Resisting Israeli occupation to satisfy psychological needs : a case study of four nonviolent Palestinian freedom fighters

Degree Name

MA in Conflict Transformation

First Advisor

John Ungerleider


This paper is about how resisting the Israeli occupation can improve the psychological well-being of Palestinian nonviolent freedom fighters. It attempts to prove that nonviolent resistance helps the Palestinian meet his psychological needs. It can enhance his self-esteem and add to his feeling of dignity and belonging. It can liberate him from the psychological devastation of life under military occupation. I have conducted four case studies of Palestinians involved in nonviolent resistance. First, they expose how the Israeli occupation severely frustrates the human needs of Palestinians. The occupation humiliates them, undermines their sense of positive identity and eats away their feeling of self-determination. Second, I show that involvement in the nonviolent struggle can restore these damages to the psyche and serve as self-defense. Freedom is a feeling the nonviolent fighter achieves here and now through active resistance. I have divided my findings into three categories. The Wounds, about the suffering and how the psychological needs of Palestinians are deeply frustrated by the occupation. The Transformation, about what caused two of the four freedom fighters to transform from passive acceptance to active resistance. The Harvest, about how their involvement significantly improves the psychological well being of the four. It is my conclusion that nonviolent resistance is a healthy reaction to inhumane living conditions. In the words of one of the four interviewees: "I feel free when I am protesting. I feel I am someone when I try to stop the wall and the killing of my people." I believe this research to be important for any organization and person working in a conflict zone. It is important to understand what the situation of the people you are working with and to understand what drives them.

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