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.”

August 05, 2020
Elliot Sperber
The View From Saturn 
August 04, 2020
John Pilger
Another Hiroshima is Coming…Unless We Stop It Now
Dave Lindorff
Unsung Heroes of Los Alamos: Rethinking Manhattan Project Spies and the Cold War
Kenneth Good
Escalating State Repression and Covid-19: Their Impact on the Poor in Kenya
Dean Baker
We Need an Economic Survival Package Not Another Stimulus
David Rosen
Globalization and the End of the American Dream
John Feffer
The Pandemic Reveals a Europe More United Than the United States
Patrick Cockburn
The Government’s Failed Track-and-Trace System is a Disaster for England
Ramzy Baroud
‘Optimism of the Will’: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Yale Faculty on Hydroxychloroquine and Its Use in COVID-19
Manuel García, Jr.
Ocean Heat: From the Tropics to the Poles
Sonali Kolhatkar
Why the Idea of Jobless Benefits Scares the Conservative Mind
Greta Anderson
Framing Wolves in New Mexico?
Binoy Kampmark
Pulling Out of Germany: Trump Adjusts the Military Furniture
Shawn Fremstad – Nicole Rodgers
COVID Stimulus Checks Shouldn’t Penalize One-Parent Households
Adam Shah
The 1 Percent’s Attack on Unemployment Benefits is a Sign of Our Broken Democracy
Evaggelos Vallianatos
On the Beauty of Life
B. R. Gowani
Mohammed Rafi: Singer and Human Par Excellence
David Krieger
Eight A-Bomb Haiku
August 03, 2020
Linda Pentz Gunter
The Resistible Rise of Nuclear Gangsters…and Their Downfall
John G. Russell
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Cal Winslow
Their Heroes and Ours: California’s Health Care Crisis
David Barber
Renouncing White Privilege: A Left Critique of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”
Linda G. Ford
Free Joy Powell! America’s Political Prisoner for Fighting Police Brutality
Prabir Purkayastha
Trump’s Withdrawal From WHO: a Cover-Up for His Abject Failure on COVID-19
Dean Baker
The Plunge in Consumption of Services Leads to a Record 32.9 Percent Drop in GDP
Ramzy Baroud
Human Rights Defenders: Palestinian Eyewitness Testimony of the Execution of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif by Israeli Soldier, Elor Azaria
Karen J. Greenberg
Accountability is Gone in America
Cesar Chelala
A Wrong Message for the Pandemic
Jonah Raskin
Chesa Boudin: Reformer in the San Francisco DA’s Office
George Wuerthner
Forest Plan Failure in the Montana Rockies
Ralph Nader
Speaker Nancy Pelosi Writes to Me!
Laura Flanders
Take on the Tech Mob Now or Perish
CounterPunch News Service
Conservationists Intervene to Oppose New Dam Project Near the Grand Canyon
Weekend Edition
July 31, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Bette Lee
Tear Gas and Thugs at the BLM Protests in Portland
Rob Urie
Russiagate, Nazis, and the CIA
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Demon Seed
T.J. Coles
The Space Wars Have Begun
Andrew Levine
Insurgents and Iconoclasts Needed (But for Now Lay Low)
Paul Street
“Time to Say the F-Word”: Why Now?
Matthew Scully
The Triple Antagonist of the Police, Policing, and Policy
Richard D. Wolff
The Consequences of Inequality Can Be Fatal
Richard C. Gross
Feds Give In, Maybe
Erik Molvar
Inside Trump’s Attack on America’s Environmental Charter
W. T. Whitney
“We Charge Genocide:” Forerunner at UN of Black Lives Matter