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Eureka: Solutions to the Israeli conflict
by Joseph Gatt
2017-02-19 11:26:09
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Premier Bibi Netanyahu said during the press briefing with Trump that the government is accepting creative approaches to the conflict. So here are my two and a half cents.

israe01_400There are five dimensions to any conflict. You have the military dimension, the environmental dimension, the political dimension, the social dimension and the economic dimension. In Israel, the conflict with the Palestinian society has a little bit of a military dimension (despite all the images of soldiers seen in the media) and more of a political and social dimension. Whether there’s an economic dimension to the conflict is debatable, what is for sure is that Palestinians probably gain more than they lose economically in the conflict.

The political and social dimension of the conflict probably has cultural and psychological roots. Anger spirals, especially on the Palestinian social side, and doesn’t seem to want to wear off. The anger is fueled by several psychological factors and myths, including the false belief that the Israeli side wants to control, dominate and perhaps convert the Palestinian masses. I insist it’s a myth, because I never had someone point a Torah scroll or copies of the Talmud to me and say this is the accurate way of going about life and I never met someone who had the experience. 

So the anger is fueled by what is typically called the three layers of anti-Israeli, often anti-Semitic sentiments: those that stem from “primary sources” (the New Testament – book of Hebrews, and the Quran – the Cow Sura among other verses) as well as those that stem from secondary sources (books that use ideas developed in primary sources and make commentaries out of them) and tertiary sources, that is those who take ideas developed in secondary sources and write commentaries on the Jews in general and Israelis in particular.

So the general movement to dispel political and social hostilities from the Palestinian side in Israel is known as a movement called hasbara or “explanation” in Hebrew. But I don’t see Palestinians being willing to listen to long commentaries on Israeli politics or society or religion.  

So how do you dispel political and social hostilities? I happen to just have read a book called Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. The book mentions how PR campaigns were able to popularize the once absent notion of designated driver when drinking outside and were able to save several species of wildlife around the world through PR campaigns. The idea was to include scenes in popular movies and sit-coms where groups of friends went out drinking and had designated drivers, or using wildlife as mascots in some countries where wildlife was endangered.

I have noticed that several PR specialists are present at the very moment in Israel and trying to work to make get the message across, that Israel has always had peaceful intentions and that, provided the Palestinians want the same, that Israel has always wanted a two-state solution, but wants Palestinians to guarantee peace. So the real task now is, how do you make this notion join mainstream culture. How do you make Israel’s peaceful intentions part of mainstream culture?

The problem was and still is that for a long time failed states and states experiencing recessions often accused “the Jewish hand” of causing recessions around the world and sometimes blamed Israel for its recessions (sic). So how do you make the idea that Israel is a middle-income, not part of the G20 state that has its own domestic policy and economic issues to resolve?

Another misconception was and still is that the Jews want to enslave the rest of the world, so how do you make the idea that in Israel, I’m not making this up, you sometimes see Arabs, Druze, Armenians, Russians or Circassians bossing Jews around, in politics, in business as well as in the army.

Dispelling Palestinian anger at the political and social level is rather complex. For Israel, the PR campaign would have to focus on Western as well as Islamic minds. Since PR campaigns tend to target industrialized nations with a mixture of consumerism and popular ideas, most of the Arab and Muslim world is in its pre-industrial stages and has virtually no Middle Class, that is one small but loud upper class of apparatchiks and the rest is mostly working class people. This means an Israeli PR campaign in the Middle East would have to target the Arab world’s working class without offending its upper class. So perhaps, I’m just throwing this out there, Israeli-Arab sitcoms depicting struggling working class people trying to make ends meet, while receiving a mixture of affection and bullying from their loud and boisterous Arab upper class boss? Not sure this would cause Hamas to disband, but still. There’s a lot more to more to that, but the bottom line is anything that works for peace, would work for Israel, and for everyone else. That’s the certainty that I have.

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