Learning from ‘mainstream’ and ‘politicized’ encounter programs

Israel-Palestine handshake symbol. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Wickey-nl.

Note from Kathie MM: Many peace advocates are becoming discouraged about what seems to be unremittent violence in many parts of the world, including the Middle East. But there are important and promising peace initiatives that get less attention in the mainstream media than the stories about violence.  Our guest author Karen Ross gives us some examples of different peace initiatives directed at Israeli-Palestinian relationships and suggests that they may have implications far beyond the Middle East–reaching, perhaps, all the way to the US.

by Karen Ross

In the background of ongoing tensions in Israel, a wide range of programs bring together Jewish and Palestinian youth for joint activities and dialogue. Hundreds of such programs have been implemented over the years, using a variety of approaches ranging from integrated classrooms to joint sports teams and various other initiatives.

These programs are generally based on one of several theoretical frameworks. Most common are those programs that focus on developing interpersonal relationships between participants. Other programs use an inter-group approach that emphasizes the collective identities of participants (as Jewish/Palestinian) and generally place much more of a focus on structural inequalities and systemic injustices in Israeli society. For this reason, inter-group programs are typically considered “politicized” and at times “radical,” while programs focused on inter-personal dynamics are considered much more “mainstream” and tend to be those programs supported by institutions like the Ministry of Education.

Differences in approach are also expressed in the way participants are shaped by these programs. For instance, research shows that more “politicized” programs are those that enable the development of a more critical perspective among participants, which in turn can lead to active engagement in social change activities. “Mainstream” programs, on the other hand, are less likely to directly lead to social change engagement, and some research suggests that even the positive attitudes developed through inter-personally-focused encounters might be limited only to other participants in the program (as opposed to members of the “other” group more broadly).

Based on this, one might think that “politicized” programs hold greater potential than their “mainstream” counterparts for improving relations between Palestinians and Jews in Israel and contributing to broader social change. However, because they are “mainstream,” these less critically-oriented programs have the potential to reach a much broader spectrum of participants. And even if they do not generate the same degree of engagement, these programs give participants the chance to experience the kind of cooperation between Jews and Palestinians that provides hope for the possibility of change.

Given the current reality in Israel, any kind of activity aimed at strengthening ties between Jewish and Palestinian citizens is an important contributor to shifting the landscape of Israeli society and helping build peace and justice.

And we might take some lessons from these programs in the US context, especially in the current environment that is characterized by so much tension, not only in terms of diverging political discourses but more deeply with respect to the way different identity groups are perceived. Creating opportunities for individuals from different backgrounds to develop positive relationships with one another can provide important (and much needed) benefits to our society – no matter what the approach.

Karen Ross is an assistant professor in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance at UMASS Boston, where her work focuses on issues at the intersection of education, peace building, and social activism. She is also a dialogue facilitator and trainer, and has worked as a consultant with various peace building and dialogue organizations in the US and internationally.  


Posted in Champions of peace, Nonviolence, Peace studies, Perspective-taking, politics, Reconciliation and healing, social justice, Understanding violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Outer Space, Three Guideposts for the Resistance

Source: Public Domain (adapted).

by Roy Eidelson

Later this summer, millions of Americans — from Oregon to South Carolina — will be looking skyward to witness a rare total solar eclipse as the moon briefly blots out the sun. Yet for so many in the United States, dark days aren’t really anything new. And they’re becoming all the more commonplace as Trump, Ryan, and McConnell advance a heartless agenda that dims the lights on pretty much everyone except the privileged few.

Fortunately, resistance groups have been working around the clock to blunt this ongoing assault on basic decency and the public good. They have a different reason to turn to the heavens: chronicles of aliens from outer space offer some valuable lessons about psychological challenges that lie ahead. Let’s consider three examples.

Our first stop is Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. On an autumn night back in 1938, thousands of radio listeners thought the Orson Welles adaptation of “The War of the Worlds” was the real thing: a live account of Martian invaders landing nearby.

Panic ensued for those fooled by the broadcast’s air of authenticity – complete with “we interrupt our program” news bulletins. Some frantically called the local police to find out what protective steps they should take. Others fled from their homes seeking safety farther from the reported invasion site. Some fainted beside their radios. Within hours the hoax was revealed, but this “brush with death” remains a memorable testament to human gullibility.

The lesson from Grover’s Mill? Since we’re not very good at judging peril, we can be easy prey for those who resort to scare tactics to achieve their goals. Manipulative fearmongering is often used by politicians to garner votes or prop up sagging poll numbers. Trump and his entourage wouldn’t be the first to gain broad support and dutiful obedience by raising the specter of mushroom clouds over our cities or other nightmarish scenarios. Indeed, invented crises and wars of aggression have long been popular ploys with leaders who seek to benefit from the collective rush toward blind patriotism.

Our second stop is Lake City, USA. On a December night in 1954, Mrs. Marian Keech (an alias) and her band of disciples awaited the landing of a flying saucer from the planet Clarion. As recounted in the social psychology classic When Prophecy Fails, they confidently sought salvation from the massive flood that they believed would soon submerge much of the country. Convinced by Mrs. Keech’s purported contact with superior beings, some followers left their jobs and others gave away their money and possessions in preparation for their fateful journey. When neither the aliens nor the deluge ever arrived, this small doomsday cult — bound together by shared convictions — concluded that their faith and devotion had led higher powers to save the world from its scheduled destruction.

