The myth of the “cycle of violence”.
Escalating direct violence:
The world only seems to pay attention to Palestine when there is an escalation in direct violence like now, especially if there is a loss of Israeli lives.
Governments, institutions, and politicians view frequent rounds of shootings, bombings, and military raids as “cycles of violence” that “need to end” to “restore peace and calm”.
Describing violence in Palestine as a “cycle” is misleading:
It reinforces the myth that Palestinians and Israelis are equally harmed.
It also assumes that the problem is the direct violence when Israeli soldiers storm refugee camps or when resistance fighters threaten military checkpoints.
This obscures the more critical and dangerous type: Structural violence.
Structural violence is a form of systematic control over people, backed by the threat and use of direct violence. It’s a way of exerting power over and inflicting pain on, one group to the benefit of another.
Direct, physical violence is easy to see and identify. This is why it gets media attention.
Structural violence is harder to see. This is because it consists of a structure embedded in the political, economic, and social organization of a society.
Examples of Israeli structural violence:
(Whether we live in Israel, West Bank, or Gaza, violence is a constant, daily experience for Palestinians).
- Military checkpoints restricting our movement
- Apartheid wall
- Siege on Gaza
- Home demolitions
- Land seizures
- Constant drone surveillance
- Mass incarceration
- Blocking refugees from returning
- Restrictions on marriage and travel
Israel can’t exist without structural violence:
To preserve its Jewish demographic majority, Israel needs the constant threat of violence against refugees who dream to return home.
From 1948 to 1960, Israel killed 3,000 to 5,000 Palestinian refugees who tried to return, sometimes shooting before they even crossed the border.
The myth of violence equally hurting Palestinians and Israelis further obfuscates the fact that one side actually tends to benefit from this “cycle” at the expense of the other.
Violence is both a means and a pretext for Israeli land authorities to chip away at Palestinian neighborhoods and villages and expand Jewish settlements.
When Palestinians spotlight Israeli brutality, we are demanding the end of our oppression; When Israelis point to Palestinian violence, it is usually to justify that oppression.
Palestinian resistance is always a reaction:
Historically, natives always resist their colonizers.
All forms of resistance to oppression are understood as a natural reaction to the daily violence committed against Palestinians. It has always been a response to structural violence.
- When we peacefully protest, we are shot.
- When we call for boycotts, smear campaigns ruin our lives and sanction us.
- When we use diplomacy, we are ignored.
Eruptions of direct violence can actually be opportunities for Palestinians to shift power dynamics, mobilize communities and challenge the violent status quo.
When the call to end violence is limited to direct violence, it implies accepting structural violence.
It’s telling the prison warden and prisoner to stop fighting for calm to be restored to the prison.
Peace requires dismantling oppressive structures, like checkpoints and walls. True peace requires decolonizing Palestine.
Remember this next time you hear about “violence in Israel-Palestine”.
My heart goes to my brothers and sisters in Huwwara and Za’atara who were attacked by zionist khanazir, who even took time to pray in front of burning houses. Whether we are in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, or exile, we remain one.
@StateDeptSpox @ExtSpoxEU @JosepBorrellF
Peace psychology is now global in scope.
It recognizes that violence can be cultural, which occurs when beliefs are used to justify either direct or structural violence.
Direct violence injures or kills people quickly and dramatically, whereas structural violence is much more widespread and kills far more people by depriving them of satisfaction of their basic needs.
For example, when people starve even though there’s enough food for everyone, the distribution system is creating structural violence.
If a person justifies the deaths of starving people by blaming them for their situation (called blaming the victim), that person is engaging in cultural violence.
Direct violence is supported by the culturally violent notion of just war theory, which argues that under certain conditions, it is acceptable to kill others (e.g., defense of the homeland, using war as a last resort).
One of the main challenges for peace psychology is to deepen understanding of the structural and cultural roots of violence, a problem that is particularly important when security concerns revolve around the prevention of terrorism.
Daniel J. Christie
Thomas E. Cooper
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
Direct, cultural and structural violence
The triangle of violence, defined by the Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung, identifies three types of violence and argues that the phenomenon has a similar structure to that of an iceberg, in which there is always a small visible part and a huge hidden part.
Direct violence is the tip of the iceberg and has as its main characteristic the fact that most of its effects are visible, mainly the materials, but not all of them: hate, psychological trauma or the emergence of concepts such as ‘enemy’ are equally serious effects, but they are often not seen as such. Being the most popular and obvious, it is commonly thought that direct is the worst kind of violence, which is not true for precisely this visibility, which makes it easier to identify and therefore to combat. It is important to note that this type of violence is the manifestation of something, not its origin, and is in the beginning where it should be sought causes and act more effectively. Direct violence does not affect many people as cultural and structural violence, which are the hidden part of the iceberg.
Cultural violence is a symbolic violence that is expressed in countless media —religion, ideology, language, art, science, media, education, etc— and serves to legitimize direct and structural violence and to inhibit or suppress the response of the victims. It even offers justifications for humans, unlike other species, to destroy each other and to be rewarded for doing so: it is not strange to accept violence in the name of country or religion. There is a culture of violence in which schools and other instruments of transmission and reproduction of culture show History as a succession of wars; it is usual to suppress conflicts by unquestioned parental authority, or authority of the male over the female; mass media sell armies use as the main way of solving international conflicts, etc. So life goes on in an atmosphere of constant violence, manifested daily in all areas and at all levels.
Structural violence is displayed when, as a result of social stratification processes, there is a damage in the satisfaction of basic human needs: survival, welfare, identity, freedom, etc. It is caused by a set of structures, both physical and organizational, which do not allow the satisfaction of those needs and is the worst of the three violence because it is the origin of all and kills and affects more people. It is also a form of indirect violence and sometimes even unintentional: the actions that cause hunger, for example, are not designed and made directly for that purpose, but they are result from capitalist economic policy and the unfair distribution of wealth. This sometimes causes that the reasons of structural violence are not clearly visible and therefore it is more difficult to deal with it.
According to Galtung, often causes of direct violence are related to structural violence and justified by cultural violence: many situations are the result of an abuse of power which concerns an oppressed group, or a social injustice —insufficient resources sharing, great inequality in personal income, limited access to social services— and receive the backing of speeches justifying them.
To get closer to the definition of violence, we use the “Violence Triangle” by the popular peace researcher and sociologist Johan Galtung.
The risk of becoming violent is reduced in childhood and adolescence by, among other things:
- parental care and positive relationships with parents and other adults
- stable ties
- social competence
- social support and a stable social environment
- Success and a sense of achievement in school
- medium to high intelligence
- a prosocial development and social values
- Problem-solving skills
- high expectations of self-efficacy