Cal State Fullerton psychology faculty member Ella Ben Hagai studies conflict resolution and the role of psychology in promoting peace, specifically in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel-Hamas war.
Ben Hagai has researched the narratives of Israelis, Palestinians, American Jews and Arabs. She is an expert on how national narratives become part of people's identities and can be used to promote peace or war.
Understanding how individuals come together and form a shared political identity is an important step toward peacebuilding and conflict resolution, Ben Hagai said.
She said activists on each side of the conflict have become entrenched in an us vs. them mentality in a way that can lead to radicalization, extremism and violence.
“Politicians representing Palestinians in Gaza and Jewish Israelis living around the Gaza Strip have worked for decades to create polarization and schism so that residents would be united under a monolithic narrative,” Ben Hagai said.
A sign of hope in the conflict might be that Israelis and Palestinians feel frustration toward their political leaders and that may lead to long-term solutions, Ben Hagai said.
“The disillusion from the leaders who brought us to this crisis may be a path out of it,” Ben Hagai said.
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