FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Normalization of Conflict and the Impact on the Citizen

by MARK GRZEGORZEWSKI

From May 25 through June 3 I was on a trip to Israel with the University of South Florida’s Program in National and Competitive Intelligence. I shared in many interesting experiences while in Israel and came away from the trip with new viewpoints on the Jewish state. One particular insight that shocked me during my time in Israel was how normalized conflict was within the public.

The first time this fact hit me was during a trip to the Israel-Lebanon demilitarized zone (DMZ). The DMZ was established in 2000 after Israel removed its occupying force from southern Lebanon. Objections have been registered by the Lebanese regarding the placement of this DMZ, with Hezbollah claiming that Israel is violating Lebanon’s territorial integrity due to the placement of this line. In fact, this claim was used to justify Hezbollah’s cross border raid in 2000.

Yet, during my visit to the Israeli side of the DMZ I encountered a tourist attraction. There was a site where tourists could park their vehicles upon a mountain side and look out to the sea. Opposing this picturesque view, looking inland, was a barbwire fence interspersed with gunner outposts. To me, this was a site of danger and vulnerability. It was a reminder that there is no peace agreement between Israel and Lebanon and therefore hostility is still in the air. To the Israelis it was a tourist attraction. Literally hugging the DMZ was a restaurant and bar. If one so chose, they could enjoy a brew and then take a picture in front of the DMZ. Then after enjoying photo opportunities, visitors to the site could take a cable car ride down alongside the DMZ to visit an underground cavern. At this site the visitor forgets about the danger of war and instead experiences the adventure of exploration. The perversity of a DMZ as a tourist attraction is apparently lost by all due to conflict being so normalized in Israel.

Another site in which conflict was normalized was at the Sea of Galilee. This site was recaptured by the Israelis during the 1967 6-Day War. Peace negotiations between Syria and Israel have centered upon the return of the Sea, wherein Syria wants to return to the shores of the Sea while Israel wants a buffer zone around the Sea.  Thus, the territorial control of the Sea between the two neighbors is still disputed, and as such, both states remain in a state of war.

During my time at the Sea of Galilee I witnessed people picnicking, swimming, and shopping. These people were impervious to the civil war that was occurring less than 17 miles away.  No one mentioned, or seemed to take notice, that a stray missile could land in their midst. Rather, it seemed as though people had internalized the idea that conflict happens over “there,” beyond Israeli borders. Within Israeli borders people enjoy the accessories of modern life, such as the jet skis and sailing boats which could be seen on the Sea. Conversely, on the other side of the Sea, the people of Syria were fighting with outdated weaponry, in the hopes of enjoying the pleasures that Israelis take for granted.

Finally, during my trip to Jerusalem, I heard a loud siren going off and witnessed a police car speeding down the street. Yet, I seemed to be the only one alarmed. Everyone else went about their day, picking out souvenirs in the local shops or enjoying their café brunch. Only later did I find out that the Israelis had prepared a drill on how to handle a chemical weapons attack from Syria. Due to this reaction I am led to believe that a drill of this sort in preparation for such a horrible possibility is commonplace in Israel.

Moreover, these observations lead me to believe that conflict is so ingrained into Israeli society that the people do not even notice their perpetual state of insecurity. Put another way, insecurity is the norm in Israel rather than the exception. This has implications not only for state preparedness and security but also on the psyche of the citizen. When an entire state does not flinch during a chemical weapons drill or when a DMZ becomes a tourist attraction, the citizenry has become cowed to the point that the state can act with impunity as long as it is in the name of security.

One of the main purposes of the state, providing security for the citizen, becomes moot if the citizen normalizes insecurity. This implies that security is the deviant, allowing the state to perpetuate, or at the least remain ambivalent to pursuing peace. When the state is allowed to propagate this mentality, the citizen becomes increasingly submissive to state authority, allowing normally drastic government actions in the name of security.  Further, this mentality does not pave the way for peaceful outcomes and security. The citizen is kept in a state of distrust of the other. As long as a conflict is kept over “there” and on the other side of the security state, the citizen remains safe and can go about a normalized life. This means that there cannot be peace with the other, as it will bring this instability into the normalized lives of the citizen. In this normalized security environment, the security state needs fear to survive, which allows it to protect but also control the population. This is the case in Israel where the state maintains both the external enemy while providing internal security. Therefore, the greatest security threat to Israel is the state which has provided them with a false notion of safety. The dangers abroad are real. However, when the freedom on how to confront those dangers is stripped away in the name of security, the difference between the Israelis and its totalitarian neighbors becomes less evident.

Mark Grzegorzewski is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of South Florida.

More articles by:
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and My Late Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy after All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail