Sunday, December 02, 2007

Islam - the most easily offended religion?

"...Then one of my favourite students - a lovely, charming girl with a great sense of humour - said in a low, warning voice: “Teacher, we can’t joke about the Prophet Mohammed.”

This was the experience of Blake Evans-Pritchard in Khartoum. Not of Gillian Gibbons, who is now in a Sudanese jail awaiting deportation. Her students didn't warn her that Islam is easily offended, and now hundreds of Sudanese Muslims demand that she be executed for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammed, the name of one of the kids in her class.

Are other religions as easily offended as Islam? I'm sure that every religion, and every nationality, has its soft spots. I assume that if a teacher in a Catholic school would name a teddy bear "Satan" than the parents of the children would get quite emotional. I know that anything slightly reminiscent of antisemitic terminology immediately raises a very big red flag for almost every Israeli Jew. But still, such mass demonstrations and calls for execution over a mere misunderstanding? I get the feeling that Islam is a very touchy and nervous religion.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Haven't posted for a while

... and it's probably not going to improve soon.

At least I'm in good company!

Truth is I've got a writer's block. A few weeks ago I started writing a post about my visit to Khaled's Holocaust Museum, but I can't get myself to finish it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

ConflictBlotter: Personal impressions from Gaza

Charles Levinson brought more amazing impressions from Gaza.

Here's an excerpt from a post he wrote 2 days ago:

... At the Erez crossing today we met a Palestinian looter who made us look at some of the looters at least in a slightly different light. He was tearing out copper wiring from under the pavement at the Erez border tunnel. He was working his way down the walk, and at every spot where an electric light had been, he had used a hand held hammer to smash through a foot of concrete. He then dug into the ground another three feet perhaps until he found the underground wiring and tore out the copper. He had done this in at least a dozen different locations so far. Each kilo of copper wire he pulled, could be sold for 10 shekels ($2.50). In four hours of digging he had pulled 3 - 4 kilos, he said.

I mean, this guy was working tirelessly and doing back breaking work to get this wiring. This wasn’t some looter who thought he’d grab a quick TV when no one was looking. I just thought it very telling that one of Gaza’s hardest working people had no other options than to loot for $2.50/hour.

Apparently Charles has left Gaza (at least for now). Dion Nissenbaum describes why he and Charles Levinson decided to leave Gaza - not necessarily the reasons you'd expect!

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I ran across this video today and just had to share it. If there are any Palestinian women who undergo this kind of treatment and do not become active supporters of violence against Israelis: you have my personal admiration. [(update): I'm adding the following clarification because of Stefanella's comment below] I'm not suggesting that the Arab women should turn to violence. On the contrary. I admire any one of them who doesn't turn to violence. [end of clarification]

And my note to the settler girls in this clip: you are not defending Zionism by acting like this. You are giving Zionism a bad name, and are encouraging hate. You are have become active carriers of the same violence that you fear.

A great number of Israelis would be disgusted by this sort of behavior.

So why are the soldiers permitting it? Why is the Israeli society permitting this?

My answer: because the Israeli society is afraid of Arabs. Israelis see the Palestinian women in the video clip, and immediately associate them with the images of the Hamas militants in Gaza throwing people off rooftops, the memories of exploding buses, and the promises by Hamas to eradicate Israel.

Any change in the situation must come from reciprocal action. For us Israelis to take the Arab side - and actively prevent the behavior demonstrated in this clip - we need to witness Arabs actively taking our side too.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

If you're wondering what's happenning in Gaza

Conflict Blotter is an amazing blog by Charles Levinson, the Mideast Correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph.

He is currently in Gaza, and reporting from there.

