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Israeli Psychologists Who Trained Army For ‘Disengagement’ to Head Panel at APA Conference

8 August 2008

Experts in ‘Constructive Struggle’ Think Topic Timely, Essential

Washington, D.C. As the crisis in Israel wears on, two Israelis who are internationally recognized specialists in non-violent confrontation and “constructive struggle” will lead a symposium at the convention of the American Psychological Association in New Orleans . The panel is scheduled for Saturday, August 12th at 12 PM in Room 35 of the New Orleans Convention Center.

Exactly one year ago, the Israeli army and police conducted a withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza . Because they knew that this was a contentious and potentially violent issue and a difficult assignment for the soldiers, the New Israel Fund arranged for two Israeli psychologists — Haim Omer, PH.D., psychology professor at Tel Aviv University , and Nahi Alon, clinical psychologist and co-director of The School of Buddhist Psychology in Tel Aviv — to train both frontline police and soldiers.

Drs. Omer and Alon, who are internationally recognized for their expertise in the principles of nonviolent conflicts and intervention, played a key role in the disengagement despite initial distrust of their techniques by IDF and police leadership. The army and police certainly used the psychologists’ research: the end result was an evacuation of thousands of settlers with few outbursts of violence and no loss of life, and police and soldiers demonstrated unusual restraint in the face of extreme verbal provocation.

At the APA’s invitation, Drs. Omer and Alon will speak about their work and how their ideas can be used in other conflicts, starting with the Israeli-Arab conflict and generalized to other difficult — and potentially violent — conflicts.

They will be joined on the panel by Tammy Rubel, organizational consultant for S hatil – The New Israel Fund’s Empowerment and Training Center for Social Change Organizations in Israel , and discussant Florence Denmark , Ph.D., Robert Pace Distinguished Research Professor, Pace University . Arnold R. Cerbone, PhD, will moderate the panel. Because of the current conflict in Israel , representatives of the Israel Defense Force and the police can not appear in person, but Commander Raffi Lev, PhD of the Israeli police will appear in a video presentation.

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