of security within the Israeli Jewish community.

The final chapter makes a number of research implications which include commenting on the gap between theory and practice on successive Israeli government’s approach to settlements within the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This chapter also identifies the need for future research to provide further evidence for the general method of conflict resolution developed in chapter two. Research is also suggested for a number of aspects of the fundamental needs of the Jewish, Palestinian and Arab communities’. In particular recommendation is made for further tests of the hypothesis that resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli-Arab conflict requires Arab and Palestinian assurance that the Jewish community will enjoy security in the region.

Stewart Mills
Sydney, Australia

Also see:

Why did the 'Arabs' reject the 1947 UN partition plan?, 6 April 2018

'Trump's decision on Jerusalem/Al-Quds', 3 January 2018

'Why Facts Don’t Convince People - and what you can do about it (Alex Cequea)', 5 November 2017

'Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Antisemitism', 22 April 2017

'Liz Wahl falls victim to CLUMSY: When seekers of 'truth' potentially fall for their own biased agenda', 13 February 2016

'Alan Rickman, Rachel Corrie and Palestine', 15 January 2016

'Was Jesus, Palestinian? Or was Jesus, Jewish? The false binary', 31 December 2015

Uniting Church - Palestine/Israel: Settlement Boycott (July 2015)', 23 December 2015

'Church motion 'hurtful' only to supporters of occupation of Palestinians', 23 December 2015

'The rationale of a Church boycott of settlement goods', 23 December 2015

'Why the ALP should recognize Palestine: a response to BICOM’s Alan Johnston', 25 July 2015

'Press Council agrees Gaza cartoon 'might be justifiable if linked with Israeli nationality', 18 January 2015

'Apartheid, boycotts and the Free South Africa Movement', 13 January 2015

'Israel, Palestine and the Asian Football Confederation Cup', 12 January 2015

'Letter to SMH: Palestinian leadership has declared themselves in favour of two states', 5 January 2015

'Failure by the United States and Australia to support peace timeline for the Israel-Palestine conflict', 1 January 2015

'Australia votes no to ending Israel's occupation of Palestine in three years - claiming unbalanced', 31 December 2014

'The twitter wars on Israel and Palestine aboard the International Space Station', 29 December 2014

'Looking for leadership on Palestine and Israel (Response to Wertheim and Ryvchin)', 11 November 2014

'Defenders of Israel's attacks on Gaza, cling to analogies which are fundamentally flawed', 3 September 2014

'Using your celebrity for good, Cruz and Bardem', 14 August 2014

'Israeli Deputy Speaker calls for annexation of the West Bank and Gaza: 'One state for one people i.e. the Jewish People', 5 August 2015

'Cartoons as political satire and a reflection on our ugly reality: A response to the complaint by the ECAJ', 1 August 2014

'MK Moshe Feiglin: Gaza is part of our Land and we will remain there forever', 20 July 2014

'The tragedy of Gaza - Letter', 18 July 2014

'Julie Bishop letter - East Jerusalem - The UN calls it 'territories occupied' not 'disputed', 16 June 2014

'Senator Brandis - legal status of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza - Letter 1', 15 June 2015

Senate Estimates - Palestine - June 2014', 8 June 2018

Israel's settlements: disposing of the assets of the Palestinian people, 3 February 2014

Rielly, missing the reality for both Jewish-Israelis and Palestinians, 31 January 2014 

Palestinian Israeli artist - Ahlam Shibli, 14 July 2013

Bruce Schneier: The security mirage (TED talk), 26 June 2013

A short history of Palestine and Israel - Jewish Voices for Peace

Understanding Rock Throwing, 9 April 2013

Brokers of Deceit - Rashid Khalidi on US politics and Israel, 27 March 2013

Jewish peace activist Avigail Abarbanel at Wayside Chapel, Sydney, 28 November 2012

Jews Against the Occupation respond to critics, 24 November 2012

Missing the point of the Munich massacre - 'No' to all forms of terrorism - state and political, 27 June 2012