From his latest post:

Hamas TV broadcast disturbing and gruesome footage of Fatah commander Samih al Madhoun, famed for ruthlessly confronting Hamas in northern Gaza, being dragged into the streets, shot repeatedly and the stomped by a swarm of people

I want to take this opportunity to answer a comment made almost a year ago by Mohamed Maher from Egypt to a post of mine. In my post, I wrote that Israelis are afraid of Arabs, and that the Israeli violence towards Arabs is driven by that fear. Moahmed Maher commented:
i'll tell u something about arabs, all the arabs feel that they are brothers , they talk the same language ,they have the same history same culture and allover history we there were no borders between us... so we are the same
Well, Mohamed - if you're reading this, the pictures from Gaza should explain to you why Israelis are afraid of the Arab brothers. If Arabs are willing to murder and drag their brothers, we don't want to imagine what they will do to us - people who are not their brothers, who have done many wrongs to the Arabs, and who are (mistakenly) seen by the Arab world as vicious murderers.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I take it back

Yet again, I find myself learning a lot by trying to listen to the people behind the comments posted on my blog.

A few days ago I tried to answer a question raised by Nizo: "What do Israeli Arabs need to do in order for them not to be perceived as a threat?"

I thought that Israeli Arabs understand the fears of the Israeli Jews, and can become a bridge between Israel and the Arab world. I thought they could explain the rationale of Zionism to the Arab world, something that would cause Israeli Jews to see them as partners, rather than a threat.

I suspect I was way way off with this suggestion.

I now think that Israeli Arabs have too many bad feelings against Israel. If I try to put myself in their shoes, I can see why this would be so. They are citizens in a country that does not let them identify with it. How can someone be a "proud Israeli Arab"? What symbols of this country can they identify with? They are citizens in a country that does not make it easy for them to contribute to it, and treats them as second grade citizens.

I don't know if the statistics that Khaled quoted are accurate - but I suspect that they represent how Israeli Arabs feel.

So it seems we have another vicious cycle here:Boy, are things here complicated!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What do Israeli Arabs need to do in order for them not to be perceived as a threat?

UPDATE 28/4/07 - Everything I suggested here: I take it back. It can't happen - at least not in the foreseeable future. But I'm glad I wrote this post. I learned much from the Arab response to it. [end of update]

The Azmi Bishara videos inspired Nizo to raise several very interesting questions regarding the pervasiveness of the perception that Arabs are a demographic time bomb.

His 8th question was "What do Israeli Arabs need to do in order for them not to be perceived as a threat?"

I'd like to suggest an unusual answer to Nizo's question. I don't know if what I'm suggesting can ever happen, but hey - if the idea is never raised, it certainly won't happen.

I think that Israeli Arabs can undo this "threat perception" by adopting the role of the ambassadors of Zionism to the Arab world. [correction: I was extremely naive in suggesting this. I agree with NC's comment on this post: Arabs can do a great service to humanity if they simply explain to the Arab world that Zionism doesn't aim to destroy the Arabs[.

In that role, they can explain to the Arab world that Jews have no other country. They can explain that Jews all over the world fear persecution, and feel that without a Jewish homeland, they will never be truly safe anywhere in the world. They can also explain to the Arab world that Israel wants to live with them in peace.

If they do that openly and sincerely - and accept this role as a primary part of their identity as Israeli Arabs - then Israeli Jews will stop fearing them.

Amongst Arabs in general, Israeli Arabs are in the best position to understand Israeli Jews. They are Israeli citizens. They can travel freely to any part of Israel. They speak Hebrew. Many of them study in Israeli colleges. Some of them work in Jewish Israeli companies. If they choose, they can become interested in how Israeli Jews feel.

They can understand our fears.

If Israeli Arabs understand the Zionist cause, they can support it. And if they support it, Israeli Jews will no longer fear that Israeli Arabs will undermine that cause.

Of course, this is not simple. Many Israeli Arabs feel they are neglected by the country. Some feel that their nationality is betrayed. They see the Israeli Army mistreating their Arab kin. It is much more natural for them to adopt the nationalistic views represented by Bishara. But these nationalistic views only increase the tension and fear.

It will take true greatness of Israeli Arabs to actively supportexplain Zionism in this atmosphere - but if they can amass such courage, they will gain a great deal (as will the entire region).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Israel: evil or moral?

