Why good Jews and Palestinians do nothing, and something

07 November 2009


"Things do not change; we change."

-- Henry David Thoreau, "Walden"

     Why do good people do nothing, in the presence of that which breaks their hearts, violates their souls, threatens the planet and our children's children?
     And why do some people step forward to dazzle us with awesome vision and heroism?
     At http://traubman.igc.org/messages.htm appreciate several thousands of heroic, human successes stories within over 500 messages about Palestinian-Jewish and interfaith relationship building by citizens with the courage to step across old lines.

     We are learning why whole nations -- citizens in lock-step -- succumb to intellectual and moral paralysis, dependency on "leader-others," and ethical bankruptcy, all this while waging death-dealing, unwinnable wars, wasting our babies' planet, and being lied to.
     We see better why our girls and women -- notably Mother Earth -- are raped while whole collectives of us destructively participate, watch silently, or turn away for personal safety of our private lives.
     We better understand why, after decades of recycled old leaders and wrong means -- trapped in fear from disengagement and thus ignorance of one another -- most Jews and most Palestinians remain uncreative, and unable or unwilling to engage the "other" to heal together.

Weakness in numbers

     October 29, 2009, National Public Radio hosted Harvard's Professor Mahzarin Banaji to explain why good people have bystander behavior -- passively observing unspeakable violence and other tragedies.

What Bystanders Do When They Witness Violence





      DIFFUSION OF RESPONSIBILITY occurs in larger groups of people when responsibility is not explicitly assigned.
     With more people present -- caught in group-think -- one is less likely to identify that there is a problem or feel a sense of responsibility to respond.
     With more people in a group, the individual becomes less responsible.
     Women and men are equally passive or brave in responding to emergencies, showed researchers Latane and Darley.
     Their study revealed a 75% chance one observer would respond to a crisis dropping to a 10%

likelihood of intervening with six onlookers gathered around.



Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility

B. Latane and J.M Darley

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8, 377383. 1968.


EXAMPLES at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_responsibility


     DIFFUSION OF RESPONSIBILITY rarely occurs in small groups.
     In tests, in groups of three or fewer, everyone in the group took action as opposed to groups of over ten,  where in almost every test, no one took action.
     We are beginning to understand why people in large communities fail to intervene effectively, including in genocide or other human rights abuses.  

Looking for brave people
in all the wrong places

     People falsely imagine that others have more courage and are less vulnerable to social embarrassment.
     This ILLUSION OF COURAGE in others strongly diminishes individual social responsibility.
     Also related fear of embarrassment is a potent determinant of in non-intervention in emergency situations.
     Sadly, inaction is often perceived as the safer personal choice of bystanders to tragedy.



Underestimating the impact of fear of embarrassment on other people

Leaf Van Boven a,, George Loewenstein b, David Dunning c

Published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 96 (2005) 130141


Why good people
do nothing
or something

     We are learning about our human fears and courage.

1.  In large groups, individuals are less likely to feel responsible.   

2.  Smaller groups encourage individual participation and creative initiative.

3.  People who are bystanders project onto others exaggerated courage and less fear of social embarrassment.

     Great courage is required for a person to step forward from the group -- beyond embarrassment and old, collective thinking.
     Beneath embarrassment is terrifying fear of exclusion -- social or even physical death.
     This begins to explain why good people do nothing, and why people find it easier to disengage, blame, and kill -- including risking their physical lives in battle -- than to step out of their clan to engage an adversary face to face.
     Let us each overcome the "diffusion of responsibility."
     We are the capable, courageous ones we and humankind have been waiting for.

                - L&L

~  ~ ~  ~ ~  ~ ~  ~
     Good people did something extraordinary In the Holy Land a few weeks ago.
     In the West Bank, Palestinians and Jewish settlers established a second relationship-building encounter.
     The first was reported in mid-October -- http://traubman.igc.org/messages/588.htm
     Something new is progressing forward.
     Today, the visionary group founder, Ms. Ayelet Zviel, paints for us a poignant, instructional picture of Middle East citizens engaging bravely.
     Creating tomorrow.

First encounter
in Gush Etzion

     The truth is that I didn't think it will happen.
     I dreamed about this encounter for a very long time, imagined it in different colors, even the smell of the Knafe came into my nose in these daydreams.
     After nearly five years, we finally set together nearly 20 people, 18 to be exact: men and women; older, younger and even children; Palestinians and Settlers.
     In a small and cozy caf
n the center of Gush Etzion.
     Nearly all of them I collected one by one.
     With a lot of effort, in long and short phone conversations, in joint thoughts and brief meetings full of expression.
     I started actually from the Arab side.
     It turned out to be easier.
     Less than six months and I already gathered some thirty friends.
     All willing to meet any time, sending text and email messages.
     Pushing for encounter.
     The Jews I collected at the last straight, in the phase of nearly-despair.
     In fact I was not looking in the right places.
     I finally found Nachum, a Settler from Neve Daniel.
     A few short phone calls plus one meeting over coffee and he already pushes me to set a date.
     In the background all the time Yehuda from the Interfaith Encounter Association.
     Trying, pushing, succeeds to cast aside the despair that nearly grabbed me.

     Three (Jews) and two more (Muslims) already gathered.
     We need to add another table.
     In this way two more and another two more.
     Finally there is no more room.
     I give Abd el-Halim driving directions, and in the mean time laugh at a joke of Dr. Taleb.
     Finally everybody came.
     Every single person that said s/he will come came, and even brought friends.
     Eighteen people sit in a big circle and talk.
     In between drinking coffee, ordering cake.
     The waitresses are loaded with work for us.
     Plenty of people gathered here.
     The conversation runs mostly in Hebrew, with simultaneous translation of Abed and Ribhi into local Arabic, being played as music with the sounds of the Hebronite Oud and singing.
     Three Jews from the same family surprised us participating in fluent Arabic (including the children). Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana, Sukkot.
     Personal experiences and generous gestures from both sides.
     The truth is I didn't feel that there are two side at all to this story.
     I did not feel any tension in the atmosphere, not even from the other people sitting in the caf

     A kind of pleasantness that weaves people around it, optimistic in their character, in their energy.
     May we all have a good year!
     I want to thank Yehuda who pushed, Nachum who was like air to breath and to all who took part in this encounter and on the way to it.
     We plan to meet again in the afternoon of Thursday, November 5th.

"Things do not change; we change."

-- Henry David Thoreau, "Walden"