My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: II. Why Study Intercultural Friendships?
For members of the dominant culture multiculturalism may not necessarily be a central part of life. Despite the notion that acquaintance with other cultures may actually be enriching, they are likely to turn a blind eye and ignore cultural minorities in order to keep the status quo and their dominant position. In contrast, people with a minority status usually continue to be confronted with their minority position through constant comparison. For them the clash between their own values and beliefs and those of the dominant culture is inevitable and can become a source of (di)stress. Therefore, the intercultural encounter, which could be growth enhancing, may as well become traumatic. National governments, political parties, and organizations play a crucial role in this respect, since they may influence people’s perception of intercultural differences in order to either foster intercultural integration or enhance xenophobia and exploit intercultural conflict (Flache & Macy, 2011).
As a psychologist and human rights activist, let me turn for a moment to the work of psychologists within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a conflict providing part of the background of the present investigation. There is a range of studies on the difficulties for Jewish Israeli therapists in treating Arab clients (Baum, 2007a; Gorkin, 1986; Lichtenberg et al., 2003; Van de Vijver et al., 2008; Verkuyten & Martinovic, 2006). There also are several psychological accounts of the hardships in dialogue between Arabs and Jews (Berman et al., 2000; Duek, 2009; Weinberg & Weishut, 2011). Although there are a few groups of mental health professionals involved with political and social issues within Israeli society in general, and with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular, it was argued that in recent years, Israeli psychologists at large have remained relatively silent and not taken an active stance (Avissar, 2007a). The role of the Israeli mental health community as regarding this conflict was disputed (Avissar, 2007b; Berman, 2007; Dalal, 2008; Strous, 2007). My view is that psychologists are in an excellent position to catalyze social change.