I read an interesting article an Ha'aretz today. Here's the Hebrew version, and here's the English translation. - didn't find an English version yet (anyone who finds it - please let me know).(Thanks Lisa)

The article says that the IDF has appointed an officer to investigate why the a major Hebron street (the Shuhada street) is closed to Palestinian pedestrians since 2000. It is open to Jewish (i.e., settler) traffic, by the way. The IDF has claimed this is a mistake that will be rectified, but so far this hasn't happened.

I think that the title of the article reveals much about the Israeli state of mind regarding Palestinians. The article says "The street was closed to Palestinians". If the Israeli grasp of Palestinians was "humans of equal rights", I suspect that the article would have talked about "Palestinians being barred from entering the street".

To all Israelis who think Israel is pure, just and moral: think about this.

So if Israel isn't pure, just and moral - is Israel evil? Of course not. If Israel was evil, this article would not have appeared in Ha'aretz. Organizations like the "movement for civil rights" would not have approached the courts, the courts would have not summoned the IDF to respond, and the IDF would never have considered lifting the restrictions.

So why do Israelis grasp Palestinians as lesser humans? Is it because of the many years of bloody conflict? Is it because Palestinian society is so far behind Israeli society? Does it have to do with most Palestinians blaming Israel for everything that's wrong with their condition instead of taking some responsibility? Is it because the interaction between Israelis and Palestinians is limited to Israelis hiring Palestinians for jobs Israelis wouldn't do? Is it something else?

Is there a way out?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Azmi Bishara videos

Dr. Azmi Bishara is an Arab Israeli member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset).

The Israeli media has lately been publishing very incoherent and non-informative articles about Dr. Bishara's intentions (or non-intentions) to resign (or not resign) from the Israeli Knesset, due to his being persecuted (or not being persecuted) by various government security agencies (or not). It seems there is a court order barring the media from discussing whatever is going on (or not going on), so they are discussing the issue without actually discussing it. Go figure.

Anyways, Halemo has contemplated on his hebrew blog that these agencies are after Dr. Bishara because of a 6-part video on YouTube. Halemo claims that in the video Dr. Bishara "eloquently explains, in well versed English, his anti-Israeli views" and his "support of Hizballa".

I took the time to watch the videos. I suspect Halemo didn't, because in those videos I heard the exact opposite of Halemo's claims.

Yes, in this video, Dr. Bishara says many things Israelis don't like to hear about Israel. But he also says:

1. That he recognizes Israel as an existing country, and that the entire discussion of "historic rights" is totally irrelevant. Israel exists and that's it.
2. That most Arabs recognize Israel (something I personally don't think is true - but Dr. Bishara is obviously more connected to the Arab world than I am)
3. That he fully recognizes the horrors of the Holocaust. Unlike others, he doesn't deny it occured.
4. That Hizballa is no longer a legitimate movement. He says it used to be a legitimate resistance movement - as long as Israel occupied Lebanon - but it is no longer so.

Dr. Bishara explains that he sees 2 possible solutions to the conflict: either that Israel annex the Palestinian territories and make Palestinians equal citizens of Israel, or agree on a 2 state solution based on the June 4 1967 borders.

If only the majority of Arabs held the opinions that Dr. Bishara's expresses in those videos, I think the conflict would have long been over.

Halemo - if you're reading my words: can you please explain what you meant when you said "Anti Israeli Views"? Perhaps you are referring to things he said that are not shown in the video?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

MIT announces Just Jerusalem competition

A group of people at MIT "hope to encourage new ways of thinking about the many difficult issues and hardships faced by Jerusalemites, regardless of their faith or ethnicity".

So as part of their "Jerusalem 2050 project", they recently launched a competition for visionary ideas for the city called Just Jerusalem. The submissions to the competition must be "Well Specified Projects" that support "
a vision of a just, peaceful, and sustainable Jerusalem". Their web site lists 4 submission tracks to the competition:

  • Physical infrastructure (buildings; urban designs; landscape projects; transportation, sewage, water, or communication systems; etc.)
  • Economic infrastructure (new activities or products; employment or social security schemes; trade, banking, or currency arrangements; technological innovations; etc.)
  • Civic infrastructure (inventive institutions or social practices; neighborhood or community-level activities and organizations; new civil-military relations; educational systems; health care services; etc.)
  • Symbolic infrastructure (essays, films, photographic exhibitions, poems, songs, museums, festivals; etc.)