Change is possible - Jewish-American, Rich Forer tells of his transformation on Israel and Palestine, 5 May 2012

US Churches divesting from Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, 27 April 2012

The Gaza armed conflict (2008-09) and the International Criminal Court, 4 April 2012

Fadi Quran assaulted by Israeli soldiers/police, 27 February 2012

Freedom of Expression must include a licence to offend - Kosminky's The Promise, 16 February 2012

Kosminsky's The Promise, 16 January 2012

Courageous Israeli peace activists attacked by settlers from Anatot, 10 October 2011

Australia's obligation to recognise Palestine, 27 July 2011

Petition for Palestinian Statehood

Failure to account: The use of force by the IDF and settlers in the killing of more than 2,297 Palestinians who were not involved in hostilities: A Response to Danny Lamm

Mepeace and resolving disputes for online communities

Orange County Criminal Justice System – enlightened or archaic?

Israeli settler boycott, the NCCA and interfaith

Finding a common narrative for Palestine and Israel
[early 1900s to 1940s]

Loewenstein's father's plea for rabbis to speak out

Images of Palestine and Israel 1948

Noam Chomsky on Israel

Likud charter calls for a one state solution

UN Office Reports on Palestine

The IV Geneva Convention Commentary

This is happening in Northern Ireland

This is happening in Israel

The NSW and ACT Uniting Church’s statement on Palestine and Israel, 12 July 2010

The ECAJ and the Australian Churches on Israel and the situation in Gaza

'Israeli Government Propaganda and the Gaza Flotilla', 28 July 2010

Gaza Flotilla I Transcript

Mepeace Profile


At 5:45 PM , Blogger JasonSpalding said...

Did you know that the Gulf Cooperation Council of Nations Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates employee nearly 10 million migrant workers mostly for southeast Asia. Did you also know that the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council have an economy growing at a rate greater that 6%? Did you know that the Palestinians have a workforce of 800,000 people? The Palestinians also have an unemployment rate of 67%. This mean that about 270,000 Palestinians are without work. But the Arabic Nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council employ 10,000,000 migrant workers. Why do the unemployed Palestinians stay living in a battle zone? Did you know that a trip from the Gaza Strip to Dubai is 2149 km or 1335 miles? The UAE has about 2,000,000 migrant workers. They also have a booming economy.

At 5:37 AM , Blogger NutanThakur said...