The lesson here is that we shouldn’t expect Trump’s ardent supporters to abandon him simply because he pursues policies that actually hurt rather than help them. Especially if they’re surrounded by like-minded devotees, many will instead embrace his “alternative facts” and his false claims about “fake news.” This is because, psychologically, the desire for consistency in our beliefs and actions often leads us to interpret the world in whatever ways most readily reduce any dissonance we feel. That’s why, for instance, the cigarette smoker who’s told his habit could be deadly may convince himself that the scientific research is flawed — it’s easier than quitting. Likewise, misplaced political loyalties can persist indefinitely, without the adherents ever recognizing how far they’ve gone astray.

Our final stop is Maple Street, USA, the fictional setting for a 1960 episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. When a mysterious roar and flash of light disturb a quiet summer evening, a young boy warns that creatures from outer space have arrived in human form. His notion seems farfetched until lights, phones, and automobiles stop working up and down the block. At first neighbors unite in a search for answers. But soon they’re accusing each other of plotting an extraterrestrial invasion. As mob violence erupts, one alien watching from above explains to another, “All we need do is sit back and watch…Their world is full of Maple Streets. And we’ll go from one to the other and let them destroy themselves.”

The lesson from Maple Street is clear: “divide and conquer” is a tried-and-true psychological ploy when it comes to ruthlessly — and selfishly — controlling the lives and prospects of other people. It’s no different for Trump. Whenever he can, he’ll encourage distrust and hostility within and among opposition groups, preying on our differences to stymie the forging of new alliances and broad-based movements against him. Likewise, he’ll ramp up his brutal selective targeting — of Muslims, immigrants, people of color, and others — as a way to scapegoat the most vulnerable among us and thereby misdirect the blame for his own failings.

Although the total solar eclipse on August 21st will only last two minutes, the Trumpian days of darkness show little sign of abating. The three guideposts described here, drawn from not-so-close encounters with extraterrestrials, can help light the way forward. First, don’t fall for Trump’s scare tactics. Second, don’t count on his zealous followers to waver. And third, let’s stick together no matter how he tries to divide us.

About the Author


Posted in Armed conflict, Book reviews, Donald Trump, Media, Patriotism, politics, Propaganda, Protest, racism, resistance, Understanding violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hear-ye, Hear-ye, Read all about it!

By Kathie MM

Last Saturday, June 17, 2017, on a miserably wet day, multitudes of women marched in New York City.

Their purpose? Rallying for a United Nations ban on the use, development, and sale of nuclear weapons.

Support for such a ban, like support for efforts to deal with climate change, may be essential to the survival of most of the remaining species on earth, including human beings.

However,  effective banning of the bomb faces enormous obstacles. Foremost is the opposition of all member countries already possessing nuclear weapons—including the United States.

Fortunately, many courageous women—and their male supporters—have faced daunting obstacles in the past and have overcome them.

Step back. Imagine what it must have been like for women in this country when:

  • they could not vote,
  • advocating for a right to vote could mean a term in prison or an insane asylum,
  • divorcing an abusive husband meant losing your children,
  • distributing contraception aids or advertising safe abortions was a criminal offense,
  • higher education was pretty much out of bounds, and
  • while poverty was rampant, nearly every kind of job was closed to women except domestic work and prostitution (which was more lucrative but also a pathway to prison).

Perhaps you have heard the names of some of the women (e.g., Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull) who worked, often at great personal cost, to challenge these injustices.

If you want to immerse yourself in the lives of those women and others (e.g., Susan B. Anthony) as they struggled against widespread oppression and persecution (personified by the smug zealot Anthony Comstock), read Marge Piercy’s Sex Wars.

The novel is riveting, with rich and well-researched characterizations of Cady Stanton and Woodhull–courageous, passionate, sometimes conflictual, flawed, admirable human beings–and the nefarious Anthony Comstock (who devoted his life to sending uppity women to jail ), as well as the inimitable fictional immigrant, Freydeh Levin.

Read it for an intimate and engrossing engagement in a culture awash with violent prejudices, run by a cabal of rich and powerful white men able to postpone but not prevent the protest movement for women’s rights.

Read it, be grateful for the progress that’s been made,, and ask what you can do for…

  • Peace,
  • Survival of the earth, and
  • Human rights.


Posted in Book reviews, Democracy, Human rights, Nonviolence, politics, Poverty, Prisons, Protest, resistance, social justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where have all the fathers gone

Profiteer: THE WAR IS OVER, MY BOY. FORGET IT! Cartoon in “Life” Magazine, March 10 1919 p. 349 Via. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

by Anthony J. Marsella

On this day honoring fathers, too many fathers have been and are being lost to war.

General Smedley Butler’s words from 1935, in his book “War is a Racket” reminds us of who is benefitting from war, and who are the victims across time and today.

If so many are against war, why do wars continue with such savagery and tragic consequence. Cui Bono?

In 1935, Butler wrote a book titled War Is a Racket, where he described and criticized the workings of the United States in its foreign actions and wars, such as those he was a part of, including the American corporations and other imperialist motivations behind them. After retiring from service, he became a popular activist, speaking at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists, and church groups in the 1930s.  (Wikipedia)

Time to end the racket?

Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a  member of the TRANSCEND Network, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu. He is known nationally and internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 15 edited books, and more than 250 articles, chapters, book reviews, and popular pieces. He can be reached at marsella@hawaii.edu.


Posted in capitalism, Champions of peace, imperialism, Military-industrial complex, Pacifism, politics, Protest, Understanding violence | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment