New Brandeis Textbook Offers Even-Handed Look at Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Collaboration Seeks To Dispel Myths — and Hatreds

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By JTA

Published November 25, 2013.
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A textbook on the Arab-Israeli conflict co-authored by a Palestinian, an Israeli and an Egyptian has been published.

The project was a seven-year undertaking by the founding scholars of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University.

“Arabs and Israelis: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East” is a collaboration of Shai Feldman, Abdel Monem Said Aly and Khalil Shikaki based on a course the trio has taught as a team at the suburban Boston university since 2006.

The course and the textbook are based on the center’s mission to engage in a balanced and dispassionate approach to what it describes as the most resilient of all international conflicts. The authors are widely published scholars who hold multiple academic appointments in the United States and the Middle East.

“We hope that this book will allow the teaching of the Arab-Israeli conflict to be more sophisticated than it is now,” said Feldman, who has directed the Crown Center since it was established in 2005.

The book helps students to become more sensitive to the competing narratives of the three perspectives — an important dimension of the conflict, he told JTA — and provides critical background for intelligence analysts.

Each of the 13 chapters, structured to match a college semester, includes a section with uncontested facts, another that exposes the disagreements and competing narratives, and a final section of analysis, Feldman explained at a Nov. 22 panel discussion at Brandeis celebrating the book’s release.

Agreeing on the facts was among the most challenging aspects of writing the book, according to Shikaki, who noted that the task was made easier by the fact that the three have worked together for decades and are friends.

“The book demonstrates that collaboration doesn’t require a uniformity of views, but rather the openness to listen to different perspectives,” said Steve Goldstein, the university’s provost, who introduced the panel. “This is a prerequisite for peacemaking.”


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