February 21, 2011

Vol. 26 , No. 09   


View Entire Issue (Vol. 26 , No. 09)


The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Sinking in the Shifting Sands?
PETER HAAS
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2011

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians needs to be understood not in isolation, but in the context of the entire social and political construct of the modern Middle East. Artificially cobbled together at the end of World War I by the British and the French, the current states in the Middle East are built on unstable foundations. Without the larger umbrella of the Ottoman Empire, and with failed states at the intermediate level, the region is slipping into traditional tribalism, built variously along conflicting religious, ethnic and cultural lines. Out of this political and social disintegration there have emerged a variety of competing visions for how to stabilize what is a vastly diverse and mulitcultural region. The contours of the Israel-Palestine conflict take on a different character when seen in the light of these larger tectonic faults and shifts. Such shifting sands help explain the frustrations of the peace process.
College campuses around the country have been wrought by heated debates over the past few years over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the nearby University of California, Irvine. Consistent with its mission to provide an opportunity for understanding through civil discourse, the Athenaeum is pleased to host Professor Peter Haas, a rabbi and the Abba Hillel Silver Professor of Jewish Studies at Case Western Reserve University.

Professor Haas is also the president of Scholars of Peace in the Middle East (SPME) whose goal is to seek a peace in the Middle East that is “consistent both with Israel's right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state within safe and secure borders, and with the rights and legitimate aspirations of her neighbors.” To that end, SPME unites faculty who are opposed to divestment from Israel and boycotts of Israeli academics. SPME also advocates for civil dialogue on all sides of the issue. SPME has over 40 chapters on campuses nationwide.