The Role of Direct-Experience People in Promoting Transitional Justice: The Israeli Case
E. Bird and F. Ottanelli (Eds.), The performance of memory as transitional justice, 115-132. Cambridge: Intersentia, 2015
26 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2017
Date Written: May 16, 2015
Transitional justice is a major concept in promoting peace and reconciliation between conflicting parties. It is usually associated with formal judicial processes such as criminal justice, rule-of law reform and paying reparations. This chapter focuses on another transitional justice method, a more informal one: memory work. There is a growing realization of the major impact on the way in which the history of a conflict is viewed by the members of parties involved on their psychological and behavioral reactions. Addressing that history properly can promote their well being, conflict resolution and reconciliation between the parties. There are many ways of addressing the relevant history, for example, through truth and reconciliation committees, the rewriting of history textbooks, and commemoration projects. This chapter focuses on another way: the role of the autobiographical memory, that of the people who experienced the conflict directly, as it is manifested in their memoirs, newspaper articles and interviews with scholars.
To this end the chapter uses a case study approach, regarding the causes for the main historical event of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the 1948 Palestinian exodus. It explores for the first time the way in which Israeli-Jewish 1948 war veterans presented these causes between 1949 and 2004. The question posed was: did their autobiographical memory present a Zionist narrative (willing flight of the Palestinians) or a critical/post-Zionist narrative (willing flight combined with expulsion)? This exploration is based on an analysis of all published war veterans’ memoirs and newspaper articles, as well as interviews with scholars, in the 56 year research period. During this study, interviews were also conducted with 1948 war veterans. Following the description of the empirical findings regarding the Israeli-Jewish autobiographical memory of the exodus, these findings are used to theoretically conceptualize various phenomena. For example, what determines the way in which direct-experience people describe their experiences during a conflict, how these people influence directly and indirectly the collective memory of their society of a given conflict, and the way in which they influence the dynamics of a conflict. Other aspects that are discussed are the autobiographical memory special characteristics compared to other sources from the past (e.g., documents), and the special characteristics of memory work as part of transitional justice which makes it especially important in two manners: compared to other mechanisms of transitional justice (e.g., forensic ones), and especially in pre-resolution contexts. Thus, this paper is relevant specifically to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as to other conflicts worldwide.
Keywords: Transitional Justice, autobiographical memory, Israel, 1948 War, war veterans
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