The Prizes page states that "At least one prizewinning entry will be selected in each category of submission, with a total of 5 awarded. Prizewinners will be given the opportunity to spend up to an academic semester in residence at MIT as Visiting Fellows, with all expenses paid, including travel, housing, and stipend."

I really like the idea of this competition. Interestingly enough, it also links two places which have influenced my life: Jerusalem and MIT. I was born in Jerusalem, and lived there for the first 6 years of my life. One branch of my family tree even includes people born in Jerusalem at least 5 or 6 generations back. As for MIT: this is one of the institutions I admire. I keep finding that I share the same professional views as people at MIT (especially the MIT media lab) - and am always excited by the projects they have there. (At some point I even seriously considered applying for PhD studies at there - but was sucked into the industry instead). So I'm really looking forward to finding out what the competition will generate!


Sunday, March 18, 2007

The channel 1 film on Sayeret Shaked will (correction: NOT) be shown again this Wednesday

The film which had enraged the Egyptians will be shown again this Wednesday at 21:40, on Israeli Channel 1.

Having written about it, I guess I should make an effort and actually see it, shouldn't I?

Update (March 21, 2007):
Nominally.Challanged has commented here that the rescreening has been cancelled. Shame indeed - I too wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Egyptian rage about the Israeli channel 1 film

As usual, the Israeli media and the Arab media have two completely different descriptions of the same event.

A few days ago, Mohamed Maher said:

there is some news which was spread in all the egyptian newspapers , two days ago.
it says that, the israeli "channel one", released a new documentry film, which says that in the war of 1967 , a troop had a leader called " benjamen aleaazer" (who is an israeli minister right now) killed 250 captured egyptian soldiers which were without any weapon , these soldiers were captured while they were runing away from sinai, after the israeli strike.
many israeli soldiers which were a part of this troop talked in this film, and they admitted the doing of such a crminal action.
"aleaazer" said that they used to fire a large number of bullets on each captured soldier to be sure that he is dead...
the film has also some documentry movie parts , which were taken in 1967, that shows these type of criminal action....

I assume this is a pretty accurate description of how Egytians remember the events.

Israel has a completely different story. Not having seen the film myself, I have to rely on newspaper articles and radio interviews, but it is quite clear that the Israeli version is very far from teh Egyptian view.

For starters, participants in those events totally deny killing unarmed soldiers. According to radio in interviews with people who participated in the operation, this was a combat operation, and was a battle against soldiers who still had their guns. I heard in those interviews that Israeli soldiers who participated in the operation have some moral reservations about the action, because they had an unfair advantage in the battles, and because the battles took place after victory had been declared. The Egyptian soldiers still had their weapons, but the Israeli operations were carried out during the day, when the Egyptian soldiers were in hiding.

Here's a paragraph from an article in Ha'aretz about the film:
In the end, Sayeret Shaked has no cause to glory in the operation, but it is not a matter of killing prisoners, as was claimed by the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram after the film was broadcast. It was a revenge action, an organized hunt of helpless soldiers who had no chance of fleeing from the firepower of the Israeli fighters who were assaulting them from the air. It was not "fair play," but it is doubtful that the action falls into the category of war crimes, as defined by law.

The article also quotes what the Israeli soldiers actually said in the film, including mentions that the Egyptian soldiers were armed at the time.

I also happened to hear a radio interview with a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt. He complained that as an ambassador he tried many times to go on Egyptian TV / radio - but was never allowed there. He said that he did manage to get a few newspaper interviews, but that they always distorted his words.

