Kempf, Wilhelm

Mental Models of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict




Umfang & Ausstattung 20 S.
Erschienen 05/10
ISSN & Heft-No. 1611_1818_64


In order to investigate whether and to what extent criticism of Israel is due to anti-Semitic tendencies, it is not
sufficient to correlate Israel critical statements with anti-Semitic attitudes. We rather need to reconstruct the mental models
according to which the participants make their own meaning of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to which they take a stance.
Based on the assumption that mental models have both, an emotional and a cognitive component, the present paper introduces
a questionnaire which was designed in order to measure these components and a two-step process of data analysis by which
the mental models can be reconstructed.
The results of a pilot study with German and Austrian participants speak for the validity of this methodological approach. In
accordance with prior research, they also conform with the assumptions (1) that the formation of an interpretive frame requires
a certain minimum of knowledge and/or familiarity with the issue of which the participants try to make meaning and (2) that
also those participants who interpret the conflict according to a war frame believe in peace as the ultimate goal of war.
Although the study is not representative, it also gives some insight into how (mainly) young educated people in Germany and
Austria relate themselves to the conflict: they support a conflict resolution through negotiation all over, they condemn
Palestinian terror attacks throughout more strictly than Israeli military operations and the majority of them either sympathizes
with Israel or holds a mental model which calls for peace to both sides’ benefit. At the same time, however, the results of the
study also indicate that Israel is losing the propaganda war for the hearts and minds of the German and Austrian public: The
more the participants become familiar with the conflict, the more do they take a pro-Palestinian stance.