Hameiri, Boaz, Keren Sharvit, Daniel Bar-Tal, Eldad Shahar, and Eran Halperin. “Support for Self-Censorship Among Israelis as a Barrier to Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Political Psychology (early view; online first).
Self-censorship, defined as an “act of intentionally and voluntarily withholding information from others in the absence of formal obstacles” often serves as a barrier to resolving intractable conflicts. Specifically, in order to protect the group, and in absence of objective constraints such as institutionalized censorship, individuals practice self-censorship and support its practice by other society members. This prevents free flow and transparency of information, within a society, regarding the conflict and the adversary. In an attempt to investigate the factors that contribute to the functioning of self-censorship as a sociopsychological barrier to conflict resolution, a longitudinal study was conducted among a large sample of Jews in Israel. The survey was administered in three waves: a few months before, during, and a few months after Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip. The findings showed that armed confrontation can increase support for self-censorship. In addition, the findings revealed that personal characteristics (e.g., authoritarianism, ethnocentrism, siege mentality) predicted support for self-censorship, which, in turn, mediated the effect of personal characteristics on support for negotiations and for providing humanitarian aid. The theoretical as well as the applied implications of the findings are discussed.
The typical collective memories of societies involved in intractable conflicts play a major role in the eruption and continuation of the conflicts, whereas the positive transformation of these memories to being less self-serving promotes peacemaking. A major factor that inhibits such transformation is self-censorship. Self-censorship, practiced by members of a society’s formal institutions, inhibits the dissemination of alternative, more accurate narratives of the conflict that may change dominating biased conflict-supporting memories. Despite the importance of formal self-censorship in maintaining collective memories of conflicts, little empirical and theoretical research has examined this phenomenon. The present study addresses this omission. It examines the self-censorship practiced from 1949 to 2004 in 3 formal Israeli institutions (the National Information Center, the IDF/army, and the Ministry of Education) regarding the main historical event of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the causes of the 1948 Palestinian exodus. This is done by analyzing all of these institutions’ publications produced throughout the 56-year research period and interviewing their key position holders. The results show that the institution gatekeepers practiced self-censorship for 5 reasons: garnering international support, mobilizing citizens, the impact of Zionist ideology, institutional norms, and fear of sanctions. The empirical findings are used to elicit theoretical insights, such as a definition for formal self-censorship, the difference between self-censorship practiced by gatekeepers (from formal and informal institutions) and that practiced by ordinary individuals, the 5 reasons for such self-censorship (distinguishing between 2 categories—intrinsic and extrinsic reasons), and the reasons that led the gatekeepers to admit that they had self-censored.