Meeting DFG Project HOF, 2018

DFG Project "Hearts of Flesh - Not Stone"

Meeting DFG Project HOF, 2018
Image: jcrs

Encountering the Suffering of the Other (ESO) lies at the core of the DFG Project "Hearts of Flesh - Not Stone", which takes place at JCRS since 2013. The project is an interdisciplinary study of intergroup reconciliation with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

No one needs to be convinced about the complexity and entrenchment of the conflict between the Israeli and the Palestinian people. The grim history of the region - of violence, broken promises, injustices, etc., could easily lead to pessimism about possibilities for reconciliation. In terms of conflict resolution, it would be difficult to find a more intractable conflict or one more plagued by hard-bargaining tactics. Despite the general desire to end the violence and to move in the direction of stable and just political structures, the movement in that direction is impeded by collective emotions of pain, distrust and the desire for revenge. Profound insecurity and resentment permeates the psychologies of individuals in the region on cognitive and emotional levels.

The project wants to advocate the discourse between both partners on multiple levels:

- First, by the collaboration of the "cross-conflict" partnerships their cooperation on cultural and intellectual levels is to be cultivated;

- Secondly, projects are to be established, which are to be of direct assistance to victims of the conflict;

- Finally, it is about international and interdisciplinary cooperation, which is vital for illuminating the complex tensions between Israelis and Palestinians decidedly and considering approaches from different directions. Worth mentioned in this context are the disciplines of social psychology, political sciences, applied ethics, religious studies, theology and history.

Transdisciplinarity of Encountering the Suffering of the Other Image: jcrs
State of the art and preliminary work Show content

The project title “Hearts of Flesh – Not Stone” is a reference to an image in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (36:26). The image, which is significant for Jewish, Christian and Muslim cultures, gives insight into the central questions of this project which seeks to understand the movement of individuals and groups from lesser to greater willingness for reconciliation. 

Working in a transdisciplinary manner, we expect major results to impact understanding of reconciliation. The second major result impacts society; we want to deepen the understanding on how encounter groups can lead to greater willingness to reconcile. The project analyses individuals and groups experiencing the “suffering of the other” as a means for understanding how and why groups may become more or less open to reconciliation. This single question forms the focus of the project, which is addressed via three theoretical/methodological approaches:

1. Encountering the suffering of the other (ESO) “experientially”

2. Analyzing the ESO through social psychological experimentation

3. Conceptual analysis of the ESO through theological/sociological/political disciplines

The first approach (A) explores the ESO before, during and immediately after the experience as well as one year later, during which the participants will live in their own home community. The study will carefully examine the possible changes among the Palestinian and the Jewish-Israeli participants, especially regarding two central indicators reflecting willingness to reconcile:

1. Acceptance of the “other” identity needs

2. Perceptions of collective narratives of the in-group and “other” group.

In addition to assisting in the ESO itself, the second approach (B) addresses the question with the models and experiments of social psychology. The final approach (C) addresses the question on a more theoretical level. It examines the groups’ beliefs, attitudes, goals, narratives and their relative power positions – all elements which comprise and influence their social imaginations and group identities. In proposing such a study, we emphasize quite strongly that we are not comparing or equating the suffering of the two groups in any way.

The project is designed so that the basic models and principles can be established and evaluated in time for the 18 month mark in the second year. The subsequent three years are intended for further testing and refinement, of course, but also development of that learning into impact tools in the areas of pedagogy, encounter workshops, and negotiation principles. The project group is composed of scholars from many disciplines committed to helping and learning from each other. The leaders represent a great breadth of experience and expertise:

Martin Leiner (Jena) is a systematic theologian with expertise in media ethics and philosophy in addition to reconciliation.

Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi (Jerusalem) is a political scientist committed to the principle of moderation in a challenging political climate. Dajani’s organization Wasatia functions as the scholarly home for the Palestinian partners until we can association ourselves directly with Al Quds University – where both Mohammed and Munther Dajani Daoudi are heads of a department (American Studies) and a college (Faculty of Arts).

Arie Nadler (Tel Aviv) is a social psychologist who has developed differentiated models for the science of reconciliation. The ESO focus was his insight, and every aspect of the program benefits from his mentorship. He brought Shifra Sagy (Beer Sheba) to the project as a co-leader of the Israeli group because of her long experience and scholarship on encounter groups. She also brings the institutional support of Ben Gurion University and its Conflict Management and Resolution Program, which she leads.

