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Trauma and identity in Palestine

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Published on Apr 16, 2012

The Center for the Study of Palestinian Society & Heritage
the 5th annual conference
Israeli -- Zionist Violence: Manifestations, Causes, and Roots

4th session - Trauma and identity in Palestine - M.L. De Raismes -- 24/4/2010 -- 02:00pm

Why is the Arab/Israeli crisis such an enduring conflict? Applying principles of psychology, sociology, and international relations, the author seeks to shed light on how a social identity of violence affects the prospects for peace in the region. Specifically, the role of Palestinian identity on regional peace efforts is dissected through a detailed analysis of identity and trauma in young male university students. Referring to the work of Vamik Volkan, the author endeavors to correlate these experiences of trauma to expressions of social consciousness, with particular emphasis on the transgenerational inheritance of loss associated with the original dispossession of Palestine (al-Nakba). This chosen trauma has potentially profound effects on the regressed society, particularly those youth who are caught up in the same identity conflicts of their parents or grandparents. With the Israeli occupation serving as a daily reminder of this powerlessness, many Palestinian youth seem to be stuck in a perpetual mourning response to their traumatic environment, maintaining stringent notions of 'us' versus the enemy 'them.' Although negative perceptions of the 'other' help propagate the antagonistic atmosphere found in the occupied territories, a growing belief in peaceful coexistence has taken fragile root among students over the last few years and questions the fundamental perception that Palestine cannot exist without its chosen trauma as identity parameter. What results is a sort of identity confusion or crisis between believing in the power of political violence as a means of legitimizing the Palestinian nation, or foregoing violent resistance in lieu of social initiatives at binational coexistence. Finding that current awareness still relies on violence as an identity paradigm, the author concludes that there is little hope for a timely resolution to the conflict. However, projecting that future generations will have greater success as the desire for coexistence increases, the author suggests ways to augment the legitimacy of nonviolence as a national discourse.

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