Reconciliation aimed encounters in acute asymmetrical conflict- four conceptual models of change- goals, mechanisms, and dilemmas. Ifat Maoz Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Goals and Method.
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Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Goal: To examine the evolution of four conceptual models of change guiding reconciliation-aimed encounters between Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the past 20 years.
The research method is qualitative, relying on ethnographic data assembled during the relevant period of time ( 1998-2008).
WHEN A series of Intergroup meetings, once a week to once a month, for 3 months to a year.
WHO Includes 5-15 participants of each side (equal number) led by 1 Jewish and 1 Arab facilitator.
WHERE are usually conducted in educational institutions or in local community centers
HOW MANY Since the mid 1980s there are dozens of encounter programs conducted each year. Public opinion surveys show that 16% of Israeli Jews have participated in encounters with Israeli Palestinians in their life time
Intergroup contact can be effective in reducing prejudice if it fulfills several major conditions
However, although the effectiveness of contact in improving intergroup relations has been extensively established (Pettigrew and Tropp, 2006) less attention has been given to examine:
- The effectiveness of contact in protracted asymmetrical conflict (for important exceptions see Bar-Tal, 2002; Bar-Tal & Rosen, 2009; Salomon, 2004;2006; 2008)
- The models and mechanisms of change through which contact is assumed to support reconciliation in such contexts
The goal of this analysis is to examine the evolution of four conceptual models of change guiding reconciliation-aimed encounters between Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the past 20 years and to examine the goals, mechanisms, strengths and dilemmas related to each model
Status quo vs. social change
Seeks to promote mutual understanding and tolerance between Jews and Arabs, reduce stereotypes,and other goals in the spirit of the contact hypothesis (Allport 1954).
Was brought to Israel from the USA in the 1980's and consisted then the first and dominant model of planned contact interventions between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Also today it is still the dominant model
Emphasizes personal similarities ("we are all human beings"), cultural and commonalties and supports notions of togetherness and cooperation (Maoz, 2004).
Is cynically called by its critics "the Hummus and Falafel model"
Focuses on interpersonal interaction and on personal identities and does not tend to relate to issues such as the conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinians and the discrimination of the Palestinian citizens of Israel
As such can be seen as supporting the status quo of the existing
a-symmetrical relations between Jews and Palestinians in Israel rather than aiming at social or political change.
The emphasis on widely shared and agreed upon commonalities such as "we are all human beings“ enables to avoid painful disagreements and can foster mutual respect and sympathy.
The focus on commonalities is especially suitable for young children that are not yet cognitively and emotionally equipped to deal with the painful complexity of the conflict (Stephan, 2001).
Furthermore, the a-political nature of the Coexistence Model enables to attract participants that would normally object to an encounter with the other group
Many Jews and Palestinians arrive to the encounter with a strong need to discuss the relationships between the sides. An encounter that avoids doing so can be seen by such participants, at best, as disappointing, irrelevant and as not fulfilling their needs and interests (Maoz, 2000a; b).
At worse such an encounter can be viewed as immoral - as perpetuating the existing asymmetrical power relations by focusing on changing individual level prejudice while ignoring the need to address collective bases of discrimination (Dixon et al., 2005; Reicher, 1986).
Closely related to the coexistence model. Is based on the assumption that working together towards a common, super-ordinate goal reduces intergroup hostilities, increases liking and cooperation and fosters a common identity transcending the separate identity of each group (Sherif, 1966, Worchel, 1980).
A prominent model of encounters between Israeli Jews and Palestinians since the mid 1980's
Examples of joint projects include Jews and Arabs performing music together, joint theater projects, Jewish-Arab art projects, scientific projects, mixed soccer teams and more.
Emphasizes commonalties and does not directly deal with separate national identities, political conflict and the discrimination towards the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Thus, can be defined as a model that preserves the status quo and does not aim for a structural change in the relations between the Jewish majority and the Palestinian minority in Israel.
Often seen as an ideal model for improving intergroup relations, as includes a concrete, visible process of working together that results in a joint product -- potentially reflecting (also to outside viewers) -- the success of the integroup cooperation.
Indeed, studies of joint Jewish-Arab soccer teams, show that this model was highly effective in improving intergroup attitudes (Salomon, 2008).