So much has been written about the Arab-Israel conflicts. It is almost universally accepted that this small piece of the Land on the meeting point of the two continents of Asia and Africa is the greatest flash-point in the world- the most violent, volatile and dangerous one. While at the basic level, it is a dispute between Israel and Palestinians, on a broader level it can be extended and linked to the so-called “Clash of the Civilizations” as enunciated by Huntington.
The current ongoing violence is only one more example in this long and uninterrupted series of violence, death and destruction. While it is very difficult for any definite and final stating of facts in any matter related with the Palestine-Israel conflicts because of the distortion of facts, figures and the accompanied truth in the process, what is generally accepted is that this time it was Israel which attacked the Gaza strip which has been given to the Palestinian population as a result of the Oslo agreements. It is also being believed that the Israeli army and Air force have made many brutal and damaging attacks on the Palestinian civilian population in this region in which many innocent people including even hapless women and children have lost their lives or have been severely injured. Israel, on the other hand, blames the Palestinians, particularly the Hamas for propagating incessant violence and openly proclaims that whatever Israel is doing is only in its self-defence.
As far as the world reaction is concerned, there is a extreme polarization between the two groups. There is no doubt that both Israel and Palestine have their own traditional friends and foes. Then there are others who are seen shifting their positions as per the context and circumstances. USA is the staunchest Israeli ally and the Arab world is generally pro-Palestine. As far as their condemning or protecting either of these two sides is concerned, it generally depends on the siding with two parties.
If one talks to a Palestinian, one will come to believe that there is no one worse than an Israeli in this world. He will present himself as the epitome of all the virtues and pious intentions and will call Israelis with all sorts of names. To them, the entire burden of the conflict will shift on Israel for having committed all sorts of atrocities on Palestine and its people, including taking away their land and displacing them from their beloved homeland. If, at all, Palestine is resorting to any violence, it is only as a last resort- simply to save itself. An Israeli’s opinion will be exactly the same. For him, a Palestinian will be a cheater, a thief, a mercenary, a hateful creature, a most unscrupulous person, a thug, a rogue and a spiteful chap. Again, he will present himself as a gentle, sublime, decent, ethical, aesthetic, simple and law-abiding person who has been condemned, persecuted, prosecuted and harmed for centuries.
So, which of these two groups is true- the Israeli or the Palestinians? To me it seems that the truth, like so many such cases, lies somewhere in between. In fact a general overview of the situation would let people understand that the real guilt lies in the extraneous situations and the circumstances and not with these two affected parties. While this does not mean that both these parties are holier-than-thou or have nothing to do with the hateful violence but it can be easily said that much more than their fault, it is the fault of the third parties, the external ones which has today resulted in such an anomalous and difficult situation having crept in where there is one baby with two fathers. The only practical and feasible solution is a two-nation solution, as and when it gets mutually accepted and practically implemented. It might be in the form of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for Palestinians and the rest to Israel or in any other suitable form.
But why the conflict? The conflict arises from competing Jewish and Arab national aspirations for the same region which one of them calls and believes to be Palestine (a the land they had been living for the last thousand years or so) and the other as Israel (the mythical promised homeland of the world-wide Jews). And the real culprit are the powerful and self-seeking European Nations, Britain being in lead, who left behind so many artificial and non-ending disputes all over the places they ruled and where they created so many irregular, unwarranted and illogical barriers and boundaries that suited them. In this particular case, the British played simultaneously with these two Nationalities making conflicting promises to both in the forms of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence and the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. It was only because of this two-mouthed British policy that tensions between Arab and Jewish groups in the region erupted into physical violence resulting in so many riots. And when the British thought that the heat being generated out of this was too much for it to handle, it left the place one fine morning leaving the place to simmer and burn with intermittent volcanic eruptions since then.
In 1947, the U.N. did approve the partition of the land but the Arabs of that time underestimated Israelis resulting in the ill-fated Arab-Israel war of 1948.
Without going into any further history, I would end this Article by saying that the Arab-Israel conflict is an extremely sad, ill fated and misfortunate saga of blood and gory. Thousands of innocent people on both the sides have died, giving rise to so many heroes and villains on both sides of border.
But who is the real enemy- once it was Britain and today, it is both of them who are still behaving like the illegitimate fratricidal children of Britain. And what is the way out? The only way out is peaceful, mutual coexistence, without going into the detailed analysis of who did what and who is responsible for what putrid acts. Because getting down to that is like opening a Pandora’s box where there would be no ending to accusations and counter-accusations. So, peace would reign in this region, as and when it finally does, only when they both realize that they don’t have the capacity to exterminate the other and will go on to exist in each-other’s neighbourhood. So why not say enough is enough and accept the other side, even with complete distaste.

Dr Nutan Thakur,
Nutan Satta Pravah,

At 9:44 AM , Blogger Coffee Clerk said...

Good document and thoughts

At 12:57 AM , Blogger DJC said...

You may like this first hand account from Nablus by Australian writer Jemma Moody.

At 3:27 PM , Blogger Ittay said...

Hi Stewart,
I am a Jewish educator in Melbourne. Thanks for making all your work publicly avaiable here.
All the best

At 6:19 AM , Blogger man with desire said...

Israel Palestine two state solution is the wrong decision.

At 1:03 AM , Blogger Melbourne Airport Taxi Service said...

good blog!
Taxi Melbourne


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