In addition to the rigorous academic and ethical principles of our disciplines, two principles characterize our work.

First, the project is committed to transdisciplinarity (Mittelstraß, 2007) whereby the different disciplines work very closely in the development and testing of goals, concepts, experiments (including common discussion of measurement), as well as the evaluation and publication of the results.

Secondly, the project benefits from an insight of the theologian and philosopher Hölderlin (1797) that elements of peace and reconciliation are already found “in the middle of conflicts” (Leiner, 2012) and not only after violent actions have stopped (Kelman, 2008). In intractable conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this seems to be a promising route to reconciliation because attempts of reconciliation may be a precondition for violence to cease.

Encountering the suffering of the other (ESO) "experientially" Show content

For over 30 years, encounters groups between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis focused mainly on conflicting relations between the groups and the possibility of coexistence (Amir & Ben-Ari, 1989; Bargal & Bar, 1996; Katz & Kahanof, 1990). Associated research indicates the importance of power relations (e.g. Rouhanna & Korper, 1997; Sonnenschein et al., 1998; Suleiman, 1996), historical narratives (Sagy, 2002), and cultural differences (Sagy, 2000) for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

The project benefits from and further develops the encounter models that have taken place over the past 20 years, including specifically the initiatives that have brought Israeli-Jews and Palestinians to face the “suffering of the other" (ESO). Israeli groups visited Palestinian refugee camps (Bar-On, 2000), and Palestinians visited concentration camps in Poland and Germany. The initiators, process, and goals of these visits were varied and understandably lacking in analytic data. The aims of such projects were usually defined as "small steps to bridge huge gaps"(Bar-On, 2000).

In one of these cases, a group of Israeli Jews and Palestinians, all students at Ben-Gurion University, visited Buchenwald concentration camp after participating in a one year dialogue workshop (Sagy, 2002). This joint "journey" underscored the importance of the personal self - individual identity – as a potential preparation for greater readiness to reconcile with an enemy (Sagy, Steinberg & Diab, 2011). It seems that direct encounter with the suffering of the “other” deepened “self” and “other” perceptions which facilitated “better” dialogue. Another example is an Arab -Israeli group initiative (Shechter, Farhat & Bar-On, 2008) of 300 Arabs and Jews who together journeyed to Auschwitz in May 2003. While the personal impact was significant (Sagy et al. 2006), the social impact is not clear and needs carefully examination (Shechter & et al., 2008).

Unique to this project is the study of self-perceived victims encountering the “other’s” (perpetrator’s) past. Collective narratives are developed according to the group’s set of values and guide group members' evaluations of the past, the present, and expectations for the future, as well as legitimizing and justifying group actions (e.g., Hamilton, Sherman, & Castelli, 2002; von Borries, 1997; Pennbaker & Banasik, 1997). Those narratives, often experienced by group members as “objective facts” (Bar-Tal, 1998; von Borries, 1997), also define the way that group members will construe their social identity relative to other groups (Duveen, 2001; Liu & Hamilton 2005). Because mutual negation of narratives often triggers and sustains conflict violence (Gur-Zeev, 1999), examination of collective narratives seems to be a meaningful way for understanding intergroup relations between victims and perpetrators in intractable conflicts (Sagy, Adwan & Kaplan, 2002; Sagy, Ayalon & Diab, 2011). Sagy et al. (2002) developed a quantitative measurement of perceptions of collective narratives for Israeli Jews and Palestinians that referred to cognitive (legitimization) as well as to emotional (anger, empathy, shame, pride, etc.) responses to the narratives of the ingroup and the outgroup. Two very recent studies (Ayalon & Sagy, 2011; Sagy, Ayalon & Diab, 2011) showed that acceptance of self and "other" narratives relates to perceptions of future relationships and possible reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, thus showing the promise for the ESO.

