Thursday, August 31, 2006

Survivors invite Iranian pres. to Auschwitz, ask for Tehran invite - Haaretz - Israel News

Survivors invite Iranian pres. to Auschwitz, ask for Tehran invite - Haaretz - Israel News: "Holocaust survivors on Wednesday invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to tour the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and called on the leader in Tehran to invite survivors to a planned conference on the subject of the Holocaust in Iran."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

2 comments I wanted to highlight

2 comments to previous posts that deserve a post of their own:

A comment by Zeinobia:

@I.B I agree that we both see ourselves as the good guys and that is the problem in any conflict no one wants to be the bad guy

A comment by DGListen (addressed to Mohamed Maher and Tarek):
the israelis are not only warriors and killers.
there are many like me and IB that really want
to find a way to live together with respect and
dignity. can u join us?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Can the misunderstanding be corrected?

Zeinobia recently wrote that in her opinion, Hezbollah won the battle.

@Zeinobia: this may surprize you, but I think most Israelis would agree with quite a few of the things you wrote in that post. Israel certainly underestimated Hezbollah's abilities. There is one thing, however, which I feel I must respond to. You wrote that:

"The fighting spirit of Hezbollah fighters is much greater than the one the IDF soldiers .... [because] ... They are defending their land ... "
Zeinobia - please let me assure you with 100% certainty: the IDF soldiers absolutely believe they are fighting to defend their land, the lives of their families and the lives of everyone in Israel.

Why did I feel that it is so important for me to clarify this point? Because this small sentence you wrote on your blog - that Israeli soldiers do not believe they are defending their land - indicated to me a huge and terrible misunderstanding of Israelis by you.

I have learned, through the discussion on this blog, that - at the root of the Arab Israeli conflict - is a terrible misunderstanding of Arabs by Israelis, and a terrible misunderstanding of Israelis by Arabs. By listening to you, I have come to believe that Israelis consistently misinterpret Arab intentions, and that Arabs consistently misinterpret Israeli intentions.

If this conflict is to ever end - it is crucial that each side obtain a better understanding of the other. If that does not happen - the bloodshed will go on, because you will continue to believe most Israelis are murderers that only want to steal land and oppress Arabs, and Israelis will keep believing Arabs are told by their religion to murder our children and us.

Our discussions have convinced me that the Arab people are not the monsters that most Israelis believe you to be. But this has created two new dillemas for me:

1. How can I convince other Israelis of this?
2. How can I convince you Arabs that the Israeli people are not the monsters you believe us to be?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sorry for not posting for a while

The discussion so far hasn't been easy for me. It is emotionally straining, and also takes a lot of time. As a result, I fell back on some of my responsibilities (work related and a few personal issues) - but I will post again soon.

Thanks for waiting - I really appreciate it.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Good Guys and Bad Guys

My 5 year old son heard some news about the war in the radio today.

He then asked me: "Are the good guys winning?"

I replied: "My dear son, there are no good guys in this war"

He then said to me, with absolute and total conviction: "But Daddy! In a war there are ALWAYS good guys and bad guys!!!"

For this conflict to end both sides must stop seeing themselves as the good guys.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fear revisited

I think my earlier explanation about fear and aggression was not clear enough. Let me try again:

We Israelis HAVE ALMOST ALWAYS BEEN AFRAID of Arabs. Hizballa is not doing anything new.

I remember being afraid as a 4 year old child in the bomb-shelter during the 1973 war.

During the first days of this war, we Israelis were certain that our country and our homes are about to be completely destroyed by the Arab armies.

The strong IDF you see today, is the result of the Israeli public's refusal to accept "a 1973" ever again.

The IDF is pre-emptively striking Hizaballa targets to make sure 1973 never happens again. This is probably based on a misguided view of the world - but you cannot ignore the fact that THIS IS WHAT THE PEOPLE IN THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT REALLY BELIEVE TO BE TRUE. They REALLY BELIEVE that Israel WILL BE in serious danger UNLESS we act.

I believe the Israeli government's tactics are wrong - but that's not the issue. I'm simply trying to explain to you what is the absolute truth in the eyes of the Israeli government - AND MOST OF THE ISRAELI PUBLIC.

Zeinobia asked why we fear when we have such a powerful army. The answer is simple: we have such a powerful army BECAUSE we are afraid of what will happen if we didn't have such an army.

Zeinobia - what we did in Lebanon is not fear: it is the result of our fear that our country will be destroyed if we sit quietly and do nothing. Just as you truly believe Hizballa are true warriors for justice (and I respect that belief now), you must understand that the majority of Israelis REALLY BELIEVE that Israel WILL BE in serious danger UNLESS we act. The terrible destruction you're seeing in Lebanon is because of the way Israelis interpret Arab (and Muslim) intentions. Ahmadenijad's threats to wipe out Israel are only seen by Israelis as PROOF that this interpretation is correct.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A 3-Part Post

Part 1: Responses to previous comments

@ba3kawy: you are right. I take my words back. It just shows how difficult it is to communicate when we don't share the same beliefs. I promise to try harder!

@EngineeringChange: you said "I.B--What do you mean your perception has changed?". I'll try to explain this in Part 2 of this post.