- No direct discussion of the conflict in most cases
-Does not always elicit the same degree of involvement in its Jewish and Arab participants. This can strengthen existing stereotypes of Jews as over-dominant and controlling and of Arabs as lazy and passive (Maoz, 2004). Unfortunately, even topics that may initially seem as ideal for joint projects may elicit low interest or even aversion of one of the participating groups.
-Failure in cooperation can lead to escalation of conflict (Worchel, 1980; Worchel & Norvel, 1986).
-It is the criticisms on the Coexistence and the related Joint Projects Model that led to the emergence of the more politically focused Confrontational Model.
Emphasizes the conflict and power asymmetry between the sides.
Aims at changing the construction of identity of minority and majority members, making Jews more aware of their role as oppressors while empowering the Arabs through their direct confrontation with the Jews (Halabi, 2000; Halabi & Sonnenschein, 2004; Halabi & Zak, 2000)
Is a clear product of the needs and dynamics in the field.
Was first presented and applied in the early 1990's by Palestinian facilitators and participants who were not satisfied with the dominant Coexistence Model, and felt it does not address their needs and concerns as a national minority group (Sa'adi, 1995).
These were joined by some Jewish colleagues who agreed with them and supported their claims.
Theoretically, derives from the social identity theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1986) and thus emphasizes intergroup (rather than interpersonal) interaction as a tool for transforming intergroup relations.
In contrast to the Coexistence Model and the Joint Projects model, it explicitly strives for social and political change, aiming at transforming the asymmetric relations between the Jewish majority and the Palestinian minority in Israel.
The direct discussion of relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel, asymmetry and discrimination
Such discussion can help both groups reach deeper awareness and understanding of the situation of conflict, and the dilemmas it involves
The direct confrontation can distress and alienate Jewish participants and cause negative attitudes and distrust towards Arabs and towards the practice of encounters (Maoz, Bar-On & Yikya, 2007).
The boundaries between confrontation and verbal violence are often not clear. Thus, Confrontation Models can lead to destructive intergroup communication
Criticism of the Confrontational Model led to the emergence of the Narrative Model
Developed in the late 1990’s. Addresses both coexistence and confrontational elements of the relations between Israeli Jews and Palestinians
Most prominently identified with the late Israeli psychologist Dan Bar-On
Uses a narrative approach in which participants engage in “story telling” sharing their personal and collective narratives and suffering in the conflict (Bar-On, 2000; 2002; 2006;2008; Bar-On & Kassem, 2004).
Combines interpersonal interaction with interaction through group identities and the forming of the personal ties with discussions of the conflict and of power relations (Maoz, 2004).
Is based on the assumption that in order to reach reconciliation, groups in intractable conflicts must work through their unresolved pain and anger through story-telling.
Is based on the power of personal stories in creating immediate empathy towards out group members (Bar-On, 2002; 2006).
Encountering the experience and suffering of the other through story-telling enables groups in conflict to re-humanize and to construct a more complex image of the other while creating intergroup trust and compassion (Bar-On, 2006; 2008).
What is the 'good enough story' -a story that creates intergroup empathy and does not hurt the other participants (Bar-On, 2006). How do we identify a 'good enough' (Ross, 2000) story?
How do we (and should we) encourage the telling of such stories and discourage the telling of stories that can escalate intergroup hostilities and hurt outgroup members?
The question of the authenticity of the stories told (Bar-On, 2006). Should the story be authentic? Factually true? How do we know if it is indeed true? Do we stop or openly refute a story that we judge as being inaccurate?
The classification into Coexistence, Joint Projects, Confrontational and Narrative Models of transformative intergroup encounters can be applied to other contexts of contact-based interventions around the world aimed at fostering peace and reconciliation
Can be used by researchers of contact-based interventions in protracted, asymmetrical conflict as a tool for understanding the intergroup interaction and for appraising the effectiveness of different models of change in promoting reconciliation.
Can be also used to analyze discreet episodes of communication between members of groups in asymmetric conflict. In many cases such interactions can be easily classified as emphasizing the "coexistence" aspect ("let's forget our group identities and concentrate on personal similarities"), as "joint project "oriented ("let's focus on working together and leave aside other things") as confrontational ("let's directly argue about the conflict") or as "story telling" ones.
Can help understand the dynamics of the interaction and of change through interaction, the goals of its participants, and even predict constructive and destructive patterns of communication and transformation that are likely to occur in each of these types of intergroup communication in conflict.