Summary: Palestine - Conflict and Psyche
A Psychological and Political Analysis of the Middle East Conflict
Harald Haas/Andrea Plaschke
The Middle East conflict flared up again with the "Al Aqsa” intifadeh in September 2000, burying every hope for peace that was given raise to by the 1993 Oslo Process of mutual recognition of the State of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). That peace process was doomed to fail from the outset, however, as it neither met Palestinian expectations of gaining an independent state, nor satisfied Israel’s wish of continued unlimited control over the West Bank and Gazah. Conflict solution concepts proposed by international actors failed as well, as they represented a onedimensional politological view.
As opposed to that, the authors suggest a psychopolitical approach to the conflict, focussing on the traumatic defeats that the Palestinians and the Israelis experienced - the Palestinians with the Nakba, a defeat they suffered at the hands of the young state of Israel in 1948, and the Israelis with the Holocaust, the systematic eradication of Jews by the Nazis.
Both peoples are suffering from their respective national traumata which, by being continuously restaged, contribute to a cycle of violence that is handed down from generation to generation. Numerous examples of political speeches on both parts give evidence that the traumatization is passed on, causing the negotiations between Arabs and Jews to stall at the same point, over and over again. If one compares the lives of the leaders, Sharon and Arafat, one is surprised by the parallels, as far as traumatic childhood experiences, personal losses, and early shaping by militant organizations are concerned.
A way out of this dilemma can only be achieved by pertinent mediation, as the "Harvard Negotiation Projects” suggests it. Instead of fighting over positions, which are often just a coverup for underlying problems, points of dispute should be decided on the basis of their importance and relevant content. The mediator, a neutral third party with equidistance to the conflict parties, should guide the process like a manager or film producer and lay down the rules for interacting. However, such a person is nowhere in sight in the Middle East, at the moment. Only under the protection of international peace troops could Israelis and Palestinians start the laborious process of coming to terms with their traumatic pasts. And after that, a mediator could be sought, who might then substantially contribute to a solution by mediating a settlement.
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