Representing an Arab and Muslim perspective, Mohammed Abu-Nimer (1999) makes specific recommendations for “Arab-Jewish encounters” for the purpose of achieving reconciliation. We incorporate these recommendations by, for example, understanding “moderation” and “dignity” as empowering concepts such that reconciliation is a process consistent with the achievement of civil rights, fairness and political and social responsibilities. Because in encounters power relations play such a determining role, political science as well as social psychology provide insight to principles of legitimacy, democratic values, and the different needs of each group. Abu-Nimer stresses that interventions may be best without direct encounters; that they should be carefully and professionally led, and that they are no substitute for structural change (1999:167). He also argues for greater understanding of “the various Islamic values and principles supporting peace building and nonviolence” (2003:3). Mohammed Dajani Daoudi, likewise, has argued for the importance of such understanding generally and as playing roles in Jewish-Arab encounters for peace-building. His work integrates religious concepts because of their identity-informing roles, and argues that the fruit of such encounters, namely moderation, is a necessary step towards reconciliation.

Analyzing ESO with social-psychological experimentation Show content

Identity-Related Change, Ingroup Projection Model, Needs-Based Model: Social Psychology approaches the ESO as relevant to identity-related change (Nadler, 2012). For analysis, it applies both the Ingroup Projection Model (IPM; Mummendey & Wenzel, 1999; Wenzel, Mummendey, & Waldzus, 2007) and the needs-based model of reconciliation (Nadler & Shnabel, 2008).

According to self categorization theory (Mummendey & Wenzel, 1999; Turner, et al. 1987), group members evaluate their ingroup (to which they belong and feel attached to) relative to outgroups with reference to a common superordinate category. Superordinate categories provide the standards and attributes for the evaluation of the included ingroup and outgroup. Usually, ingroup members think they fit better into the superordinate group (e.g., common society) than outgroup members would concede. The perception of higher ingroup typicality arises because of a tendency to project ingroup attributes onto the superordinate category (Mummendey & Kessler, 2008). As both groups, ingroup and outgroup, tend to project their attributes onto a superordinate category, a perspective divergence emerges indicating that both groups disagree in their mutual understanding of each other (as both perceive themselves as more positive than the other would concede; Kessler & Mummendey, 2009). Intergroup conflict and mutual misunderstandings, however, tend to diminish with increasingly complex perceptions of common categories (Waldzus, Mummendey, & Wenzel, 2005; Waldzus, et al, 2003) This positive influence of perceived complexity on intergroup relations nicely underlines the Hölderlin perspective.

The Needs-Based Model (e.g., Nadler & Shnabel, 2008; Shnabel, et al, 2009) proposes that successful reconciliation requires that the different emotional needs of persons in the victim and perpetrator positions should be satisfied. Thus, socio-emotional reconciliation can be viewed as a social exchange in which the groups help each other to restore the threatened aspects of their identity. Perpetrators seek empathy and understanding, whereas victims have a desire to be in control. The apology-forgiveness cycle represents one means that is ought to satisfy the needs of both conflict-parties in order to reconcile (but see Harth, Hornsey, & Barlow, 2011).

Empathy is linked to the cognitive ability of perspective-taking and affective reactions from imagining someone else’s feelings in a certain situation (Batson et al, 2003). Therefore, empathy can be defined as an other-oriented emotion. On the interpersonal level, demonstrations have shown that empathy feelings for a needy person increase pro-social action tendencies and forgiveness (Davis et al, 1996). Important for the present proposal, Takaku (2001) demonstrated that victim’s perspective taking increases forgiveness for the perpetrator in interpersonal relations. However, we cannot easily translate these findings to the intergroup level. Stürmer et al (2006) demonstrated that empathy and pro-social intergroup behavior depend on perceived (dis)similarities between the groups. This research suggests that emphasizing similarities between the groups might be a promising route to increase the link between empathy and positive intergroup behavior, such as reconciliation (e.g., Gonzalez, Manzi, & Noor, 2011). But how can commonalities between victims and perpetrators become salient? The IPM serves us as theoretical frame.

Moreover, one important open question is how status and power differences between perpetrators and victims affect this reconciliation process. Here we assume that the mutual perception of power differences as legitimate (in a complex superordinate category) and illegitimate (in a simple superordinate category) may be an important factor influencing the willingness to reconcile.

