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Restorative justice for the humanitarian-based injustices in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict

The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s complicated conflicts characterized by wide-ranging causes. According to Gelvin (2005), the primary cause of the conflict is border lines. Various resolutions efforts have been initiated but it’s unfortunate that none has been effective as to bring a stoppage of hostilities. One of the aspects of the conflict is the humanitarian question that has seen several humanitarian-oriented injustices among them, refuges, water resources, and house demolitions. This essay will analyze some of the literature that exists on restorative justice for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and seek to address the humanitarian question of the conflict through restorative justice.

As stated by Gabbay (2005), restorative justice is a process where the various stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to deliberate on the possible solutions available for bringing the injustices to an end. In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, both the Israelis and the Palestinians are affected by the injustices that are done by the offending side with the aim of causing harm to the victim. For example, in the case of house demolishing, it is an injustice by the Israel army towards Palestinians with the objective being to humiliate them to submission. On the other hand, the main retaliation method for the Palestinians has been through terror-oriented acts.

In their work, Intergroup Reconciliation: Effects of Adversary’s Expressions of Empathy, Responsibility, and Recipients’ Trust, Nadler Arie and Laviatan Ido explore the effects of statements and expressions of empathy made to the aggrieved group by the aggravator. The study involved a case study of Israeli and Palestinian participants where each group made empathy expressions in the form of a written speech for the conflict related suffering. Each group then filled a questionnaire that was used to assess their reconciliation towards the other group for the atrocities inflicted. The study concluded that, the level of positive attitudes from the empathy expressions dependent on the level of trust. From this study, Nadler & Laviatan (2006) concluded that, for restorative justice to work, trust is a precondition.

In Justifying Restorative Justice: A Theoretical Justification for the Use of Restorative Justice Practices by Gabbay Zvi (2006), the author analyzes the philosophical premise of the two main theories of punishment that lead to sentencing in the western culture; utilitarianism and retributivism, then compares them to the basic practices and values of restorative justice. The articles argues that, is justice is given deeper meaning and punishment viewed from a broad perspective, then restorative justice is in line with the current western criminal justice practices. As a result, restorative justice can be included in criminal justice system to not only uphold the theories f the system, but also amend the deficiencies therein and further its goals. One of the deficiencies that can be amended through restorative justice is the inclusion of victims in the process and preparation of the offender and the community in general for the offender’s re-entry in to the society.

Some of the issues of conflict in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which are hereby referred to as humanitarian-oriented issues for example water rights can be resolved through a restorative justice model. The control of fresh water in the dry and water scarce middle region is a source and a manifestation of power (Maoz & McCauley, 2009). The land disputed by the Israelis and the Palestinians has a water-resource potential through well drilling and through plumbing the resource can be moved from the land to other areas for human consumption. Through restorative justice, these issues can be resolved through dialogue and reconciliation which are the driving principles of the restorative justice model.

House demolition on the other hand, is a tactic used by the Israeli army to humiliate and dehumanize the Palestinians and Israeli settlers (Kelman, 2008). This method from the perspective of the Israelis is used to quash any potential attach as these houses are used as hideouts by the Palestine. This method can however not be looked at in isolation because it is closely related to the terror attacks from the Palestine’s. From each other’s standpoint, these acts are acts of terror but in this essay, they are viewed as humanitarian issues. As stated by Zartman (2005b), pursuing peace with no justice is a flimsy affair but this is complicated by terror. As posed by Agha & Mally, (2009) “does terror leave room for restorative justice?” this essay holds the opinion that, this can be achieved by focusing the restorative efforts to the society because, even though terrorists dissociate themselves from the society and target it, they are also products of the same society. According to Peters, (2007) restorative justice can be used in this case as was done in South Africa to let the communities know that there is life after the conflict.

The refugee question is the other humanitarian issue from the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The majority of these are internally displaced both in Israel and Palestine but also others in exile especially those from Palestine (Bar-Tal & Salomon, 2006). Restorative justice provides the first step towards a peaceful and unified society hence the return of refugees to their homelands. Restorative justice can be achieved through formation of peace groups and forums that open up and lead along political path.

To ensure that restorative justice is successful and sufficient not only to the humanitarian question of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict but also the other various issues arising from the conflict, Gross (2004) suggests that purpose of the justice model should not be to only restore broken relations, but to also compensate for damages caused. In this case, both states have aggrieved the other in various ways and tragic atrocities committed. According to Bar-Tal & Salomon (2006), this conflict has a religious base and interestingly, both believe in one God, the same God who command “Love your neighbor as yourself” which forms a very convenient basis for reconciliation and dialogue.

In conclusion, the humanitarian issues arising from the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict can be resolved through restorative justice. The principles behind restorative justice are reconciliation through dialogue of the affected parties. Through dialogue between Israel and Palestine, the issues mentioned herein as well as other issues of contention between the two states can be resolved. However, restoration without justice is veil. To ensure justice each of the states should be able to bear consequences for the atrocities caused even if it is monetary payments.



  1. Agha, H. & Mally, R. (2009). Israel & Palestine: Can They Start Again. The New York Times Review of Books, 56(19), December 3.
  2. Bar-Tal, D. & Salomon, G. (2006). Israeli-Jewish Narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Evolution, Contents, Function, and Consequences. 224 In R. I. Rotberg (ed.), Israeli and Palestinian Narratives of Conflict. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 19-46.
  3. Gabbay, Z.(2005). Justifying Restorative Justice: A Theoretical Justification for the Use of Restorative Justice Practices. Journal of Dispute Resolution. 2:349-397.
  4. Gelvin, J.L. (2005).The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: 100 Years of War. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Gross, A. M.(2004). The Constitution, Reconciliation, and Transitional Justice: Lessons from South Africa and Israel. Stanford Journal of International Law. 40(Winter): 47-104.
  6. Kelman, H.C. (2008). A social-psychological approach to conflict analysis and resolution. In D. Sandole, S. Byrne, I. Sandole-Staroste and J. Senehi (Eds.), Handbook of conflict analysis and resolution (pp. 170-183). London and New York: Routledge (Taylor and Francis).
  7. Maoz, I. & McCauley, R. (2008). Threat, Dehumanization, and Support for Retaliatory Aggressive Policies in Asymmetric Conflict. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 52, 93-116.
  8. Maoz, I. & McCauley, R. (2009). Threat Perceptions and Feelings as Predictors of Jewish-Israeli Support for Compromise with Palestinians. Journal of Peace Research, 46, 525-539.
  9. Nadler, A. & Liviatan, I.(2006). Intergroup Reconciliation: Effects of Adversary’s Expressions of Empathy, Responsibility, and Recipients’ Trust. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 32(4): 459-470.
  10. Peters, J. (2007). Restorative Justice, Reconciliation and the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process.Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association 48th Annual Convention, Hilton Chicago, CHICAGO, IL, USA.
  11. Zartman, I. W. (2005b). Looking Forward and Looking Backward on Negotiations Theory.” In I. W. Zartman & V. Kremenyuk (eds.), Peace Versus Justice: Negotiating Forward- and Backward-Looking Outcomes. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 289-301.

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