Why is this happenning? Why are the Israeli and Arab versions of the same event always so different? I can think of three possible explanations:

  • Option 1: Arabs are saints. Israelis are evil. Arabs always tell the truth, and Israelis always lie and distort reality.
  • Option 2: Israelis are saints. Arabs are evil. Israelis always tell the truth, and Arabs always lie and distort reality.
  • Option 3: Arabs are human and Israelis are human. Arabs think that they are saints and that Israelis are evil. Israelis think that they are saints and that Arabs are evil. When Israelis speak - Arabs think Israelis are lying to cover up crimes. When Arabs speak - Israelis think this is anti-Israeli propaganda. Neither side is willing to accept that no one here is a saint. No one likes to belong to a group which is not "Just" or "Moral". People defend their own side, and try to prove that the other side is evil. It is so difficult to accept that your own side is also wrong, that people find it much easier to believe that the other side has evil intentions and is twisting the facts. As a result, both sides see the other as evil or crazy, and the words and actions of one side are constantly misunderstood by the other (e.g., the Al-Aqsa events).
Any other explanations anyone?


Monday, February 26, 2007

I've added a link to "Track co.mments"

I hope this will make it easier to follow up on the discussions that emerge in the comments section of many posts.

I've never used this service before, so I'll be happy to hear from you if it is indeed useful...


Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's not our existence - it's the way our existence is perceived by the other side

To answer Abe's question:

you also wrote: "'s not our existence - it's the way our existence is perceived by the other side..."

i don't understand the difference

When I say "how our existence is percieved", I am talking about how Arabs interpret our actions. The problem is usually not the actions themselves, but the perceived intent of those actions.

This is perfectly human. Imagine your own reaction towards a person who has killed in self defence. Now imagine your attitude towards a psychopathic murderer. Both have done the same, but from a different motive. Our attitude is based on how we interpret the *intentions* behind the actions. What would you do if someone you know to be a psychopathic murderer was to get close to anything dear to you?

Arab attitude towards us is shaped by their perception of our intentions and our motives.

Arabs hate us because they believe our purpose is to kill them all and destroy Islam. They see us as heartless murderers - not as regular humans fighting for their existence. A huge number of Arabs seriously believe that we are as bad as the Nazis - or even worse. Every action of ours is automatically interpreted as part of a vicious plot.

We think Arabs hate us because they are evil. But in fact, they hate us because they see themselves as the good guys, and us as the evil ones.

The Al-Aqsa events: a very predictable misunderstanding

I'm not surprized by the Al-Aqsa events. Not by the stupidity displayed by the Israeli government, not by the Arab hysteria, and not by the dismissal of these riots by most Israelis as "a bunch of fanatics spreading ridiculous antisemitic propaganda".

Many Israeli governmental institutions see themselves as the responsible protectors of civilization and Jewish heritage.

In the eyes of the Arab world, we Israelis are perceived as vicious murderers, who are plotting to destroy Islam. Therefore, anything we do that is even slightly related to Muslim holy sites will immediately cause an hysteria about our intentions. It is only natural for this to cause panic and riots.

In the eyes of the Israeli right wing, Arabs are perceived as terrorists who are plotting to destroy Israel. The Israeli left wing may not agree that ALL Arabs are like this, but they do agree that SOME Arabs are like this. Any Arab violence is immediately attributed to the intention to destroy Israel. Any claims voiced by the worried Arabs that "Israel is plotting to destroy Al-Aqsa" sound so ridiculous to Israelis, that they are immediately discounted as senseless propaganda.

And so, once again, a stupid and inconsiderate action of some office in the Israeli government is perceived by Arabs as warmongering, thereby causing Arab panic and violence, which is in turn interpreted by the Israeli public as proof that Arabs are terrorists.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The right-wing paradox

The Isreali right wing thinks Arabs hate Israel and want to destroy us. The left wing would rather ignore this.

What the right wing doesn't understand, though, is that we should not only defend ourselves from those who hate us: we must also fight the hatered itself.

