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The background to peace research in Israel, and thus also its themes and institutions, display characteristics which it would be hard to compare to anything found in other countries. Investigation into the Arab-Jewish conflict dominates the social science discourse, but themes that touch on the Israeli military, or issues thrown up by the militaristic culture, were for a long time regarded as taboo. The following account begins by describing the factors that shape Israeli society's attitude to issues of war and peace. It then goes on to present some of the themes being addressed by peace research and peace education, and some of the institutions involved in this work.

1. Background

A decisive factor in determining the status of the army in Israeli society is the fact that, in just under fifty years of existence, Israel has experienced no less than six wars, and the population often tends to view the various phases of Israeli history as having occurred before or during this or that war. As well as the objective threat to the state, resulting from its geopolitical position and its non-recognition by its Arab neighbours in the early decades, one has to take into consideration the reception of that threat--in other words, the subjective feeling of being in danger.

The conflicts and crises in the region are interpreted against the historical background of the persecution of the Jewish people. This has led to a feeling of isolation and mistrust, manifested in Israeli society as a 'siege mentality' and occupying a prime position in the argumentation of the political leadership. This 'siege mentality', which presupposes that 'if the worst comes to the worst', the whole world will be ranged against Israel, has shaped the behaviour and attitudes of Jewish Israelis over many years. A preoccupation with military strength and an 'ethos' of combat-readiness are dominant features of everyday life in Israel. What is more, this mentality has lent itself to political exploitation. The existence of an external enemy ('the Arabs' or 'the Palestinians') has held the Jewish collectivity together.

The more the feeling of threat diminishes as a result of the peace process, the more the various potentials for conflict within Israeli society itself come to the fore. Although it would be going too far to give a detailed description of these, it is possible to outline areas of particular concern. These centre on: political issues ('doves' versus 'hawks'); ethnic conflicts (Sephardim versus Ashkenazim[1]); national conflicts (Jewish Israelis versus Arab/Palestinian Israelis); gender conflicts; and conflicts between religious and secular forces in society.

The decisive events that have shaped the population's attitude to the government's military activities are the 1982 war with the Lebanon and the 1993 Oslo accords. The wars that took place up to 1982 were backed by a consensus amongst the Jewish population: the 1948-9 war was waged to secure the survival of the state of Israel, and the Suez war of 1956 was seen as a necessary response to the Egyptian Fedayin attacks and the closure of the Suez Canal. Israel's victory in the 1967 war acquired almost mythical status as a war of 'salvation' or 'redemption'.

The factors previously described above, with their background of historical persecution, contributed to this attitude. Weeks before the war, the media was reporting on the impending conflict in language of holocaust proportions. The catastrophic consequences of the war in terms of Israel's relations with the Arab states--namely the occupation of Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian territory inhabited by almost a million Palestinians--were only discussed by marginal groups. It was only after the Yom Kippur war of 1973--an immensely traumatic war for Israel--that loss of confidence in the political leadership was expressed publicly for the first time: Israel was not prepared for the simultaneous attack by Egyptian and Syrian troops and was forced to accept casualties of 2,500 dead and 6,000 wounded.

For the first time, there was public criticism of paternalistic traits in Israeli politics as a whole, and social movements began to emerge. One such was Peace Now, founded shortly after this, in the run-up to the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt. The 1982 war with the Lebanon brought about the final collapse of the national consensus. Internal questions about the legitimacy of the war now began to occupy centre stage: this war had not been conducted to avert a threat to the existence of Israel; its purpose had been purely political.[2] A broad-based anti-war movement took shape, and for the first time, even high-ranking officers in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) 'opted out'. What motivated them was not a pacifist stance but the conviction that peace could be achieved only by conducting a political dialogue with the Palestinians, not by waging war against them. Following the bombing of densely populated areas such as Beirut and Sidon and the subsequent mass murders in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps--carried out by Christian Phalangists with the tacit consent of the IDF--soldiers who up to then had believed in the oft-evoked 'purity of weapons' of the Israeli army were now forced into a position of doubt.

From 1987, in response to the Intifada, the peace movement grew into a broad-based movement of opposition to occupation. The morality of the army was called into question and the conduct of the military was seen as detrimental to Israeli society itself. The members of the 'Yesh Gvul'[3] group, for example, refused to do military service in the occupied areas. The second Gulf war (the first war in Israel's history in which Israel remained passive--despite the threat of Iraqi Scud missiles) initially led to a collapse in the peace movement, because of Yassir Arafat's demonstratively positive attitude to Irak, but resulted, in the long term, in the Israeli-PLO accords (Oslo I and II).

After the 1992 election, individuals involved in the peace movement or working in peace research institutes and peace organizations were to be found in the new coalition government made up of Labour and the Meretz alliance. This fact, and the signature of the agreement on principles between the PLO and Israel in September 1993, led many to think that peace in the region had almost become a reality.

2. Characteristics of Peace Research and Peace Education

The above--necessarily only roughly outlined--state of affairs has led to Israeli research into war, peace, and the military manifesting the following characteristics.

a) Relationship to the Armed Forces

The army in general enjoys broad support amongst the Jewish Israeli population. Unlike in other states, most of the population accept that it must be provided with enormous resources. Jewish men and women alike are eligible for military service.[4] Jewish men remain in the reserve forces until the age of about 45 (sometimes longer) and spend several weeks a year on reservist training.[5] Amongst the Arab Israelis, only Christians and Druzes are admitted to the army, which thus acts as a major instrument of ethnic exclusion. There is no legal provision for refusal of military service on grounds of conscience. Young people's motivation to join the army is high--though something of a decline has set in here over the last few years. Military service is viewed as a passport into Jewish society, and members of the armed forces attain to the very highest social status. Their high standing in society can be gauged from political life: all high political offices are held, without exception, by former officers .

b) Development of Peace Research and its Themes

In contrast to the situation in a number of other states, peace research institutes in Israel did not develop out of social movements: the peace movement took shape later than some of the institutes engaged in peace research and peace education.

Since the coming-into-being of the state of Israel, research has focused firstly on Israel's geopolitical situation in the Middle East, and secondly on international relations and alliances. Research into alliances has centred mainly on the role of the Soviet Union in the Arab-Israeli conflict (because of the support which the Soviets gave to the Arab states from the 1950s) and on the role of the USA. The political-relations research field covers, amongst other things, studies on: Israel's relationship to individual Arab states; points of contention such as water resources and oil deposits in the Middle East; opportunities for economic co-operation in the region; conflict-resolution strategies; and Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Civilian-military relations constitute a further area of research. Until the 1970s, images of the military and of war derived exclusively from journals and accounts of epic war-deeds. In the 1970s and 1980s, because of the crucial role of the armed forces, questions relating to parliamentary and governmental control of the military apparatus occupied centre stage--questions such as 'Is there a praetorian set-up in Israel?' 'Is Israel a garrison state or a nation in arms?' 'What is the relationship between, for example, political and military elites?'

In this last-named area in particular, the dictum of the 'inviolability of security' clearly prevailed, at the expense of intellectual freedom and objective analysis. Another characteristic feature was the dearth of studies of the military-industrial complex during this period. Over the last decade, this too has changed: because of a change of perspective--due notably to the younger generation of researchers--a discussion has begun as to whether Israel may be regarded as a 'militaristic' society. This debate signals a liberalization of research.

A research-field devoted to the transition from a military-dominated or militaristic society to a civilian one has thus begun to take shape over the last few years. This development was triggered by the scepticism in regard to the military interventions that had occurred since 1982, by the necessity to confront the events of the Intifada, and by the start of a peace process that called the primacy of the 'security ethos' into question. The transition in question--a demilitarization of society--is described as a process of democratization, and it touches on core issues relating to Israelis' own perception of their identity. It involves close scrutiny--for example, by the 'new historians'--of the myths of Israeli history (such as the idea that, for decades, Israel repeatedly made peace offers that were turned down by the Arab states) and the dismantling of national hero-figures. One of the crucial factors in future will be the question of how the Israeli state is conceived--in other words, is it actually possible for Israel to be simultaneously a Jewish and a democratic state?

