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.