Today, Professor Thomas Zeitzoff from the School of Public Affairs at American University and Professor Daphna Canetti of the University of Haifa spoke to BYU students and faculty about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict with the theme of “What’s all the fighting about?”
Zeitzoff discussed what kinds of rationalizations fuel the violence. Some “rational” reasons for violence could include benefits outweighing costs, leaders wanting to stay in political power, and demonstrating a group’s ideology. He also explained that violence can be simply driven by hatred, to spoil negotiations between parties or peoples, to show grievances for past hurt or violence, or using sacred cultural values as a reason for aggression.
The violence is not just a political issue, but also a psychological issue which stems from an intractable conflict between the Arabs and Israel, Zeitzoff explained. If a gain is made on one side, the other loses and vice versa. Zeitzoff proposed that their psychological views cannot be bought by negotiation and affects how they perceive the conflict itself.
However, because people care about issues other than resources or power, such as sacred values, Zeitzoff concluded that there is an opportunity to use those ideologies for peace.
Canetti, in describing the scene in the middle east, explained the violence as an “omnipresence,” resulting in negative psychological coping mechanisms. She noted that recently in Gaza, 65% of the people were diagnosed with depression or PTSD while in Sderot, 75% of children suffer from anxiety because of the violence.
“They’re getting used to [the violence],” Canetti said. “They’ll even open their bags in grocery stores and malls without even looking at the eyes of the person checking their bag.”
Checkpoints, like checking bags at universities and grocery stores, prompt people to support violence due to feelings of humiliation, leading to defensiveness and rage.
“Only by changing those coping mechanisms can we hope to create a psychological, societal infrastructure capable of sustaining formal political agreements in [those] regions of the world,” Canetti said.
Watch the entire lecture here: