Archive | October 12, 2010

The cycle of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

I’m always into applying quantitative methods to human rights issues. This is a really great paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on how both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict propagate violence against themselves. As Dr. King said, “Violence begets violence.”

“Ending violent international conflicts requires understanding the causal factors that perpetuate them. In the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Israelis and Palestinians each tend to see themselves as victims, engaging in violence only in response to attacks initiated by a fundamentally and implacably violent foe bent on their destruction. Econometric techniques allow us to empirically test the degree to which violence on each side occurs in response to aggression by the other side. Prior studies using these methods have argued that Israel reacts strongly to attacks by Palestinians, whereas Palestinian violence is random (i.e., not predicted by prior Israeli attacks). Here we replicate prior findings that Israeli killings of Palestinians increase after Palestinian killings of Israelis, but crucially show further that when nonlethal forms of violence are considered, and when a larger dataset is used, Palestinian violence also reveals a patternof retaliation: (i) thefiringof Palestinian rockets increases sharply after Israelis kill Palestinians, and (ii) the probability (although not the number) of killings of Israelis by Palestinians increases after killings of Palestinians by Israel. These findings suggest that Israelimilitary actions against Palestinians lead to escalation rather than incapacitation. Further, they refute the view that Palestinians are uncontingently violent, showing instead that a significant proportion of Palestinian violence occurs in response to Israeli behavior. Well-established cognitive biases may lead participants on each side of the conflict to underappreciate the degree to which the other side’s violence is retaliatory, and hence to systematically underestimate their own role in perpetuating the conflict.”

Movie of the Week: Under the Bombs

For 34 days in 2006, the Israeli Defense Force bombed civilian targets throughout Lebanon purportedly in response to the abduction of several Israeli soldiers by the political and militant group, Hezbollah. As in all conflicts, exact numbers of the dead and wounded are up for debate, but estimates indicate that up to 1300 Lebanese civilians died in the attacks, along with a number of military deaths. The devastation to Lebanese civilian life and infrastructure was widespread and all inclusive.

The war began on July 12th, 2006. Lebanese-French filmmaker Phillippe Aractingi travelled to Lebanon and began filming Under the Bombs just ten days later, in the midst of the bombing. He recruited two actors and had them ad lib a rudimentary story within the conflict, shooting the entire film with a small hand held camera. All other actors are real people: victims, people involved in the clean-up and body searches or angry locals caught in the middle of a senseless political conflict. The acting is not perfect, as all scenes appear to be first takes, but the scenery is such that the juxtaposition of actors upon true devastation makes the great human and social costs of the conflict more real than any documentary could be.

It is a superb movie, and a great example of guerrilla film-making at it’s best, mending documentary with fiction and attempting to capture the complex lives of those caught in the middle of the Arab-Israel conflict. It’s easy to see how big budget blockbuster films like the Hurt Locker were inspired by Under the Bombs, both movies being a melding of honest fact and fiction set in the middle east. However, Under the Bombs takes no real political side, instead focusing upon residents, who largely care little about the conflict and care more about the stability of their own everyday lives.

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