Israeli-Palestinian conflict communication



2.0 Definition of Communication

Although communication is omnipresent, it appears nonetheless difficult to define. Different individuals define communication in different ways depending upon their interests. Ruben (1984) says that communication is any “information related behaviour” while Dale (1969) says it is the “sharing of ideas and feelings in a mood of mutuality.” Other definitions emphasise the significance of symbols, as in Berelson and Steiner (1964): “The transmission of information, ideas, emotions and skill by the use of symbols,” and Theodorson (1969): “the transmission of information, ideas, attitudes, or emotion from one person or group to another, primarily through symbols.”

The Universal Law of Communication states that all living entities communicate. Through movement, sounds, reactions, gestures, language and among others (S. F, Scudder, 1900.

In his research, Prof. Albert Mehrabian (UCLA, 1967) identified three major parts that convey meaning in human face to face communication: body language, voice tonality, and words. He determined how people make meaning when a speaker says one thing but means another. If the speaker is sending a mixed message the listener will rely on the following cues to determine true meaning. He found that 55% of impact is determined by body language-postures, gestures, and eye contact, 38% by the tone of voice, and 7% by the content or the words spoken. Although the exact percentage of influence may differ due to variables such as the perceptions or biases of the listener and the speaker, communication as a whole is meant to convey meaning and thus, in some cases, can be universal.

Hence, communication can be classified into three types:

  1. Non-Verbal Communication which includes sending and receiving messages through gestures, body language, facial expression and eye contacts.
  2. Visual Communication is through using visual aids that can be read and look upon such as signs, typography, drawing, graphic design and illustration.
  3. Verbal or Oral Communication is anyinformation that is transferred from a sender to receiver usually by a verbal means but visual aid can support the process and it includes speeches, presentations and discussions.

2.1 Effective Communication

Effective communication is very important for working successfully with other people, groups or countries. It enables us to maintain relationships and accomplish tasks with them. The effectiveness of any communication is judged by how closely the receiver’s understanding matches the sender’s intent. In the final analysis, the only message that matters is the one the other person receives (Dave Sharpe, 1991, Circular 1291).

The two ways flow of communication is commonly addressed in interpersonal communication with two elaborations of Shannon’s model which is often labelled as the action model of communication; the interactive model and the trans-active model. (Weiner, 1948, 1986). This can be illustrated in the following diagram:

The key concept associated with this elaboration is that destinations provide feedback on the messages they receive such that the information sources can adapt their messages, in real time. This is an important elaboration, and as generally depicted, a radically oversimplified one. Feedback is a message (or a set of messages). The source of feedback is an information source. The consumer of feedback is a destination. Feedback is transmitted, received, and potentially disrupted via noise sources. None of this is visible in the typical depiction of the interactive model. This doesn’t diminish the importance of feedback or the usefulness of elaborating Shannon’s model to include it. People really do adapt their messages based on the feedback they receive. It is useful, however, to notice that the interactive model depicts feedback at a much higher level of abstraction than it does messages (Davis Foulger, 2004). This difference in the level of abstraction is addressed in the transactional model of communication. This can be shown in table 2 which depicts the Transactional Model of Communication:

This model acknowledges neither creators nor consumers of messages, preferring to label the people associated with the model as communicators who both create and consume messages. The model presumes additional symmetries as well, with each participant creating messages that are received by the other communicator. This is, in many ways, an excellent model of the face-to-face interactive process which extends readily to any interactive medium that provides users with symmetrical interfaces for creation and consumption of messages. It is, however, a distinctly interpersonal model that implies equality between communicators that often doesn’t exist, even in interpersonal contexts (Hopper, 1992). In case of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the one that is more powerful may tend to lead the communication and thus, creating more barriers to communication to solve the conflicting issues.

2.2 Definition of Conflict

Most conflicts result as a state of disagreement stemming from perceived values, beliefs, interests, goals and motives. It can be between individuals, groups or between two countries. Research carried out on peace and conflict assumes that conflicts are the expression of opposing interests, that they are characteristic for modern societies and that they are endemic in modern societies.

“A conflict exists when two people wish to carry out acts which are mutually inconsistent. It is resolved when some mutually compatible set of actions is worked out. The definition of conflict can be extended from individuals to groups (such as states or nations), and more than two parties can be involved in the conflict. The principles remain the same.” (M. Nicholson – 1992:11)

2.3 Defining the Israeli- Palestinian Conflict

History created divisive issues between both Israelis and Palestinians. The land of Judea[1], was conquered by the Roman Empire and named Palestine and it was further conquered and inhabited by Arabs for a thousand years. Before Britain conquered Jerusalem and the surrounding area known to be Palestine, in November 1917, the “Balfour Declaration[2]” was issued. This declaration stated that Britain support the creation of a National Homeland of the Jewish People in Mandated Palestine without violating the rights of the existing Arab population. This eventually led to rioting and pogroms against Jews creating a history of enmity between Jews and Arabs. Following the World War II (1939-1945), in which more than six million Jews were killed by the Nazis, pressure increased for the creation of a Jewish State. The United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) held that Palestine be partitioned into an Arab State and a Jewish State. In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the partition plan (UN Resolution GA 181) and the modern state of Israel (Medinat Yisra’el) was created and independence was declared on 14 May 1948 and David Ben Gurion become the first Prime Minister.

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The Arabs rejected the partitioned plan and refused to recognise Israel and wars broke out in 1948 known as ‘War of Independence’ and the Jews won decisively expanding their State territories. The conflict continued to deepen without any concrete solutions to the problems. In 1956, the second war broke out with Egypt (Sinai War) and in 1967 another war occurred (Six-day War) followed by ‘War of Attrition’ in 1968 making the conflict worse. In 1973, the Arabs Countries tried to invade and attack Israel (Yom Kippur War) but failed as Israel retaliated strategically to defend herself. There were many terror raids and Israeli reprisals. In 1982 and 2006 war broke out between Israel and Lebanon making hundreds of victims on both sides. Two “Intifadas”[3] in broke out in 1983 and 2000 and the violence continued to increased and thus reducing the prospect of peace. In December 2008 Israel launched an unprecedented attack on Gaza Strip (Cast Lead Operation) to stop the firing of short range missiles (rockets) leading to the Israeli Palestinian peace talk to collapse. Each side believes different versions of the same history and views the conflict as wholly the fault of the other (Ami Isseroff – June 2009).

2.4 Rethinking the Two-State Solution (Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, 2008)

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Though all conflicts have their own distinctive features, the Israeli Palestinian conflict is singular in various aspects. In the first place, it not a territorial dispute involving two parties but also a situation on which one nation is under occupation by another (Focus Policy 88, 2008).

In the work ‘Rethinking the Two-State Solution’ the problem this conflict creates has implication beyond the specific interest of the disputing parties (Griora Eiland & Al, 2008). However, it is believed that this conflict dilemma is at the root of the Middle East unrest link to the Iranian nuclear threat and other global challenges. There appears to be a clear international interest to resolve the conflict ranging from the ‘Oslo Accords[4]’ to the ‘Annapolis Conference[5]’ to support the general approach of the two-state solution. Yet, the ‘Oslo Accord’ created an illusion that the situation was changing and though after it’s collapse, it maybe possible to reach a political agreement. Many Israelis are concerned that pursuing such an agreement is a lose-lose situation as Palestinians will not meet their end of bargain (Yehuda Ben Meir and Dafna Shaked, 2007)

The paradox for the moment between the conflicting parties is that they truly do not desire the conventional two state approach and the Arab World specially Jordan and Egypt are not supportive to it as the success is slim and the political risk is high for both leaders. Today, the conflict has surpassed the classical view and has become a conflict against the rise of extremist in the region (Tzipi Livni, 2008). However, the problems still remains regarding the settlement issues in the land that Palestinians claim for their future state, Jerusalem where both nationalists and religions are intertwined, security arrangements, the refugees status and their rights of returns and the smuggling of weapons by terrorist groups through their armed allies like Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian regime that calls for the destruction of Israel (Natasha Gill, 2008).

