Abstract & Full Text

Popular memory - one of the types of collective memory – consists of representations of the past, presented in coherent narratives, adopted by society members. The study described in this chapter used a public survey to examine the popular memory of Israeli-Jews about the Israeli-Arab/Palestinian conflict ("conflict"). Specifically, it aimed to descriptively map for the first time the content of this memory and its index as well as to validate a process model that depicts the functioning of popular memory within a series of factors as antecedents, mediating factors and as outcomes. A representative sample of Israeli-Jews responded to a wide scope survey questionnaire that included quantitative evaluation of 23 major events/topics (“topics”) about the conflict ranging from the late nineteenth century to present times. For example, these topics address the quality of relations between the Zionist pioneers and the local Palestinians in the Land of Israel (Palestine), the causes for the eruption of various wars, the causes of the 1948 Palestinian exodus and of the establishment of the settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the sincerity of parties in peace negotiations and Israel’s “purity of arms” in the battlefield. In addition, the survey questionnaire included four general views of life (e.g., values such as universalism) and four views of the ingroup (e.g., extent of identification with it) as antecedents. The independent factors also include various socio-demographic details (e.g., age and religiosity). Then the model moves to a narrower perspective of mediating factors which are directly related to the conflict, but only in a general manner. These are the general views of the conflict, which are termed the socio-psychological repertoire of the conflict (i.e., its ethos, emotions and memory – the focus of the model). Since the model focuses on the memory, another mediating factor is addressed: people’s openness to alternative/new information about the conflict. Lastly, the model includes two dependent variables that are specific views about the conflict. One is in the direction of resolving the conflict (i.e., support of compromises) and the second is in the opposite direction, of escalating the conflict (support for using military measures against the rival).

The descriptive results show that the majority of the Israeli-Jews (about 60%) hold a Zionist narrative in their popular memory, one that is selective and biased, favoring their own group and delegitimizing the rival. However, it must be noted that this majority comprises those who hold the extreme Zionist narrative (1/4 of this majority) and those who support the moderate-Zionist narrative (3/4 of this majority). From another perspective – the index of the Israeli-Jewish popular memory of the conflict was found to be situated at point 2.4 on a 5-point scale, where 1 represents the extreme-Zionist narrative, 2= moderate-Zionist, 3 = critical/post-Zionist, while 4 and 5, respectively = the moderate and extreme-Palestinian narratives. The present study also confirmed the key role that popular memory plays in the repertoire of societies involved in intractable conflict. Popular memory serves as an important mediating factor that influences and is influenced by various psychological determinants. The model-related findings found interesting correlations between various factors as well as validating the aforementioned suggested model.