Representations of Normalization among Palestinians: From Political Discourse to Intergroup Contact with Israelis
Mai Albzour (PhD, Birzeit University, Palestine)
Abstract. The phenomenon of “normalization” is probably one of the most debatable and problematic aspects of the Israeli-Arab conflict and peace relations. Using a mixed methods approach, I track the historical emergence of the term “normalization” in the Arab context, examine how Palestinians understand this concept, and how intergroup contact experiences shape their attitudes towards normalizing behaviors with the Israelis. In the field of social psychology an extensive body of research has evidenced the beneficial effects of positive intergroup contact in improving intergroup attitudes. However, recent research has revealed that members of disadvantaged groups are less inclined to mobilize for social change when they have positive contact experiences with dominant groups. This phenomenon, called a sedative effect of intergroup contact, casts a shadow on the optimistic message delivered by intergroup contact literature. Moreover, negative contact has been shown to shape both intergroup attitudes and the relationship between positive contact and prejudice. These new strands of intergroup contact research provide the theoretical bases of our two studies (Albzour, et al 2019) and (Albzour, et al, in press), both addressing the impact of positive and negative experiences of contact with Israelis on Palestinians’ attitudes towards normalization. Based on cross-sectional survey data (N=150, Palestinian adults in the West Bank), Study 1 demonstrated that most definitions of normalization had negative connotations, and that Palestinians’ support of normalization mediated the relationship between intergroup contact and motivation for resistance. Study 2, based on a stratified representative sample (N=1000, in the West Bank and Jerusalem), showed that both positive and negative contact shape attitudes towards normalization. Moreover, negative contact moderated the sedative effects of contact, but only in Jerusalem. Additionally, to uncover the history of Arab national political discourse of normalization, in (Albzour, 2020), I used critical discourse analysis and Foucault’s conceptual method of genealogy to capture the emergence of the term normalization, its meaning, and its practices. This theoretical perspective relies on understanding how power relations produce the meaning of certain concepts at a specific historical moment. My analysis of Arab national discourse, before and after the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1978, indicated that normalization—and its meaning—was imposed by the colonial powers, and that the practices of normalization appeared before the use of the term, but referred to it with different labels. Together, the findings of these studies have important implications for Palestinians’ debates on normalization, policy makers, and social psychological theorizing of intergroup contact.
The talk will take place in the seminar room of the center as well as in this virtual room.