2.5 Intercultural or Cross- Cultural Communication, Dialogue and Perception Change

Intercultural communication involves the investigation of culture and the difficulties of communicating across cultural boundaries. Intercultural communication occurs whenever a message produced in one culture must be processed in another culture (Samovar & Porter, 1982).

Since all aspects of communication are both, a response to and a function of our culture, socialisation in a culture determines what communicative behaviours are perceived as appropriate or desirable within a given context (Samovar & Porter, 1982). In addition to the use of verbal messages, during face-to-face interaction a great deal of information about personality, beliefs, values, and social status are transmitted and interpreted, often subconsciously, through non-verbal channels (Birdwhistell,1970; Burgeon et al., 1989; Mehrabian, 1969, 1972). The meaning of both verbal and nonverbal messages is drawn upon past experiences, personal knowledge of language and word meaning, and the social context in which a communicative event occurs.

In intercultural encounters, observed behaviours may be interpreted by applying cultural frameworks that are inappropriate to the context in which the communication takes place, thus resulting in misinterpretation and misunderstanding, and even in negative stereotyping (Brislin, Cushner, Cherrie & Young, 1982).While stereotyping responds to a human tendency towards categorisation and simplification of highly complex realities, negative stereotypes and prejudice are definite obstacles to successful intercultural communication and mutual understanding. In order for these barriers to be lowered, learners need to develop awareness and understanding of their own, as well as of their interactants’, cultural universe, including “beliefs, values, customs, habits or life styles” (Samovar & Proter, 1982)

At the International Association For Conflict Management Annual Convention held in Spain in 1999, two basic questions were raised which concerned the role of culture and particularly religious culture and the impact of dialogue and contact in improving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict (Dr Mollov & Dr Laive,1999). In his seminal realist theory of international relations, Hans J. Morgenthau gave little importance to cultural discourse between nations but instead he laid emphasis on the clash of power and interest. Therefore, there is a need to reach stability by attaining viable balances of power and the exercise of responsible diplomacy (Morgenthau, 1969).

Recent researchers have emphasised that the importance of the cultural variables can either help to move forward or backward understandings between nations (Cohen, 1990). Inter-civilisation conflict like the Israeli- Palestinian conflict has put forward that international stability can advance by nations by discovering and developing intercultural understanding and appreciation with each other (Huntington, 1996) and recent research in the field of political psychology showed the importance of culture and psychological perceptions in politics (Pye, 1997).

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The research carried out by the Interdisciplinary Department of Social Science of Bar Ilan University, Israel, concentrated on evaluating the impact of inter-group and inter-personal communication based on mutual perception change between Israelis and Palestinians. According to the Social Scientist Karl Deutsch, there is a need to investigate the foundations of community building between nations in the form of amalgamated or pluralistic security communities where there is need of interpersonal ties and the intensity of social communication in the creation and upholding of such communities (Deutsch, 1957).

The work of peace building is much affected by perception change and the quality of interpersonal interactions. The investigation of the numerous aspects of inter-group communication emphasise the decisive elements and conditions for effective encounters including ‘equal status contacts’ that should also be intimate rather than casual encounters for building efforts of cooperation, relations and institutional (Amir, 1969).

In a series of dialogue held between a group of Palestinian students and Israeli students which lasted for four years, from 1994 to 1999, focused on commonalities between Islam and Judaism and this led to a spin off cooperative efforts and increased cooperation and interactions between the two groups of students from both sides. There were reports of warm atmosphere during face to face meetings and this attributed that achievement to the discovery of commonalities in the other’s religious culture (Mollov and Barhoum, 1998). Approximately 90 students had participated in this initiative and at the end of it, there was positive development of family visitation and strong friendships that developed during the process and hence in wake of violent events both issued condemnation and condolences.

2.6 The Israeli- Egyptian conflict resolution as a reference

Scholar Raymond Cohen has written about how miscommunication can occur when even elite specialists and diplomats must negotiate across cultural boundaries. One of his examples focuses on the Egyptian-Israeli conflict through the 1970s. He questions why, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Israeli deterrence based on large-scale use of force against Egypt for terrorist attacks emanating out of Egypt against Israel, failed to actually deter attacks.

A cultural analysis revealed deep differences between Israeli and Egyptian understandings relating to violence, vengeance, and vendetta. He concluded that Israel’s use of massive force violated Egyptian understandings about culturally “appropriate” vengeance and retribution. In particular, Israelis misunderstood Egyptian conventions of appropriate “proportionality” in these matters. The “cultural logic” of Israeli deterrence was that the more disproportionate the punishment the greater the compliance. But Egyptians understood matters differently. What they regarded as highly disproportionate vengeance on Israel’s part had the effect of shaming and humiliating them, leading to a serious loss of honor in a culture where honor is deeply valued. To erase the shame and regain the lost honor, Egypt supported further attacks against Israel. The effect Israelis hoped to achieve, Egyptian compliance in stopping cross-border attacks to avoid mounting reprisals, was not achieved. Israeli action produced the opposite effect, providing Egyptians with strong reasons to ensure their support of incursions into Israel. In this case cultural misunderstandings led to an intensification of the conflict, producing what is sometimes called a “conflict spiral.” Ultimately, this cost many lives on both sides (Kevin Avruch – CROSS-CULTURAL CONFLICT, 2004).

The former President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, made an unprecedented gesture by visiting Israel though there were no ties between Israel and Egypt, to reinforce a positive cultural and perception and change to the negative cross cultural differences between the two nations. This led both countries to emerge out of the hatred and miscommunication and together, not only Israelis and Egyptians understood each others but also their Leaders Former Israeli Prime Minister, Shamir and Former Egyptian President Sadat signed peace agreements (Camp David Treaty) under the ageis of the United States in the 1970’s. All these were possible because both sides made unprecedented moves to understand their cultural differences for peace in the region, eliminating their barriers of communication like language, religion, hatred, wrong communication channels, stereotyping and perception and also avoiding confrontation. The same happened with Jordan in 1994 leading to full diplomatic relationship with the second Arab/Muslim country after Egypt and later followed by Azerbaijan.

2.7 The Palestinians’ Unilateral “Kosovo Strategy” Implications for the PA and Israel Dan Diker (Jan 2010) Article No. 575- Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs

The Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas new precondition that the international community recognise the 1967 lines in the West Bank as the new Palestinian border bolsters the assessment that the Palestinians have largely abandoned a negotiated settlement and instead are actively pursuing a unilateral approach to statehood. Senior Palestinian officials note that Palestinian unilateralism is modelled after Kosovo’s February 2008 unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia. European and U.S. support for Kosovo’s unilateral declaration has led the Palestinian leadership to determine that geopolitical conditions are ripe to seek international endorsement of its unilateral statehood bid, despite the fact that leading international jurists have suggested that the cases of Kosovo and thePalestinian Authorityare historically and legally different. The Palestinians are legally bound to negotiate a bilateral solution with Israel. Unilateral Palestinian threats to declare statehood have been rebuffed thus far by the European powers and the United States. The Palestinian “Kosovo strategy” includes a campaign of delegitimisation of Israel, seeking to isolate Israel as a pariah state, while driving a wedge between Israel and the United States. The unilateral Palestinian bid for sovereignty will also likely turn the Palestinians into the leading petitioner against the State of Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Although the Palestinian Authority is not a state and therefore should have no legal standing before the court, the petition it submitted to the court after theGazawar (Cast lead Operation) was not rejected by the ICC.

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Finally, a unilateral Palestinian quest for the 1947 lines may well continue even if the 1967 lines are endorsed by the United Nations. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) 1988 declaration of independence was based on UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which recognises the 1947 partition plan for Palestine, not the 1967 lines, as the basis for the borders of Israel and an Arabstate.

2.8 Cooperation and Conflict in Negotiation

Negotiation refers to a process in which conflicting parties work together to formulate an agreement over the disputes affecting them (Rubin & Brown, 1975). The process of negotiation assumes that the disputing parties are willing to communicate and to generate offers, counter-offers, or both. Agreement occurs if and only if the offers made are accepted by both of the parties. Negotiation is comprised of several key components like the disputing parties’ interests, alternatives, process and the negotiated outcomes that are likely to come in the phases of negotiation during preparation, debating and proposing, bargaining and finalising legal aspects and follow-up (Neale & Northcraft, 1991).

In his research, Morton Deutsch concluded that most conflicts involve a mix of cooperative and competitive motives. His theory of cooperation and competition serves as a guideline to understand conflict processes and resolutions (Deutsch, 2000). Accordingly, a key element to understand this is to find out the goal interdependence between the conflicting parties. It may also be that the goals are negative leading to a win-lose situation. The disputing parties’ goals being positively interdependent will yield cooperative relationship for a win-win situation.

Deutsch’s research suggests that constructive processes of conflict resolution are similar to cooperative processes of problem solving and the destructive processes of conflict resolution are similar to competitive processes. A friendly gesture tends to suggest cooperative responses and for competitive responses stir up suspicious and domineering attitudes (Deutsch, 2000).

The theory of cooperation and competition implies one to understand conflict, the practice of conflict management, and conflict resolution. A cooperative orientation on the part of the disputing parties will tend to facilitate constructive resolution of the conflict. Deutsch highlights that social support is very important to create and maintain such cooperative orientation (Deutsch, 2000).

Constructive resolution is more likely to take place when the conflicting parties would be able to reframe their understanding of their goal and conflict. This will help to adhere to norms, values, respect, honesty and seeking common grounds to find resolutions. Additionally, effective conflict management requires skills and knowledge to establish and maintain effective working relationships leading to problem solving and decision making (Deutsch, 2000)

2.9 Irish Pact Is Mixed Model for Middle-East

Article: Newsday (1998, April 1) -Washington Near East Institute

Author: Robert Satloff

The Israelis and Palestinians have to learn a lot from the Northern Ireland peace accord that solved the conflict in 1998. Both had a common legacy of terrorism with thousands victims. The two conflicts are fundamentally different and the solutions reached are very different, too but the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians does have an important lesson for Northern Ireland: The tough part is implementing an agreement, not reaching it.

The conflict has involved the threat of war and neighbouring countries fought five wars during the last 50 years and most Arabs insisted that settlement terms would require the dismantling of the Jewish state and sent most Israelis to their country of origin. The nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict has calmed over the past two decades, with Israel’s signing of peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and this lead to reconciliation with the Palestinians in the Oslo accords.

Since Ireland gained its independence, the idea of war between the Irish and the British has been unthinkable. In contrast, few Middle Easterners doubt that the moderation of most, which have come to terms with Israel, is only a function of the balance of power.

If the Arabs were stronger, Israel weaker and America indifferent, the chorus of “throw the Jews into the sea” would almost surely be as popular in official Arab circles as, sadly, it is today. If one is able to convince the Israelis that Arab intentions have changed irrevocably, peace would be at hand.

In the Palestinian-Israeli context, this would translate into an expansion of the current bilateral negotiation into a trilateral process that includes Jordan, which ruled the West Bank before Israel. Indeed, there is general recognition in the region that while there may be a bilateral contractual solution for the West Bank, there will, in the end, be a trilateral arrangement governing many of its political, economic and military aspects.

“An equally important lesson is don’t ever try to dictate terms of an agreement” (President Clinton, 1998). As history has shown, American engagement in diplomacy is necessary for its success, but not sufficient. The Israelis and Palestinians don’t need a distinguished ex-senator such as George Mitchell to help them achieve their own solution; they already made their own deal, without direct U.S. assistance, at Oslo.

Therefore, to further research on how the Israeli Palestinian conflict can be solved through effective communication, there is a need to adopt a new approach that of using effective communication. In this regards, there is a need to provide solutions to the exiting on-going problems that lead to peace agreements and where two people can live side by side in harmony, strategic cooperation and trust without being affected by extremist ideologies that would ruin the peace prospect.

University of Technology, Mauritius

  1. The Ancient Kingdom of Judah of the Israelite
  2. A letter issued to Lord Rothschild by the Zionist Movement of Great Britain
  3. The uprising of the Palestinians against Israelis through waves of Violence
  4. Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of Principles
  5. A conference held in 2007 to produce a substantive document on resolving theIsraeli-Palestinian conflictalong the lines of President George W. Bush’sRoadmap For Peace
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