The mentality of conflict: Six steps to avoiding empathy

From Protective Edge to the Jerusalem implosion, the mentality of conflict has been pushed under a microscope. During that time I’ve noticed a few axioms about how Israelis experience these wars. I imagine other sides in other conflicts may share them too, although they require pretty close scrutiny and insider knowledge – so I won’t venture to generalize.

Here is what I’ve seen. “Our” in this case means “Israeli,” since I am one.

1. All our violence against their civilians is a matter of exceptions and anomalies, by bad apples and extremists. When they attack civilians, this represents the true nature of all their people.

2. They don’t believe our facts, because they want to incite their people. We don’t believe their facts, especially when they are filmed, because they are lying.

3. All our violence is justified as response, punishment, or deterrence from further attack. A good example is everything that happened in Gaza this summer. All their violence – such as everything happening in recent weeks – is unprovoked, arbitrary; because they hate us and want to exterminate us.

4. #3 justifies us supporting attacks on them, including civilians. When they support attacks on civilians, it’s proof that they are barbarians.

5. When they kill our civilians, they must condemn them – even when they do, it’s not enough. When we kill their civilians, condemning or even observing the events is the mark of radical leftists and traitors. It warrants cries of “death to Arabs and leftists,” heard frequently.

6. When they say bad things about us , it’s incitement; when we say bad things about them, it’s true.  Primitive, bloodthirsty, beasts, sexual predators, Islam as a religion of blood and death and worse – these are becoming daily fare.

What I am not saying here: There is no condoning terror and violence against civilians, ever.  There is no condoning incitement to terror and violence against civilians. I have nothing to say in support of such things.

But it is becoming maddening to hear and see the very behavior we fear among them, within ourselves, over and over – and lie that we are not doing it. That we are better, superior, above them. Accusing one side without realizing where we too are guilty is nothing other than a form of incitement itself.

Read also:
Our problem with selective sympathy for young victims
Blaming Palestinians for their own deaths
No one left for Bibi to blame – except, of course, Abbas