Date of Thesis

5-9-2017

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Sheila M. Lintott

Abstract

This thesis is a philosophical study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict employing feminist, epistemological, and social and political philosophy to analyze linguistic processes such as narratives, naming, and stereotype formation. The framework of this thesis is the Wittgensteinian paradox of the self defined by the other, according to which individuals are always dependent upon others not merely for the satisfactions of their needs, but for their very conception of self. Following Wittgenstein, I argue that this essential co-dependency is due to the character of our necessarily shared language conventions. Moreover, I apply this framework in an attempt to better articulate the necessary contours of any possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Narratives, accounts of a people's memories and experiences that function to connect the past with the present stand at the intersection of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and prospects for peace. Opposing groups often have contradicting collective narratives about the same events, a phenomenon referred to as "dueling narratives." Dueling narratives contain and create images that other (as a verb) the opposing side, perpetuating and ingraining an us vs. them mentality. Representations of the other frequently develop into or further support stereotypes and often contribute to the formation of both implicit and explicit biases. The complex Israeli and Palestinian "dueling narratives" are informed by reactions to selective humanitarian intervention, the US economic and political sponsorship of Israel, and the use of the label "terrorist" to characterize exclusively Palestinian, but not Israeli acts. Through stereotypes and bias embedded in language and imagery, Palestinian narratives and corresponding lived realities are misconstrued, obscured, and, often, silenced, creating a significant "moral distance" between Americans and Palestinians and a failure of empathy. Bridging this distance requires the reconciliation of these dueling narratives and their internal discrepancies, first, through recognizing the complexity of the multiple perspectives at hand. True recognition of Others and of the vast diversity of forms and conditions of being human demand the recognition of the multiplicities represented in and created by language, which convey many different lived realities constituting what it means to be human. In other words, prior to even considering possible solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we must experience, hear, and learn from the lived realities of Palestinians, and these narratives must come from the perspective of empowered and expressive Palestinian voices.

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