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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail