Research Examines the Value of Dignity and Understanding Others in Resolving Difficult Conflicts

Summary of:

Leshem, B., & Sagy, S. (2020). National honor and personal dignity perceptions, legitimization of the narrative of the “other,” and willingness to reconcile: The case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/pac0000467

Background & Theory

The Israeli-Palestinian is a common conflict to evaluate in conflict theory, and we have much to learn from it. This article examines this conflict in specific regard to national honor, human dignity, and the roles these play in working towards reconciliation.

Research Questions

The authors seek to answer the following questions in their article:

  1. How does national honor and perceptions of human dignity impact willingness to reconcile?
  2. Does legitimizing the “other” in intergroup conflict help move toward reconciliation?

Methods

The authors performed their research by taking a sample of 343 people and having them complete a questionnaire. The sample equated to roughly ⅓ male and ⅔ female, all first or second degree students from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, all identified as Israeli Jewish, and ranged in age from 18-68. The questionnaire included questions surrounding demographics, thoughts on dignity, national honor, and legitimizing Palestinians’ point of view; and thoughts surrounding reconciliation between the groups. It primarily focused on gathering the participants’ feelings on these areas and what the larger implications are in terms of peacebuilding. IBM SPSS and AMOS systems were used to analyze the data collected and create a forward model.

Results

The results showed that demographics did not play a large role in the responses and that values relating to national honor and human dignity absolutely play a factor in someone’s desire and willingness to reconcile, and so does legitimizing those who differ from us. The more a person values human dignity and aims to both understand and project dignity on the outgroup, the higher this person’s openness to reconciling will be. If this person instead values national honor above all, and especially if they value national honor and put very little value on human dignity, they will very likely not engage in behaviors that reach reconciliation.

Please see page 6 in the report for the path model created from the data and the specific role that legitimization of the outgroup plays in someone’s willingness to reconcile. There are some limitations to this study, but overall, it provides great insight into the areas involved in reconciling a national conflict.

What This Means

  • It may be difficult to change national honor values, but what can most realistically come to fruition is encouraging ingroups to legitimize the outgroup. Should this happen, it’s very likely we can help the groups recognize the dignity and value of the other, and thus move toward a place of reconciliation.
  • The value of understanding someone else and being open to forgiveness and peace is crucial to coming to a resolution and true reconciliation. This is especially needed in cases of national conflict.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: Encouraging your clients to seek to understand one another and find ways to see the other side as having just as legitimate causes as themselves can go a long way in coming to conflict resolution. For any intractable conflict, this might be the only way to accomplish peace.

For everyone: Remember to seek to understand others when in conflict with them. Try your best to see their point of view and recognize the value it has to them, and hopefully, they will do the same. Additionally, remember that just because other cultures are different from your own, they are not less; we all deserve the same dignity and respect as humans, and while this may not solve all the world’s problems, it certainly helps diminish one of the largest issues we face: hate.