Tag Archives: Violence

Complexity Matters

In his book “In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong”, (1996) French-Lebanese novelist Amin Maalouf argues that group violence is a consequence of over-simplified “tribal” identities and that its antidote lies in awareness/recognition of self complexity. He notes:

When one sees one’s own identity as made up of a number of allegiances, some linked to an ethnic past and others not, some linked to a religious tradition and others not; when one observes in oneself, in one’s origins and in the course one’s life has taken, a number of different confluences and contributions, of different mixtures and influences, some of them quite subtle or even incompatible with one another; then one enters into a different relationship both with other people and with one’s own “tribe.” It’s no longer a matter of just “them” and “us”. (31)

While Maalouf writes from an anecdotal perspective, recent research by Sonia Roccas and Marilynn Brewer (2002) on social identity complexity lends empirical support to his thesis.

Roccas and Brewer define social identity complexity as the degree of overlap between different elements of one’s identity:

A high degree of overlap means that different elements of one’s identity converge into a coherent whole (low complexity): e.g. a secular liberal who is anti-war, pro-choice, supports gay rights, votes democratic and is environmentally conscious.

A low degree of overlap (high complexity) means that different elements of one’s identity do not easily cohere together: e.g. a religious conservative who is gay, pro-life, proud feminist, has mixture of conservative and liberal friends, watches Bill O’Reilly and John Stewart.

Interestingly, and this is the part that connects to Maalouf’s thesis, what Roccas and Brewer found is that the degree of identity complexity correlates to level of tolerance for out-groups: with higher complexity associated with greater tolerance. This research is in-line with other studies that have shown the pro-social benefits of embracing complexity (Coleman, 2011).

Conflict resolution practitioners would do well in thinking of practices and techniques for increasing people’s awareness of their own identity complexity. Some promising work on identity-based training has been done in this regard (Korostelina, 2007), but the practical potential of this research has yet to be fully realized.

* Also published in ICCCR blog, dedicated to wedding theory, research and practice in the field of conflict resolution.


A Toast For Peace: Violence and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

My latest from Haaretz.

A couple of weeks ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced his intention to pass a bill that would ban alcohol from kiosks and gas stations as well as limit its sales and advertisement. The purpose of the bill is to reduce the seemingly rising level of violence and road accidents inside Israel.

The subject of violence and alcohol has been recently seared into the consciousness of Israelis when a group of inebriated teenagers attacked a family of three at a Tel-Aviv beach, brutally murdering the father.

That killing was just one of many harrowing accounts of high-profile crimes reported in Israel this summer – including a mother starving her child, a father killing his toddler, a dismembered woman found in a burning garbage bin, another dismembered woman found in a river, and a shooting at a gay youth center.

Reflecting on this phenomenon, Haaretz columnist and former politician Yossi Sarid aptly wrote that violence in Israel is undergoing privatization

“The state no longer has a monopoly over the use of force. We meet violence everywhere: in the army, schools, hospitals, publicly, privately, driving and parking.”

While there may be a relationship between violence and alcohol consumption, in a society like Israel, where heavy drinking is not the norm, Netanyahu’s new law is akin to putting a band-aid over a tumor.

If the Prime Minister is really interested in meaningfully reducing violence in Israeli society, which he surely is, he should focus all his energies on ending the conflict with the Palestinians.

To read more, click here. As always, if the spirit moves you, please leave a comment and/or repost elsewhere.

The Privatization Of Israeli Violence

Powerful article by Yossi Sarid in Haaretz on violence in Israeli society.

Key Quote:

Sometimes one has the impression that violence in this county is also undergoing privatization. The state no longer has a monopoly over the use of force. We meet violence everywhere: in the army, schools, hospitals, publicly, privately, driving and parking. And when the state is deprived of its singular status as enforcer, it also becomes a victim; it loses the faith of its citizens and remains a hollow frame. What a country.

To read more, click here.

On The Side Of The PeaceMakers

A few days ago Raquel Evita Saraswati and myself were interviewed for the the Portuguese daily, Publico. The interview was conducted by Margarida Santos Lopes, and explores how an Israeli-Jew and a Muslim (who happen to be friends), view reasons for the hate and violence in Israel/Palestine and the possibilities for peace in the region. The News Service Common Ground has also published the interview in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. Part I of the interview can be read here, while part two is forthcoming.


Roi: Most Israelis and Palestinians engage in violence due to a perception that they are under threat, and the belief that they are acting in self-defence and for the cause of justice. It is not, therefore, a sadistic impulse to cause bloodshed. At the same time, it is clear that far too many Palestinians and Israelis have an unhealthy confidence in the efficacy of violence. We have both placed too much faith in what I call the algorithm of violence: the notion that force is the optimal method for resolving conflict. This faith has led many to tragically dismiss peaceful forms of conflict resolution.

Raquel: What we, the new generation of Muslims and Jews calling for peace, must do is this: we must make the conversation our own. Our minds must not be battlefields trampled by old thinking and simmering hate. We must reject the very idea that our religious identity or ethnicity determines our “camp.” We can meet one another – virtually, even personally – and re-imagine this region. Beyond the desire for reconciliation, we can and must take action for peace.

To read more, click here. Don’t forget to check back for part II.