FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

A Palestinian/Israeli Experiment for Peace in the Middle East

Changing dynamics in the Middle East make peace between Israelis and Palestinians more elusive than ever. Both sides have rights, and both sides made wrongs. How to overcome these wrongs is what two professors, a Palestinian and an Israeli, have been trying to do for over two decades. Their work may represent one of the longest citizen’s experiments for peace in the Middle East.

When Edy Kaufman, an Argentine-born Israeli learned in Maryland that his friend Manuel Hassassian’s house in the Occupied Territories (OT) had been destroyed by an Israeli missile in Bet Jala, he was in shock. Halfway through the second intifada, in July 2003, the Israeli army had been making regular incursions in the OT, and armed Palestinian militias had been retaliating from houses in Bet Jala.

On the night the missile hit Hassassian’s house, there was shooting in nearby Gilo. The Israeli Army responded by firing a T.W.O. missile at Bet Jala which hit their house. Fortunately, ten minutes earlier, the whole family, frightened by the shooting at Gilo, had taken refuge in the basement of their home. Unable to understand what was going on, the noise terrified the family.

It took a while for them to realize what had happened. When the Palestinian police arrived, the Hassassians were told to leave the wreckage and go to a relatives’ house, in case another missile struck again. Kaufman was able to call his friend and offer help. Fortunately, the family had both Jewish and Palestinian friends who were able to help them. However, the attack left both children and adults with long-lasting post-traumatic stress disorder.

The incident, which followed an attack a year earlier by Hamas militants at Hebrew University that killed nine students and staff, strengthened both Kaufman and Hassassian’s determination to continue working for peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Both friends had developed a course titled “Conflict Resolution: The Israeli/Palestinian Experiment”, taught since 1993 at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The course’s active participants are Arab and Israeli students. “By presenting the conflict with representatives from both sides, we bring urgency and more visceral reality to the classroom than do lifeless textbook descriptions or even those provided by ‘neutral’ academics disconnected from the conflict,” Kaufman told me in New York. And he added, “We have found that in order to look forward to solutions, it is important to acknowledge the two distinct and prevailing narratives of the past through the current internal divisions in both societies.”

What Hassassian and Kaufman try to stress in their course is the historical dimension of the conflict. For centuries, both in the Middle East and in the Iberian Peninsula there has been a history of peaceful coexistence, even when Jews comprised a minority in the lands of Islam. Because of this past record of coexistence, they feel that a peaceful relationship is again possible.

Without going to extremes, both societies now have a moderate majority, which changes according to the level of violence and the expectations for peace. Both professors found that an important challenge co-teaching their course is how to stress those common interests without engaging in confrontational discourse and maintaining instead a spirit of rapprochement.

In their course, Hassassian and Kaufman emphasize their common destiny and the need for peace between the two sides in the conflict. This initiative will not, by itself, bring peace to the region. But if it is replicated in other places, it will dispel misconceptions and create the conditions for better coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ahmet Altan’s “I Will Never See the World Again”
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail