How Trauma Drives the Politics of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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When it comes to the multigenerational Israeli-Palestinian conflict, trauma is the background scream in the echo chamber. Although the conflict is primarily about land and political identity, the demons of past and present suffering cast a long shadow over individual and collective perceptions. The ghosts of the Holocaust and the Nakba, of multiple Arab-Israeli wars, of a violent occupation and of violent resistance to it, haunt the collective and individual consciousnesses of Palestinians and Israelis.

The resulting trauma deepens mutual distrust, warps interpretations of the other side’s intentions, distorts the real power dynamic at play and empowers extremists and opportunists to take advantage of public fears to advance their own agendas, at the expense of the long-term good of ordinary people. Trauma also perpetuates the conflict by elevating the value of land over human life and by investing violence with a hypnotic redemptive value.

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