Author’s suggestions for class room and book group discussion
Broken Promises, Broken Dreams explores a number of difficult and emotionally challenging narratives regarding Jewish and Palestinian experience. I suggest you examine the following suggestions and choose the ones that speak to you as a beginning to your own conversation. I also invite you to review the information under Table of Contents on the website, where a photo gallery and audio excerpts from my own diary and interviews with Israelis and Palestinians may enrich and broaden your knowledge of this troubled area.
Think of the words that you associated with Israeli and Palestinian before and after you read the book. How did your associations change?
Is the topic of Israel/Palestine difficult to discuss in your family, school, work, place of worship? Why? Consider a story you have read in this book that could provide a beginning for a conversation.
Discuss the role of women in Israeli and Palestinian society as agents of change and as peace makers. Examine what the Coalition of Women for Peace means when they say: “The occupation is killing us all.”
The themes of trauma, resilience, and resistance are important in this book. How are these experiences expressed by different aspects of Israeli and Palestinian society?
Women’s reproductive health is defined internationally as a human right. Discuss the intersection between health and human rights in the Occupied Territories with reference to women’s health care.
A reoccurring theme in this book involves the impact of walls: emotional, spiritual, metaphorical, physical, economic, political. Give examples and consider their impact on health care and on children.
How do individual people and public opinion change? Consider the stories of the three women in the first three chapters, the story of the Israeli refuser, consider yourself. What intellectual knowledge and emotional experiences lead to change, how are stereotypes created and disputed?
Do the phrases “pro-Israel” and “pro-Palestinian” have meaning? How could the various positions in this conflict be described with greater nuance and complexity?
Does an examination of this conflict through a health and human rights framework with attention to individual and communal trauma open ground for understanding difficult political questions or make the issues more accessible? Are the parallels between Jewish and Palestinian trauma and dispossession a place to start a human conversation?
How does history differ when it is told by the victor versus the vanquished? Share examples in relation to the history of Israel and Palestine. Consider the 1948 War of Independence for Israelis and Al Nakba or The Catastrophe for Palestinians. How does relating to and sympathizing with the men and women who shared their stories affect your understanding of this conflict?
When is criticism of Israeli policy principled discussion and dissent, when is it anti-Semitic? Consider the internationally recognized right to resistance against occupation. If Jews were occupied, would they have a right to resist? If you reverse roles, do your opinions change? Think about the dynamic of military power and control when considering these issues.
How does understanding the major traumas shared by these two peoples, the Holocaust, suicide bombings, Al Nakba, the 1967 War, occupation, and refugee displacement, affect your understanding of the behavior and psychology of both peoples? Does the use of psychological models (such as the abused child becomes the abusive parent) help explain social behavior?
How do the mechanisms of defensiveness and denial keep people strong? What are the problems with this coping strategy? What “ghosts” threaten the future stability of Israel and Palestine?
How does a belief in one’s own victimhood impact on the ability to heal and to understand the other? Consider the impact of the Holocaust on the psyche of the Jewish people. Consider the impact of the dispossession and creation of hundreds of thousands of refugees in 1948 on the psyche of Palestinians. How are these trauma honored and how are they misused?
It has been said that Jewish settlers in the Occupied Territories have created large flourishing self-contained ghettos, that Palestinians surrounded by the separation wall live in imposed ghettos. Discuss the contradiction between ghetto and prison, and the historical and psychological precedents. When is this security, when it is collective punishment, when is it a form of cultural repetition compulsion?
How does the experience of the military shape the consciousness of young Israelis and their framing of the issues and potential solutions? What is the impact of the level of control that Israeli soldiers have over the movement of Palestinians on the Israeli soldiers? On the Palestinians?
Dr. Marton raises concerns for the human rights of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Do you think prisoners are entitled to internationally agreed upon human rights in this context and what are the long term consequences of violating them? Are there parallels in the US today?
The term “self-hating Jew” is often thrown at Jews who are critical of the behavior and policies of the Israeli government. Where is that accusation coming from? What is the role of emotional pain and fear?
Many Jewish Israeli and Palestinian physicians stated something to the effect, “When it comes to medicine, it is not about politics.” How is this true and how is it not true? Consider the individual act of providing health care as well as the system, constraints, resources, etc involved in providing a health care system.
Examine your sources of information on the Israel/Palestine conflict. How do you think media shapes your understanding? Who are the voices that are heard? Look at the language that is used: (Palestine vs Occupied Territories vs Disputed Territories vs Judea and Samaria; Palestinians vs Arabs; civilians vs suspects; young men vs suspected militants; women and children vs collateral damage; apartheid wall vs separation wall vs separation fence vs separation barrier; resistance vs terrorism, Israeli army vs Israeli Defense Force). What does the language reveal about the source of the information? Where could you find a broader range of opinion than you currently have?
How can the strengths of Jewish tradition, history, culture, and political work provide us with the tools to move forward in a more humane and just manner? How do you explain the contradiction that much of the US Jewish community is very progressive on issues of labor, civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, but not on Israeli policy or Palestinian rights?
Examine the role of Diaspora Jews in relation to Israeli policy: Do we have a right to comment, support, and critique? Do we have a responsibility to do that? What are the risks? If we are silent, are we actually collaborators in an increasingly brutal Israeli occupation? Is that dangerous for the future of Israel? Is our main responsibility to encourage a more constructive US foreign policy and what would that look like?