c) Peace Education

Besides doing academic work, all peace-education institutions in Israel run their own practical projects. Jewish-Arab relations in Israel--that is to say, relations between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis--is one area in which encounter projects, youth groups, and one-off housing schemes are particularly prolific. Initiatives aimed at eliminating prejudice occur mainly in the education field--for example, in the form of changes to textbooks, children's books, or school curricula. Over the last few years, the schemes receiving most encouragement have been encounter projects aimed at strengthening Israeli-Palestinian understanding--projects, in other words, where Palestinians from the occupied territories were also brought in. It is precisely this type of project that has been put in jeopardy by the Likud government's change of approach: Palestinian academics are increasingly beginning to doubt the point of such schemes, which, though able to effect changes in the interpersonal sphere, have little tangible effect on politics.

On the other hand, huge sums of money flow into the region from foreign organizations that have honed in on Arab-Jewish understanding. This leads to rivalries and hence often, unfortunately, to a lack of co-operation, of transparency, and--it must be feared--of effectiveness. Over time it has become clear that the groups participating in these projects are always made up of the same people. There is a kind of workshop inflation under way--but at the same time there is a dearth of critical evaluation of most of the projects.


3. University Research Institutes (a selection)


The Harry Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, which is part of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is one of the oldest and largest peace research institutes in Israel. Since 1965 it has been engaged in research on historical, political, and social development, notably in the Middle East. There are six research departments covering: Africa, Asia, human rights, Latin America, the Middle East, modernization/comparative civilization. Grants are awarded for postgraduate study in these areas. Each of the departments has on its staff large numbers of highly regarded scholars from Israel and elsewhere. The Middle East department is the largest. It focuses primarily on the Arab-Israeli peace process, but it also addresses economic, social, political, cultural, and linguistic developments in the region, with conflict resolution and peace education occupying a prime position. Israeli and Palestinian textbooks and curricula, for example, are examined to see how they depict historical developments in the region and what account they give of the Palestinian refugee problem since 1948.

The institute's target groups are not only to be found in the Israeli academic sphere: great emphasis is currently being placed on the development of contacts with Jordanian scholars. Since 1995, there have, for the first time, been Jordanian doctoral students studying at the institute.

The institute has a special centre named after the former foreign minister Abba Eban[7] and containing material on his diplomatic and political career.

The institute's library, containing a collection of over 1,500 periodicals, is warmly recommended to anyone intending to engage in academic study in the region.

With a figure of 20 per cent, the Jewish-Arab Center at the University of Haifa has a very high proportion of Arab students. One of the aims of the centre is therefore to help promote understanding between Jewish and Arab students and to provide them with advice and support. Over the next few years, one of the centre's main concerns will be to help improve the position of Arab women students. This follows a survey which revealed that, whereas such students make up 50 per cent of the BA rolls, they account for only 10 per cent of students on the MA and Ph.D. courses.

Another sphere of activity is the promotion of research projects on conflict resolution in the Middle East. Conferences such as those that took place last year on Syria in the nineteenth and twentieth century, on the status of Arab women in Israeli society, and on the relationship of the state to radical religious movements, bring together scholars from all over the world. The centre maintains particularly close links with Palestinian and Jordanian researchers.

Ten projects a year receive support from the Bertha-von-Suttner-Sonderprogramm (funded by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia). At the moment, these include studies on: economic development in Gaza and the West Bank; the institution of nature reserves on the Jordanian-Israeli border as a way of promoting co-operation; and Israel and the issue of Palestinian refugees in the period 1949 to 1967.

Research reports and most of the conference reports are published. The latest publications include a study on population growth and migration in Jordan between 1950 and 1994 and a collection of conference papers on the repercussions of the Oslo accords (Oslo I and II). Al-Karmiel, a journal on Arab literature and linguistics, is published once a year. In addition, the Gustav Heinemann Institute for Middle Eastern Studies is affiliated to the centre via an archive on the Druze movement and a periodicals archive on Arab Israelis.

The Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at the University of Tel Aviv was founded in 1992 and promotes the conduct of a variety of research projects through the award of grants, mostly for dissertations. These studies deal with the peace process in the broadest sense, and with issues of conflict resolution. They may, for example, examine: relations between different countries in the region (sample topics here would be 'economic relations between the Arab states and Israel between 1967 and 1993' or 'Iranian support for Islamic fundamentalist groups'); strategies of conflict resolution (as in an anthropological study carried out by an Israeli-Egyptian team into Egyptian and Arab-Israeli communities, with a view to developing a theoretical model for a socio-cultural approach to conflict resolution); and the media (e.g. looking at the role of the media in the conduct of negotiations and in the peace process). Some of these studies are published as part of a series--but unfortunately only very few appear in English. A second series publishes relevant Arabic-language papers in Hebrew translation.

Another of the institute's core areas of activity is the conduct of surveys on the peace process. These are carried out monthly by telephone. A summary of the results can be seen on the homepage detailed in the contact address.

4. Non-university Establishments (a selection)

The 'Givat Haviva' Jewish-Arab Center for Peace was founded in 1949 as a national education centre for the socialist Kibbutz Artzi movement. It offers seminars and workshops on: Jewish-Arab relations, the history of the Middle East, Arab language and culture, Zionism, the holocaust, and kibbutz life. Its target groups are schoolchildren, youth groups, and those, such as teachers and lecturers, working in information-disseminating capacities, both in Israel and elsewhere. The programmes which the centre runs for Arab and Jewish schools (of which all but a few are separate in Israel) are aimed mainly at bringing about rapprochement and thereby promoting the peace process.

Within the main education centre there are a number of smaller centres specializing in various topics. Examples are the holocaust studies centre and the Yad Ya'ari centre for the study of the Artzi-Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz movement. The Jewish-Arab Center for Peace is particularly interesting in that it is associated with the Mapam party (United Workers' Party) and maintains close links with Arab municipalities in Israel.

In the area of research, the centre has produced studies on, for example, the 'divided' village of Barta, which lies partly in the West Bank, partly within Israel's 1948 borders. The perception which the population of each half of the village had of itself was investigated for a period of two years via in-depth interviews and surveys. The results were published in a study entitled Divided Identity, Political Division and Social Implications in a Divided Village.

Other studies are currently being conducted on: relations between the PLO and the Arab Israeli population, the electoral behaviour of the Arab Israelis in the 1996 elections to the Knesset, and the role of the holocaust in the shaping of young Jewish and Arab people's identities--to name but a few.

The Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace was founded in 1986 in response to the killing of a peace activist during a demonstration against the war with the Lebanon. The institute develops and implements education programmes designed to foster a sense of democracy, of individual human rights, and of non-violence. Institute staff run the programmes in schools, youth groups, and workshops and have now extended their activities to other countries (e.g. Germany), setting up projects aimed at getting non-violent, democratic methods of conflict resolution put into practice. The themes of the workshops include co-existence, immigration, the role of the police and the army, and democracy. An information sheet published by the centre appears in both Hebrew and English.

The International Center for Peace in the Middle East was founded in 1982 with the aim of promoting contacts within the Arab countries. Its target groups include journalists, economists, and artists. Another of the centre's aims is to foster understanding of the political rights of the Palestinian population amongst members of the Knesset and other Israeli politicians. In order to support the development of a peace culture in Israel, the centre offers courses for immigrants, and also a training course lasting several months on the running of social initiatives in developing towns, disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and Arab communities in Israel. The centre has already held several meetings of Israeli and Palestinian artists in Israel and the West Bank, and these have led to the development and implementation of a number of joint projects in the cultural domain.

The Neve Schalom/Wahat al-Salam School of Peace is part of a unique project in Israel: Jewish and Palestinian Israelis are putting co-existence into practice by living together in a village. The peace school is one of the projects run by the community. It offers workshops and other activities for Jewish and Palestinian young people and information-disseminators from Israel; but it also runs courses for and with groups from other conflict regions, such as Northern Ireland. Neve Schalom/Wahat al-Salam also has a guest-house for visitors.

