An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

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Frank Visser founded in 1997 (back then under the name of "The World of Ken Wilber"). He is the author of the first monograph on Ken Wilber and his work: "Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion" (SUNY Press, 2003) and of many essays on this website. He currently is service desk manager for the worldwide Sara Lee websites at the online advertising agency Lost Boys.


Integral Thoughts
on the
Middle East Conflict

Frank Visser

The Middle East is a prime case study for the validation of integral theory
In the past several years I have tried to publish essays on Integral World that explore the contours of an integral view of the Middle East conflict — which would be a prime case study for the validity of integral theory.

These essays highlight all the difficulties one encounters when one tries to go beyond political slogans — integral or otherwise: the nature of debate itself, the value of historical research, what to make of the controversial New Historians, the separation of fact and judgement, the possibility of mutual misunderstanding, but also the growing clarity as the debate continues. These postings illustrate both the often one-sided nature of proposed arguments, as well as the need to be corrected by those holding a different opinion.

Sometimes, these contributors despaired at the usefulness of the whole excercise. However, on the whole these essays show that an integral analysis of the Middle East conflict is long overdue. These efforts should be applauded, if only for this reason.


The safest place in any crisis is always the hard truth... But what are the ‘hard truths’ about the Israeli/Palestine crisis? What if we had the visionary minds and courageous hearts to address these core realities? Would a fresh start, one that transcends the current stalemate and repetitive cycles of violence, become a possibility? If so, what are its principles and contours? Who can introduce it? How might it self-organize into the mainstream?
Comments from Ray Harris
A perfect example of both the ivory tower syndrome and the use of jargon is Don Beck's article 'Hard Truths and a Fresh Start'. This is an article that promises much and delivers absolutely nothing. I understand this is a harsh criticism but it has to be said. The Israel-Palestine conflict is too serious to be taken lightly and Beck promises a unique solution. And what finally, is that solution? As in most of what he writes it is Spiral Dynamics.
[From : APPENDIX 1 — THE ISRAEL/PALESTINE CONFLICT] After having criticized Don Beck's proposed solution to this conflict I thought I should say a few words on an integral approach to the problem. Firstly, I'm not sure there is a meaningful integral solution. The theory has a limit due to its comprehensiveness. It is so broad a theory that it often does not have a great deal to say about the detail, or at least, anything new to say. The Israel/Palestine conflict is actually a complex of intersecting conflicts, many of which are intra-level and intra-quadrant. In other words, they are conflicts between competing narratives within a level and within a quadrant.


All sides indulge in such exclusionary logic and to understand the conflict we need to understand the competing narratives and that the extremes of each of the polarised positions refuse to accept the narrative of its opposite. Thus Arabs refuse to acknowledge the Jewish claim on the area and Jews refuse to acknowledge Arab and Muslim claims. The Zionists had a saying, 'a land with no people for a people with no land'. This could not have been a more disastrous assertion and one guaranteed to offend any resident of Palestine, including non-Arab members of minority religious groups (who deserve mention). Similarly the counter-claim that Jews do not have any legitimate claim to the land is equally offensive and disastrous. It is important from an integral perspective that we understand the narratives of each stakeholder.
I'll show that Harris's view is seriously mistaken and un-integral, despite his extensive knowledge of the subject. It ignores the centrality of the material causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict, most importantly, land. My focus on the material conditions makes better sense of the historical conflict and better agrees with the historical record. Harris perpetuates myths of Muslim irrationality, when, in reality, it is a matter of how people have always acted when they are in positions of strength or weakness relative to the necessities of life. Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs — a staple of humanistic and transpersonal psychology — suggests the primacy of physiological and safety needs and motivations and so confirms the centrality of material conditions for understanding the Middle East conflict.
I agree that lower order needs affect later developmental stages and say exactly that in 'Thoughts Toward an Integral Political Economy', where I also suggest that a surplus at one level creates the conditions for the next level of development to arise. Meyerhoff really should have heeded my disclaimer and read my other articles. If he had he would also have discovered that I place issues of tribal/ethnic identity at the level just above food and land security.
Ray Harris responded with impressive speed to my essay about his views on the Arab-Israeli conflict, although the quickness of his response is due, in no small part, to the complete lack of documentation he offers. While there are some areas of agreement which I note, I, for the most part, am reduced to the laborious task of marshalling the scholarly evidence which, in most cases, directly contradicts his confidently undocumented assertions or lends balance to the fewer true, but partial, statements he makes.
I have no problems with debate; it's just that the Israel/Palestine debate can get bogged down in 'he said, she said'. That's okay; we can go down that path. Meyerhoff can quote his sources and I can quote my sources, he can discredit mine and I can discredit his — tit for tat. You see, I said in my original article that one of the features of this debate was a dispute over history. Who did what when and what weight should be given to particular events.
I now realize that we have very different conceptions of what debate entails and I had mistakenly assumed that there were some tacitly agreed upon ground rules. Since this exchange is not working at the level of debate itself, I'd like to step back and speak to the process of debate. To speak to the process of debate, I will describe what I think a debate is and should be trying to do.
I presume Meyerhoff cites Morris because he is a lauded New Historian and because he respects his scholarship. I wonder what he makes of some of Morris's more recent views? Now I am sure that there has been a response from Finklestein and Chomsky but this will only prove my original contention that Israeli history is bitterly contested. Now I'm not going to say this is the final word because the debate is still going on, but as integral thinkers we need to 'integrate' often complex, opposing and changing views.
In his "Reply to Meyerhoff, Part 2," Ray Harris rightly shows that a summary of Benny Morris's work that I used was not up-to-date, being from an earlier edition of Morris's book on the Palestinian refugees. This is the kind of critical commentary that I assumed would be the basis of our discussion. It comes quite late, but it is good to see; however, I don't see that it helps Harris's argument.
I believe that the base cause of the current Israel/Palestinian problem is, and has always been, Arab intransigence and violence. I accept that the Zionist share a considerable part of the blame, but in the end I accept the right of Jews to be in the land. This is of course, a separate issue to that of a Jewish state, but I believe Arab violent resistance necessitated the creation of a separate state.


In the following analysis I offer my views on the current state of the Arabs in Israel and suggest an alternative way forward. My prespective reflects both the view from the outside as a detached and objective observer as well as my personal subjective experience which is shared by many other Arabs living in Israel. I choose to share this analysis with the integral community to expand the awareness of the challenges and opportunities that exist within the Arab collective in Israel.


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