Broken Record Response

Resolving Disputes With the Broken Record Response

By Israel Zwick, CN Publications, March 18, 2007

Those that are growing up in the current generation are accustomed to listening to clear, crisp digital music from their CD’s, DVD’s, MP3 players, and satellite radios. Those of us that were raised in the turbulent years of the Viet Nam War and Yom Kippur War can still recall the static, scratchy noises coming from vinyl LP records. Whenever the phonograph needle encountered a particle of dust or a scratch, the music would be accompanied by irritating noise. Occasionally, the scratch would be deep enough to prevent the phonograph needle from advancing. In that case, the last few words would be repeated continuously until someone picked up the phonograph arm and advanced it manually.

Psychologist Manuel Smith used the analogy of the “broken record” in his bestselling book When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, published in 1975. Dr. Smith’s popular book presented a variety of suggestions for using verbal techniques to resolve conflicts, disputes, and disagreements. His first lesson on assertive responses involved verbal persistence, a technique he titled, “Broken Record” which employed continuous repetition of the desired outcome.

Though the book is over 30 years old, much of its advice is still pertinent, and perhaps even more important today then it was then. The current leaders of the State of Israel would be advised to incorporate some of these skills in their diplomatic dealings. The Palestinian Arabs have portrayed themselves as “poor, oppressed, suffering people who are struggling for liberation and self-determination.” They condone and excuse their barbaric violence against Israeli civilians as “legitimate resistance operations against the harsh Israeli occupation and aggression.” In contrast, the defensive security measures of the Israeli government are repeatedly condemned as “violations of the humanitarian rights of the Palestinian people.”

In response to these repeated vilifications by international non-governmental organizations, the Government of Israel should perhaps adopt a simple “broken record” response. To every condemnation of their defensive measures, they should simply respond, “First the Arabs must stop their incitement and violence.” Israeli spokesmen would respond to criticism with the following simple statements:

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no security fence.

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no checkpoints.

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no travel restrictions.

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no military incursions.

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no civilian casualties.

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no targeted killings.

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no arrests.

Stop the incitement and violence, and then there will be peace, harmony, and tranquility.

Another oft repeated statement is, “The best defense is a good offense.” Instead of Israel having to repeatedly defend itself from fallacious accusations, Israel should start going on the offensive and make demands from the Arabs as preconditions for peace negotiations. The following demands should be considered and repeated often:

  1. Acceptance. The Arabs must accept that Jews have strong historical, religious, and cultural ties to the Holy Land. Jews have every right to live and establish communities in the environs of Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Shechem, Shiloh, and other historical sites. Jews should even have the right to live in Arab countries where they lived for 2000 years until they were forcibly expelled.
  2. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State. On a map of the Middle East, the State of Israel is barely visible. About 6 million Jews live in an area of about 25,000 sq. km. They are surrounded by 22 Arab countries with over 300 million Arabs living in 14 million sq. km. The Arabs must recognize that Israel will remain a Jewish state with a Jewish flag, a Jewish national anthem, Jewish street names, Jewish national holidays, and Jewish schools. Of course, the Arabs living there will still enjoy full democratic and civil rights. Israel will not become a binational Arab and Jewish state. If there are 22 Arab Muslim states, there can be one Jewish state.
  3. Negotiation and Compromise. There will always be disputes and disagreements between people sharing the same space. Spouses have disputes, parents and children have disputes, and special interest groups have disputes. In civilized societies, the disputes are resolved by negotiation, compromise, and due process of law to avoid violent conflict. The Arabs must learn to accept negotiation and compromise. They still have not deviated from Yasir Arafat’s original demands in the peace talks of July 2000. That is, a) Israel must return to the jagged, indefensible borders of May, 1967 including the division of Jerusalem, b) Israel must dismantle Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and c) Israel must allow the descendants of the 1948 and 1967 refugees to return to Israel. The Arabs cannot present these demands as a fait accompli. If there is to be a lasting peace, there must be dialogue, negotiation and compromise.
  4. Renunciation of Violence. The Arabs must publicly and repeatedly renounce the use of violence from their public forums, schools, mosques, media, and textbooks. Violence and martyrdom should not be glorified as a means for resolving disputes.
  5. Reliability and Consistency. When we go into our automobiles we expect them to start up and get us to our destination. If we don’t get reliable performance from automobiles, we repair them or dispose of them. We should expect the same from agreements with our neighbors. Mutual agreements must be consistently reliable to maintain trust. To date, the Arabs have not adhered to any agreement made with the State of Israel. To develop trust, Arabs must demonstrate that their agreements are reliable.

These should be the minimal starting points for negotiations between Israel and her Arab neighbors. If the Arabs cannot accept these minimal conditions of civilized society, they should not be given international support.

Manuel Smith was not the only voice of that era to advocate verbal techniques for resolving disputes. The popular country singer, Kenny Rogers, also offered sound advice for avoiding conflict in his two hit songs, The Gambler, and Coward of the County.

They are presented here in crisp, clear, digital sound, so it won’t be necessary to pick up the phonograph needle and advance it manually.

Play MP3, Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

Play MP3, Kenny Rogers, Coward of the County

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