http://dx.doi.org — (Israel Affairs) Irwin J. Mansdorf -
Psychological warfare is a "soft power" technique used to attain strategic objectives. In the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic, psychological warfare has evolved to where it now shares goals with "public diplomacy" as a means of influencing policy and politics.
Arab strategy has moved from ineffective attempts to influence the Israeli public to credible and cynical strategies that often involve a disregard for and exploitation of civilian casualties and the appearance of embracing ideology associated with revolutionary figures and human rights.
"Non-violent resistance" invoking Gandhi, Mandela and King as models for Palestinian Arab strategy is now common and serves to attract sympathy. Despite claiming a philosophy of nonviolence, the goal of many anti-Israel groups remains the dissolution of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
Many of the Palestinian Arab proponents of nonviolence seek to maintain an air of civility and peacefulness while never unconditionally rejecting specific violent behavior or accepting responsibility for violence perpetrated. While there have been examples of rejections of violence on the part of Palestinian Arab leadership or individuals, many of these rejections appear to be intellectualized as conditional or functional - i.e., linked to a concomitant condemnation of Israel rather than condemning violence outright.
The ostensible repudiation of violence even while failing to accept responsibility for specific (even well-known) violent actions by Palestinian Arabs is a central part of the psychological strategy employed by groups associated with the popular resistance.
At the core of this behavior is an ideology that allows a psychological defense against any wrongdoing by playing the role of victim and, in so doing, excusing if not outwardly justifying "victim-generated" violence. Once the label of "victim" is attached, those victims, namely Palestinian Arabs, are blameless, and any violence they engage in is considered "different," justifiable and excusable.
The axiom that the victim is always right has led to a blind acceptance of certain "victim rights" without any victim accountability. Any suggestion that a victim bears any personal responsibility or liability for their fate is unthinkable in much of Western society. Even while taking the approach that "strong is wrong," violence, even extreme and brutal violence, is psychologically excused by claiming asymmetry between the alleged victim and the accused oppressor.
Irwin J. (Yitzchak) Mansdorf, PhD., is a clinical psychologist and a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He directs the Center's Israel-Arab studies program for university students.