@Mon 0eil: your comment will not be understood correctly by Arabs. Please see Part 2 - I hope I can explain what I've realized.

@Blue: I don't think anymore that the Arab media is biased against Israel. I thought so up until a few days ago, but no longer. I now think it truthfully depicts events IN THE WAY THE ARAB WORLD UNDERSTANDS THEM. Israelis understand this as bias.

@Mohammed, @Egyptian-in-USA: I will try to answer you in Part 3 - but *please* read Part 2 first.

Part 2: Explaining what I have realized

This is really difficult to explain, so please let me know if I didn't do a good job, and I'll try again.

My realization has to do with a concept called Mental Models:
A mental model is an explanation in someone's thought process for how something works in the real world.
(source: Wikipedia)

People are not aware of their own mental models. We accept them as absolute truths without even thinking about them.

For example, if I see a glass cup fall from high above onto a hard surface, and the glass does not break, I will look for some way to explain this using the concepts of my mental model - my understanding of events around me. If I lived in the dark ages - I most likely would have thought the cup has been taken by a demon. Nowadays, I will probably check if the cup was in fact made of plastic and not glass.

People are extremely resistant to changing their mental models. For ages, people explained the rising and setting of the sun as gods moving in the sky. Imagine going back in time, and telling an ancient greek that the earth orbits the sun: if you're lucky, that greek will only think you're crazy. Your explanation will not match his mental model - his understanding of how the universe works. You might try to reason with him, and tell him that your model explains many things, like solar eclipses, or the seasons. But his response to you will be: "nonsense - eclipses are the will of Helios, and seasons are the will of Zeus!".

In LOTR, think of Gollum/Smeagol. Gollum and Smeagol have different mental models - different explanations of reality. They see the same things, yet explain them in a totally different way:
Gollum: Master tricked us
Smeagol: No, Master is kind to us
In this example, Gollum and Smeagol use their mental models in order to guess Frodo's intentions. This is a crucial point. Frodo wants to save Smeagol from the archers, so he betrays Gollum to Faramir. Gollum is certain that Frodo is evil, and this mental model is strengthened by this action. Smeagol's mental model cannot cope with this action - because he doesn't have all the information.

My realization is that Arabs and Israelis have completely different mental models for describing the conflict! We both see a single action taken by the other side, but, like Gollum/Smeagol, when we guess the other side's intentions, we reach different conclusions. This is why you do not believe the Hizballa is firing rockets from civilian villages and I do. Before realizing this, I kept thinking: "hey, these Arabs are crazy. There's no point talking to them. How can they not see the Hizballa terrorists are firing from within villages?". Now I think: "ok, these Arabs are not crazy. If someone told me Luke Skywalker was using evil tactics in his fight against the Evil Empire, of course I wouldn't believe that".

Part 3: How Israelis think

First of all: there are at least 3 different Israeli mental models of the conflict (probably more).

To many in the Religious Jewish Right Wing: Israel belongs to the Jews. This Holy land was given to the Jews by God. It is God's will that we live here, and it is God's will that we defend our land. This is the absolute truth.

To many in the Right Wing (orthodox or not): We are normal people, but Arabs want to kill us. Arabs are liers and are bloodthirsty. We can't trust them. We do not share the same values. They are not ashamed of lying about us in the newspapers and inciting violence. No matter what we do: they will try to kill us. They will keep trying to kill us even if we gave up Tel Aviv. We have to defend ourselves. Giving up land is a mistake, because Arabs will interpret this as a sign of weakness, and this will encourage them to keep trying to kill us. Israeli aggression may not solve the conflict, but at least it will buy us some quiet for a time. Our aggression is justified, because it is in self defence. This is the absolute truth.

To many in the Left Wing ("peace camp"): Indeed, there were Arab villages in Israel before we came back here, but there were also Jews who lived here. Israel has done many things to oppress Palestinians. The occupation is wrong. Settlements are a mistake. The Palestinian resistence is in many ways (but not all) Isreal's fault. Suicide bombers are the result of extreme poverty. But at least some Arabs are reasonable people, and if we show them we mean peace (for example, by withdrawing from Gaza) - they will stop the violence, and we can work together towards a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

We Israelis, who have these different explanations for reality, are in a constant argument with each other.

Most importantly: like Gollum/Smeagol - our interpretation of Arab actions - and our guesses of Arab intentions - depend on our mental models.

The Left Wing's interpretation has been significantly weakened by the events of the past few months. Many of us thought that by withdrawing from Gaza, we are sending a signal of peace. We definitly didn't expect more Qassam missiles, kidnapping of soldiers or Katyusha rockets on Haifa. Our mental model was not supported by reality, and many are now looking for an alternative model - accepting the Right Wing model as the truth.

What I realized through our discussion, is that neither model can explain Arab intentions and actions. I now have my own, different, mental model of the conflict.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Lord of the Rings

Following the exchange of words of the last few days, I have totally changed my perception of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Please correct me if I'm wrong here, but I got the impression that most of you sincerely believe that Israel is a truly evil entity, and that almost all Israelis are lying, blood-thirsty killers. It's almost as if we're living in the world of "The Lord of the Rings", and Israel is Isengard, while the USA is Mordor, isn't it?