הטעות של מדינת ישראל היא שאנחנו נלחמים רק בשונאינו - במקום להילחם גם בשינאה עצמה

The paradox is that by fighting those who hate us, we increase the hatered.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

93.6 RAM FM - Joint Israeli Palestinian Radio

I heard about this in the news on the radio today, and then found an article in Ha'aretz (english:, hebrew:

The Hebrew article is a bit more informative than the English one, and explains the neutral wording that the station's news department is planning on using. So, for example, instead of saying "A Suicide Terrorist" or "Martyr", they plan to say "A Palestinian blew himself up".

I'm looking forward to this station going live tomorrow morning. I just hope reception in my area will be adequate.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Short Guide to the Israeli Emotional State of Mind

The Isreali/Palestinian conflict is emotional. To understand what's going on, you must understand the feelings.

To help you do that, I have listed some basic Israeli emotional patterns.

These are not opinions - these are feelings. I know many of them are wrong (correction: I personally identify with some, and think others are misplaced), but there's no point in arguing with them. You can't change feelings with logical arguments.

So here they are, 11 typical Israeli feelings:

  1. Israel is our home.
  2. We are good guys. We want peace. We are modern, moral and responsible. (Although our leaders are irresponsible and corrupt).
  3. Any attack on Israelis is an attack against me personally. Heck, I could have been there!
  4. All Arabs hate us. They want to destroy Israel and kill us. (Left/center view: change "All Arabs" to "Some Arabs", and possibly "kill us" to "drive us out of here").
  5. Arabs lie about current events and rewrite history in order to suit their hatered of us. (Left/center view: change "Arabs" to "Some Arabs")
  6. We are still alive only because we defend ourselves. We have every right to defend ourselves. It's a pity if that causes suferring on the other side, but our safety comes first. (Left wing view: add "we should be more careful about our moral values when defending ourselves").
  7. We must not show any signs of weakness. If we show signs of weakness, this will encourage Arabs to attack us even harder. (This feeling is somewhat less prevalant in the left wing - although the Qassams that followed the Gaza withdrawal are making this feeling more common)
  8. The Palestinians are suferring because "they brought it upon themselves with the exploding busses and the other terror attacks". (Right wing: add "Besides, there are so many Arab countries around - why do they have to stay here where they are suferring?")
  9. [Right Wing view] Arabs cannot be trusted. For example: we gave them Gaza back, and we're getting Qassams in return.
  10. [Left wing view] I'm confused. I thought some Arabs can be trusted, but maybe the Right Wing people are right about point #9? Or maybe it's just that these trustworthy Arabs are not powerful enough to change things.
  11. [Right wing / religious view] Our heritage and holy sites must be protected.

Israeli actions are directly caused by this emotional pattern. As a matter of fact - our interpretation of reality is based on these emotions. For example, how do you think most Israelis interpreted the Arab riots in Al-Aqsa today? (Hint: see point #5).

The problem with these emotional responses is that they block our thinking, and make us keep making mistakes that fuel the conflict (e.g., the recent Al-Aqsa events).

By the way - the emotional responses of the extreme Israeli Left Wing are completely different - but they also do not help resolve the conflict. The emotional response of the extreme Israeli Left starts with a different point #2 - but I'll explain in another post.

Is it possible for these patterns to change? I'm sure it is - because it happened to me. I used to follow these exact patterns, but I went through a process that changed my emotional responses.

But how can I help other Israelis go through this process too?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Plea for Peace From a Bereaved Palestinian Father

A must-read article:

The article was written by Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian who lives in Anata, near Jerusalem. Bassam's 10 year old daughter, Abir, was shot and killed several weeks ago by an Israeli soldier.

Having read Bassam's article, I find that words cannot express my awe and admiration for this brave man.

Israelis and Palestinians alike should learn from him.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sensemaking - the story of this blog

Dan Russell from the wonderful Creating Passionate Users asked "How do you make sense of something that’s big and complicated?". He wrote that he "has been thinking a great deal about sensemaking" ... i.e., "what you do when you’re trying to organize your taxes, or when you want to understand what’s going on in the Middle East".

