Both Security and Justice

for Palestinians as well as Israelis

Guiding Principles

Principles that Guide the Both-Security-and-Justice Initiative

  1. U.S. policy must uphold American values.
    When fundamental human values—freedom of movement, property rights and "innocent until proven guilty"—are being denied, American citizens must speak out. We must hold U.S. policymakers accountable when their policies enable or contribute to the denial of basic human rights. Actions taken to constrain and oppress an entire population, even when done in the name of security, are neither fair nor just.

    The Chicago Hearing, an initiative of the American Friends Service Committee, Chicago, held in April of 2010, explored this issue with experts giving testimony and questioned by a panel of academic and religious leaders. The focus of the Hearing was, “Does US Policy on Israel and Palestine Uphold Our Values?” Details about the event, video footage, summary video and a text report are available at www.chicagohearing.org. The values discussed at this hearing will be included on this website, along with other basic American values.
  2. To fully grasp reality requires an open and questioning mind.
    Reality is seldom fully understood from a single point of view. Sometimes our mindset or ideology prevents us from fully grasping what we are facing. We fail to ask the tough questions or to look deeper into a situation. This can result in reaching wrong conclusions or taking actions that make matters worse. The more challenging the situation, the more important it is for us to understand and fully grasp what we are facing.

    For example: if I believe you are raising your arm to attack me, I might take preventive action by punching you. If I think you are armed, I might shoot first and ask questions later. This could be disastrous, especially if you were only swatting at the mosquito on my shoulder.

    Another example is the story of the elephant and the blind men. Each blind man describes the part that he experiences, but none can sufficiently describe the entire elephant. On the other hand, paranoid or conspiracy-oriented minds, may connect bits and pieces that have no connections in fact.

    This site is dedicated to exploring issues so that we more fully understand them. It attempts to provide alternative views of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It views this situation from multiple perspectives, encouraging a deeper, more complete understanding.
  3. Both Security and Justice must exist if either is to be realized.
    Ultimately, the Israeli/Palestinian situation is not a conflict between two peoples; it is a conflict between two values, security and justice. It is generally assumed that security for Israel cannot exist without sacrificing justice for Palestinians. Many claim that actions and policies of the Israeli government are legitimate because of security. Yet, many of these actions and policies do not seem fair or just when examined in light of American values or the international values reflected in the Declaration of Human Rights or in the human values that drove the Arab Spring.

    This site advocates both security and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians.
  4. Social science and empirical data can foster understanding.
    Early in the U.S. military invasion of Iraq, torture and abuse of prisoners occurred at Abu Ghraib. A 1971 experiment of a Stanford social psychologist, Phillip G. Zimbardo, was introduced to explain this phenomenon. It may also highlight forces that affect how the Israeli military and police interact with Palestinians.

    Zimbardo’s experiment involved role play simulations by college students who did not harbor tendencies toward violence. Some individuals were selected to play the role of authorities in a prison scenario and the remaining participants played the role of prisoners. The "authorities" became so abusive toward the "prisoners" that the experiment had to be terminated early, after only six days instead of the planned fourteen. Zimbardo has argued that the same social psychological forces were operating at Abu Ghraib. (See article here.)

    Young Israeli soldiers and police, especially those who believe "God promised us this land" would appear particularly vulnerable to the forces identified in Zimbardo's experiment. Many start with a view that all Palestinians are potential threats. Therefore, they believe action needs to be taken to prevent these Palestinians from harming them or their people. Might social science research help us to understand and counteract violent encounters between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians? Zimbardo argues that abusive behaviors can be controlled if individuals are specifically trained, supervised and held accountable for their actions.

    This website will periodically refer to social science and empirical data to provide insight into current realities in the Holy Land.
  5. Healthy skepticism is needed to expose propaganda.
    Michael Shermer writes a column for Scientific American. His column is entitled "Skeptic". He has built a career around his identity as a skeptic. He frequently summarizes research relevant to skepticism. In a March 2008 column, he reports that "Several psychological studies appear to support Spinoza's conjecture that ... most people have a low tolerance for ambiguity and that belief comes quickly and naturally, whereas skepticism is slow and unnatural." In other words, if the words that we hear are understandable, it is natural to believe them. Skepticism is not natural for most of us.

    This is particularly relevant when Israeli and Palestinian matters are discussed. Understanding the realities and the facts in the Israeli/Palestinian domain requires digging into what is behind the rhetoric. Statements spoken, written, reported and repeated often appear to be clear. Only the skeptic would question them.

    An example is the May-June 2010 military seizure of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza and the killing of civilians on board by Israeli Naval commandos. Israeli officials often justify their actions as an attempt to avoid being victimized by violence from "The Other". Hence, seizing the ships in international waters was an act of self-defense. Make sense? Skeptics would ask how the ships carrying humanitarian aid and unarmed passengers suddenly became the aggressor. An insightful article about these events, written by Professor Gary Fields, Department of Communication, University of California, San Diego can be read here.

    This website will introduce skepticism to improve our understanding of Israeli/Palestinian matters.
  6. People's feelings are part of the reality that we must understand.
    Because of historical and current events, individuals who are part of the Jewish community are usually very concerned about security. Throughout history the Jewish people have been killed, oppressed and denied equal opportunity. Even today, some if not many Jews, find situations in which they avoid identifying themselves as Jews. Avraham Burg, in his book, The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise from Its Ashes, "addresses a heartfelt plea to his fellow citizens of Israel: remember the past, but do not be its slaves; pathology is neither patriotism nor statecraft." These feelings are deep-seated and cannot be ignored. Similarly, Palestinians have very strong feelings about the occupation and their inability to find an end to their oppression.

    This website is designed to change the conversation and acknowledge the reality of these feelings.It intends to move the conversation toward how these feelings can be managed and how the deleterious consequences of these feelings can be eased.

The website is built on these principles. Hold me accountable for adhering to them.
Send an email here.