Also published in Columbia University’s ICCCR blog.
A great deal of our most difficult conflicts appear to be identity-based: Israeli vs. Palestinian, Democrat vs. Republican, Christian vs. Muslim, and so on. Identities are pitted against one another in a win-lose fashion. The intransigent nature of so-called identity conflict has understandably lead some to conclude that we must transcend our concerns over identity in order to resolve the deep conflicts that plague our societies. Yet research on identity and conflict resolution suggests that it’s premature to toss the baby out with the dirty bathwater. Continue reading
Over at Al Jazeera, Trita Parsi and I explore both the limitations and potential of using the Cuban Missile Crises as an analogy to the current situation between Israel and Iran.
“Watching the conflict between Iran and Israel escalate, it’s hard not to draw analogies and lessons from history. Indeed, Netanyahu’s thinking in this regard is very much anchored in the past: “The year is 1938 and Iran is Germany”, time and again he has warned. Such analogs provide leaders with a quick and handy “user manual”: a way to sell a desired policy path and provide a platform for action.
Yet as mental shortcuts, analogs could easily lead to unwanted outcomes. Crucial decisions, like going to war, could be based on paying attention to the wrong lessons, or making a false comparison between two different situations. Indeed, it is neither 1938 (Iran is far from having a bomb or a delivery system) nor is Iran Nazi Germany (Iran’s military budget is fraction of that of Israel and the US). Claiming so, however, leaves no room for any response save military force.
Recently, another historical episode, the Cuban Missile Crisis, has been gaining traction. Just as the US, the analogy goes, faced the intolerable choice of either attacking Cuba or allowing Soviet nuclear weapons in its own backyard, so too Israel/US must decide between attacking Iran or allowing it to become nuclear.”
To read the rest, click here.
For a long time scholars have speculated that coordinated activities between individuals – dancing, singing, walking, and exercising – increases both cooperation and a sense of group cohesion. As early as 1915, sociologist Emile Durkheim spoke of “collective effervescence”, a type of ecstatic energy that is produced by group rituals. Similarly, the historian William McNeill (1995), reflecting on his own military experience during WWII, wrote about the bonding effects that synchronous movement had on his unit:
Words are inadequate to describe the emotion aroused by the prolonged movement in unison that drilling involved. A sense of pervasive well-being is what I recall; more specifically, a strange sense of personal enlargement; a sort of swelling out, becoming bigger than life, thanks to participation in collective rituals.
More recently, the synchronicity thesis has been given empirical support from Stanford University psychologists Scott S. Wiltermuth and Chip Heath. In their study, consisting of three experiments, they demonstrated that synchronous activity actually causes people to cooperate and increases group attachment. Continue reading
My latest on the way in which Orphaned Land, Israel’s biggest heavy metal band, is transforming relations between Muslims and Jews in the MENA.
Sometimes change happens in the most unlikely ways, fostered by the most unlikely of people. In the last few years, while Israel’s relationship with the Arab and Muslim world has drastically deteriorated, an Israeli heavy metal band has been uniting thousands of Jews and Muslims across the Middle East.
Originally published in Common Ground News, a longer version of this piece also appears in The Jerusalem Post.
It is said that wars begin in the minds of men. Considering the people charged with running Israel and Iran today, this is indeed a frightening prospect. But it’s also a chilling insight into the workings of the human mind in general. Why? Because our minds are filled with biases – unconscious and systematic errors of judgment – that make war with Iran an increasing possibility. We are, as psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman argues, hardwired to find hawkish arguments more convincing than dovish ones.
Kahneman’s lecture was given in 2006 (the english begins 1:48), but the implication for the current and escalating conflict between Israel and Iran are clear. Below I have selected a number of cognitive biases (not all mentioned by Kahneman) that I believe are influencing the recent bellicose rhetoric emanating from Jerusalem and Tehran. For the sake of familiarity I will concentrate on the Israeli hawkish narrative (you can read a recent example here). Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Cognitive Bias, Confirmation bias, Daniel Kahneman, Doves, Fundamental Attribution Error, Hawks, Iran, Israel, Loss Aversion, Optimistic Bias, War
Do women make peace in a different voice? Peter Coleman and I explore some essential peacebuilding lessons culled from the work of recent Noble Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee. As always, if the spirit moves you, please share with your virtual community and leave a comment (criticism welcomed) in the talkback section of the article.
Also, if there was a song that captures the essence of our article it’s this:
My good friend Aziz Abu Sarah, regular columnist for 972, published a piece based on a drasha he gave in a synagogue for Rosh Hashana. Its an important sermon that is worth your time. I make a small cameo in the article in which I introduce my dramatic sounding idea that peace calls on all of us – Israelis and Palestinian – to reverse the curse of Abraham: that violent primordial impulse that legitimizes sacrificing children on an ideological altar. I will develop this idea in detail when I have some time to come up for air. Speaking of, readers of this blog will notice that there have been very few post or comments as of late. The reason is that I’m currently holding three jobs and working on two degrees simultaneously. I simply have no time to write, publish or blog. But I will be back. Promise. In the meantime, enjoy and take heart in Aziz’s words.