This immediately reminded me of the process that I went through on this blog. Since Dan asked his readers for examples of their own sensemaking process, I thought I'd share the process I went through on this blog. It was a sensemaking process that caused a tremendous paradigm shift for me.

During the recent Lebanon war, I had set up this blog - in order to explain the Israeli point of view to Arabs. I didn't mean to understand anything. I read some anti-Israeli remarks on Lebanese and Egyptian blogs, and wanted to explain the Israeli point of view (e.g., here)

At some point, I decided to invite Zeinobia - who seemed to me a very anti-Israeli Egyptian blogger - to a dialog. She kindly accepted, along with several other Egyptian bloggers who also joined the discussion.

I was really glad of that, and started imagining how this blog would really make a difference. But on the following day, an Israeli bomb destroyed a house in Qana, and several children were killed. Fearing that the dialog would die, I urged the Arabs not to let this happen. I also said that "While I remain proud of the Israeli soldiers for protecting my life with theirs - I am ashamed of the Israeli Army for not doing more to avoid such brutal killings of innocent children", and that "I hope that you, my Arab partners to this discussion, are ashamed of Hizballa for its cruel use of innocent children as human shields".

Since the people I was talking to seemed reasonable, I was expecting a similar response from them. Something along the lines of "yes, you're right, it is wrong of Hizballa to use children as human shields, but your army leaves them no choice".

But no - they didn't say that the Hizballa didn't have a choice. Not even one of them said that. They ALL said that the Hizballa weren't even there. They claimed that the whole thing about Human shields is a lie, and that all Israelis are murderers.

Boy, was I surprized by their response!

My total surprize at their consistent point of view trigerred one heck of a sensemaking process for me. I started trying to figure out "what the **** was going on here?".

I couldn't sleep that night. I kept asking myself what was causing these people to write this. Were they simply being patriotic? Were they falling for propaganda? I started suspecting, however, that they were really speaking their mind. I then had a small "flash" - a realization that Arabs may actually see themselves as freedom fighters in a war against the blood-thirsty Israelis. I wanted to verify this, so I asked the Arab bloggers if that was indeed so. I used a metaphore from Lord of the Rings - that in the Arab eyes, Israel is Isengard, and the USA is Mordor. One of the responses from the Arabs was basically a - "no, it's actually even worse".

The next night, I couldn't sleep either. I was asking myself: "These people are educated human beings. They use the Internet. They're bloggers. How can they fall for such propaganda???"

Then the "big flash" came. I don't know how it came - it just did. I made sense of the whole thing (not just the conversation - the whole Arab-Israeli conflict). I realized that this is all a matter of mental models: each side has a different mental model of "reality", and makes assumptions on the intentions of the other side based on that model. Each side see itself as "the good guys", and cannot accept that it wrongs the other. I explained it on the blog in the second part of this post and further in this post.

So why did my sensemaking process end up with the mental model theory? I think that this has to do with my prior experiences, and with having certain things on my mind at the time. I was familiar with mental models, and was quite occupied with philosophical ideas about thought processes within groups of people. When the puzzle came, I just let the data simmer in my brain for a few sleepless nights, until the answer just hit me.

BTW - I can now even extend the theory about the Arab-Israeli conflict to include sensemaking: Given the same data, the sensemaking process for each side achieves a totally different conclusion - becase each side has a different mental model of the conflict.

Now that I personally have a different mental model from other Israelis, my own sensemaking process - given the same events that are seen by other Israelis - achieves totally different conclusions then they do.

I believe that my new mental model explains much of the Middle East conflict, and can be used to find a solution. My big question: what is it that would cause others to go through this same process of realization?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dan Halutz Resigns

There are so many articles about this. I heard that the Hezbullah are celebrating.

Well, I'm glad Halutz resigned, but I don't think I share Hezbullah's reasons. I'm glad Halutz is leaving because, unlike many previous IDF chiefs of staff, Halutz seemed mentally incapable of showing the slightest bit of compassion towards other people. I think that Halutz is so full of himself that he sees others as pawns - not people.