Gerald Harvey Katzman

Real occupation leading to democritization and improved human relations

There have been recent calls to develop a two-state solution to solve the Israel/Palestinian divide. Years of effort to accomplish this goal have been unsuccessful. A call to change the Palestinian leadership has been one suggestion (Bassem Eid, Newsweek. 01/28/2024 ). It is not clear how this would be accomplished. Another possibility would be to learn how change has been accomplished in similar situations in previous years.

Japan was a militaristic society during WWll is a case in point ( The Japanese armed forces committed many war crimes. They were followers of the Shinto religion which was the foundation of the militaristic nationalism that involved the belief that the emperor was the divine father of the Japanese people. Passionate patriotism was central to their behavior but there was little regard for those outside the society. The patriotism was demonstrated by the Kamikaze (Divine Wind) pilots who might not look forward to their suicide missions, but their loyalty to the emperor and perhaps peer pressure, made them proceed.

When the emperor ordered the surrender of Japan to the allies, the process went quickly forward. An occupation of Japan occurred after the atomic bombs were dropped and the emperor urged his loyal subjects to surrender. President Truman appointed General MacArthur to head the occupation. The USA was the main authority of the occupation to institute the tenets of the Potsdam Declaration. Those tenets included “punishment for those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, complete dismantlement of Japan’s war-making powers and (support of) freedom of speech, of religion and of thought, as well as respect for fundamental human rights.”

A major change in Japanese society occurred when Emperor Hirohito denied his divinity in a New Year’s address. He stated (in translation) that ties between us do not depend on mere legends or myths. They are not predicated on the false conception that the Emperor is divine… Love of the family and love of the country are especially strong in this country. With more of this devotion should we now work towards love of mankind. General MacArthur stated that the emperor’s statement pleased him because the emperor took “a leading part in the democratization of his people.” Further “surgery” occurred when the occupying group ordered the Japanese government to dissolve “militaristic and ultra-nationalistic organizations and to remove all elements undesirable for the growth of democracy from the government and other public offices.”

The result of the seven year occupation of Japan is a thriving peaceful democracy. The educational system no longer relies on myths and false narratives. Religion is not taught in the schools. Human relations programs taught in the schools are designed to develop an appreciation for individual differences, enhancement of self-respect and nurturing of empathy and helping behaviors.

In seven years, Japanese society changed from ruthless militarism to a peace-loving society working on expansion of its economy and having its youth experience an exemplary educational system. A similar change is also possible for Palestinian society, if proper initiatives were launched.

The key to the success of the changes made to Japanese society was General MacArthur and several American groups working with the Japanese Government and providing direction to them that would eventually lead to democratization. Of critical importance, the Americans made sure that necessary changes leading to non-violence were instituted.

Similar to the militarism of the old Shinto religion, radical Islam also encourages violence in certain situations. With Radical Islam, Christians and Jews are considered infidels (kufar) or polytheists (mushrikun) and therefore not protected peoples, but rather in perpetual conflict with Islam. Well-documented for decades, UNRWA schools have indoctrinated Palestinian youth to hate Jews and incited them to violence against Jews. Military indoctrination carried out in UNRWA summer camps for children represents a violation of international law. Suicide missions by youths or adults against Israelis have been encouraged by certain Palestinian factions with a promise of rewards in the afterlife. Interestingly, the promise of “72 virgins” has been noted by several Islamic scholars to be a misinterpretation of the liturgy ( It is really “72 raisins.” Unfortunately, many of these violence-promoting and false narratives have been internalized by a number of Palestinians and they apparently feel it is their mission to act on them. Celebrations by parents of children who die perpetrating “successful” terrorist actions is hard to understand. Glorifying “martyrs” by putting their pictures at the entrance of schools or other public places further supports the “culture of death.” It does not have to continue that way.

Islam is one of thirteen world religions that has in its writings a variation of the Golden Rule. It states, “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others that which you wish for yourself.” -The Prophet Mohammed Hadith

Many Islamic clergy declare Islam to be a religion of peace. Their philosophy and interpretation of Islamic writings is clearly at odds with those who promote Jihad. It is the voice of clergy who promote peace that should be heard in the mosques and other public places. It has been stated that “hate speech is not free speech.” Hate speech often leads to violence and compromises the moral development of children. Such speech must be stifled.

Children have a right to reach their maximal human potential. The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child has been signed by all member nations in the Middle East. Clearly, early death by participation in violence or stifling of moral development by being taught to hate is not in keeping with the Convention. An outline of the kind of learning to which children should be exposed has been published (Katzman G. Child Development Leading to the Pursuit of Virtues and the Avoidance of Vices. JAMMR. 2020;32[10],22-29). The basic outline involves authoritative parenting, modeling of caring and helping behaviors inside and outside the family, early literacy, reading stories with a moral and human relations programs for children. Such an approach is not incompatible with any religion that does not promote hatred or violence and creates an atmosphere for peaceful human relations.

Many questions need to be answered before a transformation of Palestinian society can be achieved. First, who will appoint a leader and collaborative groups to work with the Palestinian Government to make changes leading to a peaceful society?  Second, what changes are necessary? Examples of necessary initiatives include:

  • Changing school textbooks to remove incitement to hate or violence.
  • Removing antisemitic rhetoric from radio and television
  • Eliminating false narratives from newspapers and other electronic media
  • Removing pictures and writings that glorify suicide bombers on display at schools and other public places
  • Parenting education during prenatal classes and/or through the schools should be established.
  • Working for mosques to become a place where peaceful human relations are promoted and guidance offered to achieve this goal.

There has been a hue and a cry by many Palestinians and their supporters to “STOP THE OCCUPATION” by Israel of the West Bank and possibly again of Gaza. The truth is that the IDF has been in the West Bank mainly for security purposes. There have been few efforts to interfere in the daily lives of Palestinians. That responsibility has been the purview of the Palestinian Authority, clergy, schools  and terrorist leaders locally and afar. That must change. A real occupation should occur where the lives of Palestinians are improved and institutions for eventual responsible self- government established. At the same time, the security of the State of Israel must also be maintained. Such a process where both needs are satisfied will not come to fruition overnight. However, with good faith leadership developing on both sides of the Palestinian/Israel divide a bright new day could eventually dawn. There is a need to determine how the process heading toward democratization will be moved forward, what parties should be involved and how they will interact.

Unfortunately, the hatred and violence by segments of Palestinian society against Jews and other minorities has been fostered for many years. It will not be reversed overnight. Similarly, there are Israelis who have experienced the terrorism directly or indirectly who are skeptical of the possibility of positive change. Lastly, there apparently is a small fraction of extremist Israelis who seek to expand the land of Israel by violent means. All these issues need to be addressed over time.

Anwar Sadat, a very wise and courageous man who met a violent, untimely end had many opinions about the elements necessary for societies and countries to develop peaceful and mutually supportive relations. Some of his best known quotes include:

  • War can never be the solution; it only brings more pain and suffering to innocent people.
  • Peace does not mean the absence of conflict, but the ability to resolve it peacefully.
  • If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.
  • A society that does not value its children and educate them well is doomed to fail.
  • Let us use education as a tool to eradicate poverty, ignorance and extremism from our society.

Taking President Sadat’s opinions into consideration, modern knowledge of child development and instituting appropriate initiatives to eliminate violence and promote dialogue, future resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian divide could be accomplished.

About the Author
I am a pediatrician/neonatologist who has had an interest in promoting the optimal growth and development of children for years. The stifling effects of learned hatred on the moral development of children has concerned me. For that reason, I have published multiple papers that deal with furthering the healthy development of children and promoting the skills required for non-violent conflict resolution.
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