Recognition from others seems an important factor in identity management (Honneth,2004). Victims need empowerment through recognition, whereas perpetrators need recognition of their moral self-image (e.g., Shnabel et al., 2009). Satisfaction of these needs opens willingness for reconciliation. Another facet of recognition, respect, has received less empirical and theoretical work in the psychological literature. Respect is sometimes conceived of as liking or appreciation. However, Simon (2007; Simon & Stürmer, 2005) argues for a respect conception as recognition of equality within a common human category (or other ingroups as proxy). Philosophical conceptions of human dignity as egalitarian (especially Kantian) are relevant in these empirical studies. Thus egalitarian recognition seems to pattern with ingroup identification and ingroup cooperation.

Our studies will test the role respect (as recognition as an equal) plays in reconciliation. One difficulty is that intergroup relations include a clear categorical differentiation (i.e., the group differences). Here, we would like to argue for a common superordinate ingroup which may serve as a reference frame for the included groups (IPM). Within the common superordinate group, group members can recognize outgroup members as equal with respect to this one common ingroup identity. This may serve as a research paradigm for subsequent studies and provide insight for conceptual work on the principle of dignity. We hypothesize that respect is necessary for the needs-fulfilment of both perpetrator and victim for enhancing willingness to reconcile and to maintaining continued relations. If the respect is missing, the perception of a common superordinate identity encompassing both groups may be reduced, which may mitigate against future relations.

Conceptual analysis through theological, cultural, political discipines Show content

Respect, understood as recognition of the other, is related to the notion of dignity insofar as there is a recognition of a shared membership within a common group, namely humanity, and an implication that all humans share a basic equality (O’Malley, 2011). Dignity has present relevance for reconciliation in the present context for two important reasons. First, in 1992, the Knesset passed two basic laws on civil rights establishing human rights and human dignity at the centre of Israel’s civil law. And second, movements of the Arab Spring reference dignity as a central motive and goal for their stand against non-democratic rights-denying governments (Fukuyama, 2012, Lynch 2012). Furthermore, human dignity was first internationally “recognized” as a universal principle (UDHR, 1948) precisely as a response to the suffering of the other – a “never again” reaction to Nazi barbarism (Morsink 1999:36-40). Dignity is a concept that draws from religious, cultural, and political sources and it is one that informs the social imaginations that propel social action (Taylor, 2007; Castoriadis, 1998). Therefore dignity is relevant to reconciliation.

The connection between respectful behaviour and human dignity, also made by Margalit (1996), is relevant for the dignity principle itself. We will examine whether the recognition of dignity as universal and egalitarian differs from related concepts such as honour. This distinction between absolute and relative standards may have significant effects on the individuals and groups that are judged with reference to these standards (Kessler, Neumann, Mummendey, Berthold, Schubert, & Waldzus, 2010). A disputed view proposed by Whitman (2004) and Appiah (2010) suggest a quite strong connection. Using the analysis of the ESO, the project would determine the particular dignity and honour conceptions that are being used by both Israelis and Palestinians, determine the impact of ESO on the conceptions (openness to modification), and thus examine the relevance of dignity and honour for reconciliation.

For Christian theology, the theme of reconciliation is central and very closely related to the ESO theme. Theology and theological ethics bring an extremely differentiated conceptual and theoretical framework. Nida-Rümelin (2009) argues that empirical disciplines need approaches concerned with the Lebenswelt to find and clarify the research questions and to check to results (see also Browning 1989). The Old and New Testament are also sources of insight for the theme of reconciliation (especially Lev 16, 2.Cor 5; Rom 5; Eph 2; Col 1, see B. Seiger 1996), and present research is uncovering the extent to which Jewish liturgical practices developed into early Christian practices and understanding. Yom Kippur (Day of Reconciliation), for example, developed into the Christian sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist. Bertram Schmitz’s work (2009) crucially shows the conceptual similarities as well as differences to be found in the source documents, the centuries-long religious practices, and the narrative-relaying of Jews, Muslims and Christians. As is recently shown in Legerer’s (2011) work on the role of the Evangelical church, the Christian concept of reconciliation as a principle of applied ethics is present and playing a role in the conflict.

