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Israeli and Palestinian Narratives of Conflict

History's Double Helix

Edited by Robert I. Rotberg

Publication Year: 2006

"An exciting and wide-ranging exploration of the myths and narratives that lie behind the unresolved Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.... Anyone dedicated to the fullest possible understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will want to read this volume cover to cover." -- Neil Caplan, Vanier College, Montreal

Why does Hamas refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel? Why do Israeli settlers in the West Bank insist that Israel has a legitimate right to that territory? What makes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so intractable? Reflecting both Israeli and Palestinian points of view, this provocative volume addresses the two powerful, bitterly contested, competing historical narratives that underpin the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Compelling contributions by Israeli and Palestinian authors show how the intertwined reckonings of the historical past -- history's double helix -- provide powerful ammunition for current battles. Just when a resolution of the conflict might seem to be on the horizon, the gulf of history resurges to separate the contenders. Palestinians and Israelis remain locked in struggle, tightly entangled and enveloped by a historical cocoon of growing complexity, fundamental disagreement, and overriding miscalculation.

This book creates a dialogue among Palestinian and Israeli authors, who examine opposing versions of the historical narratives in the context of contemporary Israeli-Palestinian relations. In hard-hitting essays the contributors debate the two justifying and rationalizing constructions, laying bare the conflict's roots and the distorted prisms that fuel it. Israeli and Palestinian Narratives of Conflict is an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to make sense of today's headlines.

Contributors are Sami Adwan, Dan Bar-On, Mordechai Bar-On, Daniel Bar-Tal, Nathan J. Brown, Saleh Abdel Jawad, Eyal Naveh, Ilan Pappe, Dina Porat, Robert I. Rotberg, Nadim N. Rouhana, Gavriel Salomon, and Mark Tessler.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in Middle East Studies

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Every conflict is justified by a narrative of grievance, accusation, and indignity. Conflicts depend on narratives, and in some senses cannot exist without a detailed explanation of how and why the battles began, and why one side, and only one side, is in the right. Narratives also create conflict, or at least lead directly into clashes. Stories are stitched together into an all-encompassing narrative that becomes...

Map of the Middle East

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pp. x

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1. Building Legitimacy through Narrative

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pp. 1-18

Wars are fought over tangible resources: rights to, and control over, land, water, and minerals. Wars are also fueled by other palpable grievances: forced removals; episodes of ethnic cleansing; fears of being overwhelmed; objective or imagined security concerns; actual or invented slights; ethnic, religious, or linguistic discriminations; a refusal to respect traditions or claims; and a host of other complaints.

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2. Israeli–Jewish Narratives of the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict: Evolution, Contents, Functions, and Consequences

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pp. 19-46

Human beings have a basic epistemic need to live in an environment that is meaningful, comprehensible, organized, and predictable.1 They strive to perceive their world in a meaningful way in which events, people, and things or symbols are not understood as isolated stimuli but are comprehended in an organized way, one that provides meaning to the new information.2 This sense of understanding is...

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3. Forging Zionist Identity Prior to 1948—Against Which Counter-Identity?

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pp. 47-71

There is a growing consensus that the identity of a group, whether a people or a nation, is forged not only from within but in relation to other groups against whom certain basic boundaries are de¤ned. Indeed, part of the current widespread critique of Zionism focuses on its alleged historical failure or refusal to develop its identity vis-á-vis the counter identity of the Palestinian Arabs. While acknowledging...

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4. The Arab and Palestinian Narratives of the 1948 War

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pp. 72-114

The 1948 Arab–Israeli war was one of the most important events in the contemporary Middle East. Its consequences and impact go beyond the geographical limit of the area and the historical time in which it occurred. Because of the issues left unresolved by the 1948 war and its aftermath—on the Palestinian side, the refugee problem in all its dimensions and the unmaking of a Palestinian state; on the Israeli side,...

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5. Zionism’s Encounter with the Palestinians: The Dynamics of Force, Fear, and Extremism

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pp. 115-141

This chapter examines the impact of the Zionist idea and how the implementation of that idea transformed Palestine from an Arab homeland into a Jewish state. This chapter also discusses the collective behavior of the colonizers— those who took over the homeland—vis à vis the colonized, whose homeland was claimed by outsiders and was successfully taken over.1 This analysis uses the national ideology...

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6. Conflicting Narratives or Narratives of a Conflict: Can the Zionist and Palestinian Narratives of the 1948 War Be Bridged?

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pp. 142-173

Human history has amply proven that nations which experience prolonged wars may come to realize at a certain point that peace is preferable to continued war. Fatigue, rational calculations of cost, international intervention, and other motives may bring an end to strife. Peace is never an outcome of changes in the emotional sphere vis-à-vis the enemy. It may follow but not precede the end of the conflict. As the...

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7. Narratives and Myths about Arab Intransigence toward Israel

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pp. 174-193

Narratives are real and deserve attention regardless of the degree to which they are historically accurate. Whether or not they are historically accurate is also important. But the fact is that Israelis and Palestinians have narratives that tell different stories about what has happened in Palestine since the beginning of the modern Zionist project. From one perspective, it does not matter whether the stories are accurate.

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8. The Bridging Narrative Concept

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pp. 194-204

Bridging narratives appear mainly in the deconstruction of fictional plots where they are usually intercalated chapters, short pieces connecting the so-called plot chapters. In classical Greek plays they are the pieces that the omniscient narrator introduces to form bridges between acts in the drama, thus leading the audience through the dialogues and events onstage. Some historians also assume this...

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9. The Psychology of Better Dialogue between Two Separate butInterdependent Narratives

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pp. 205-224

Discourse over the Israeli–Palestinian conflict rotates around the struggle over whose narrative describing the history of the conflict—the Israeli or the Palestinian—is the true or the morally superior one. In the years since the Oslo Accords, many efforts have been invested to create a bridging narrative between the two conflicting stories.1 The authors of this chapter assume that it is not possible to develop such a bridging...

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10. Contesting National Identity in Palestinian Education

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pp. 225-243

Palestinian identity, like Palestinian soil, is sharply contested terrain. This is most obviously—and noisily—true internationally. But it is hardly unusual for questions of national identity to involve complex and controversial international questions. The Palestinian case is unusually, though not uniquely, complicated in that here national identity does not merely concern historical and territorial issues but also...

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11. The Dynamics of Identity Construction in Israel through Education in History

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pp. 244-270

In late 2003 Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was deeply troubled. His bodyguards—young Israelis who graduated from the Israeli public school system—demonstrated complete ignorance of their national heritage. They did not know basic facts about the history of their society, could not recognize the major historical figures or events in Israel’s history, and were oblivious to the heroic and tragic past...

List of Contributors

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pp. 271-273


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pp. 275-283

E-ISBN-13: 9780253112286
E-ISBN-10: 0253112281
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253347671

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 1 map
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Indiana Series in Middle East Studies