Ritschl’s and Barth’s theological emphasis on Jesus Christ having already reconciled the world and the cosmos remains a current focus. The ethical implications of this transition are themes for Müller-Fahrenholz (1996, 2003) and Wüstenberg (2004). Müller-Fahrenholz brought attention to the potencies of religious ideas in collective narratives for groups’ willingness to reconciliation. Wüstenberg showed that there was actually a significant correspondence between the DDR and South African regime changes with respect to operating theologies of reconciliation and political theories of reconciliation. These works represent the present interdisciplinary collaboration of theology and the social sciences. Important recent work by Roman Catholic theologians has been done on particular conflicts by, for example on Rwanda by Friese (2010), as well as more foundational books like that of van de Loo (2010). Political Scientist Weingardt’s impressive suggestion to study charismatic personalities (“religions-based actors”) and committed pressure groups for peace have not yet found an echo in the researches of German theologians (Weingardt 2007). In the USA, there is a research field on the spirituality of reconciliation (Katongolé/Rice 2008; Volf 1996, 2006 a. and Schreiter 1998).

Religious Studies systematically analyse the reality that different religions and cultures have developed different conception of the possible meanings, boundaries and ends for conflicts. Islam, for example, does not directly speak about “reconciliation”. A conceptual study is therefore required for terms like peace, moderation, and reconciliation in Arabic (salam-salah, wasatia and suhl). Also, the Hebrew shalom, pijjus-pijes, hitpaisut and kippurim, requires a deeper understanding and comparison with the Arabic terminology. Recent work by Mohammed Dajani on Wasatia and Schmitz on comparative religion provide the grounding for this conceptual line of research related to reconciliation. The particular importance of religious studies lies in the increasing importance of religion for the identity of Israelis and Palestinians. Religion is not just one factor, but one could argue that it determines the entire and eternal identity of a person.

Any research on reconciliation needs the expertise from political science and contemporary history. This expertise is particularly present through Prof. Dajani and also through PhD candidates working in history. The design of our research also reflects on the fact that there are no brute historical or political facts having effects, but that these realities encounter the population through mediation. This mediation goes through pedagogy and through Medias and influences on the narratives of the people.

Objectives Show content

Our central research questions are:

1. What are barriers and promoting factors to acknowledging and recognizing the suffering of the other?

2. What are the conditions (personal/situational/cultural/religious factors) under which encounters with the suffering of the other facilitate reconciliation?

3. How are “victim” and “perpetrator” identities constructed and deconstructed? In addition, what happens to people who fall outside of these identities?

4. How do perceptions of power asymmetries impact on willingness to reconcile?

5. What moves people from radicalism to moderation? How would this change be reflected in narrative, religious, or psychological terms?

We attempt to answer these questions combining several transdisciplinary methodological approaches:

1. Applying qualitative and quantitative methods including interviews, surveys in the field, and experiments in the laboratory.

2. Recognizing the central role that religion plays in conflicts as well as particular identities and group narratives within conflicts, we seek understanding of religion’s potential for promoting moderation and reconciliation.

3. Analyzing collective narratives of individuals affected by the conflict, with particular focus on the way those narratives are influenced by the visits in historical and memorial cites (notably: Holocaust-Memorial in Berlin and Auschwitz, Yad- Vashem in Jerusalem, House of the Terror in Budapest, Abu-Jihad-Museum in Al Quds-University)

4. Combining a variety of analytical methods to gain understanding of religious/ethical/political/theoretical concepts and frameworks that are used in the actual discussions concerning reconciliation in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Of special consideration is the comparative analysis of concepts, for example, moderation/wasatia/middle path, peace/salam/schalom, reconciliation and its “equivalents” in Hebrew and Arabic.

There will be trilateral and transdisciplinary cooperation concerning all five research questions and all four approaches, as is demonstrated in the work programme (2.3). All project participants will work very closely on the parallel experiences of Israelis encountering Palestinian suffering and Palestinians encountering the Jewish suffering. In addition, parallel semester-long seminars for each group will be prepared and taught by a team comprising Prof. Mohammed Dajani, Zeina Barakat (who as a Palestinian researcher holds a position as instructor at Al-Quds University and also a doctoral candidate at Ben-Gurion University), Prof. Shifra Sagy and Yael Ben- David. The social psychological research in Israel and in Germany is united by the common models and approaches exemplified by Prof. Arie Nadler who has a long cooperation with Prof. Thomas Kessler and Dr. Nicole Harth in Jena and the social psychology department in Jena.

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