Unfortunately, this article does not describe any Palestinian institutes in East Jerusalem or the occupied territories: lack of space means I have to confine myself to Israel. None the less, I should like to mention the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (ICPRI), an Israel-based institute which works under joint Israeli-Palestinian direction and sees itself as a 'think tank' on areas relating to the conflict between Israel, the Palestinians, and other Arab states. Resultant schemes include projects on economic development, water resources and their distribution, and the future of Jerusalem, and also pedagogical projects aimed at education for peaceful co-existence on the basis of a two-state solution. Regular panel discussions and workshops are held in an attempt to throw light on these and other issues.

5. Useful Literature

The Middle East Contemporary Survey appears annually and has established itself as a reliable and carefully researched source on current events in the Middle East. Last year saw the publication of the eighteenth edition, for 1994. It is divided into current topics (including economic and demographic themes, international, regional, and Palestinian affairs) and a country by country survey containing individual studies on twenty states in the Middle East and Africa. (Ami Ayalon/Bruce Maddy-Weitzman (eds.), Middle East Contemporary Survey, xviii (Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern & African Studies: Tel Aviv/Boulder, 1994).)

A Historical Encyclopaedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, published in 1996, is the first encyclopaedia dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its target readers are students, academics, journalists, and those with a general interest in the subject. The articles contain numerous cross-references, and the book is rounded off with an index and chronology. The encyclopaedia mainly serves as a source of essential information (on organizations, institutions, individuals, and historical--chiefly military--events) for those seeking an introduction to particular themes. (Bernard Reich/Joseph E. Goldberg (eds.), A Historical Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Westport, 1996)).

Reuven Kaminer's book The Politics of Protest: The Israeli Peace Movement and the Palestinian Intifada offers a good glimpse of the complex nature, ideological orientation, and strengths and weaknesses of the various groups that make up the Israeli peace movement. A separate chapter is devoted to the emergence of a specifically women-based peace movement. (Reuven Kaminer, The Politics of Protest: The Israeli Peace Movement and the Palestinian Intifada (Brighton, 1996)).

For German readers, a suitable introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the book by Tobias Kriener and Christian Sterzing entitled Kleine Geschichte des israelisch-palästinensischen Konfliktes, in the series published by the Deutsch-Israelischer Arbeitskreis für Frieden im Nahen Osten. The book offers an introductory overview of the history of the conflict, with maps, a chronology, and details of follow-up literature. (Tobias Kriener/Christian Sterzing, Kleine Geschichte des israelisch-palästinensischen Konfliktes (Deutsch-Israelischer Arbeitskreis für Frieden im Nahen Osten; Schwalbach/Ts., 1997). Available from DIAK-Gesellschaft, Irmgardstr. 6, D-40235 Düsseldorf, Tel./Fax: +49 (211) 6802328.)

Uta Klein (Jerusalem/Münster)


Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace, Jerusalem Forest, PO Box 3353, Jerusalem, Israel, Tel.: +972 (2) 6752933, Fax: +972 (2) 6752932.

Applied Research Institute Jerusalem, Caritas St, PO Box 860, Bethlehem, West Bank, Israel.

The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel, Tel.: +972 (2) 5882300/1, Fax: +972 (2) 5828076, e-mail:

International Center for Peace in the Middle East, 13 Kalisher St/PO Box 29335, Tel Aviv 61292, Israel, Tel.: +972 (3) 5160337, Fax: +972 (3) 5160340.

Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information, 18 Yahya Adahan St (Musrara), PO Box 51358, Jerusalem 91513, Israel, Tel./Fax: +972 (2) 747947, e-mail:,

Jewish-Arab Center, The Gustav Heinemann Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Haifa, Mt Carmel, Aba Khoushi Rd, 31905 Haifa, Israel, Tel.: +972 (4) 240-156/240-721, Fax: +972 (4) 240-231, e-mail:

Jewish-Arab Center for Peace, Givat-Haviva, M.P. Menashe 37850, Israel, Tel.: +972 (6) 6309248, Fax: +972 (6) 6270891, e-mail:

Middle East Peace Institute, PO Box 17777, 69978 Tel Aviv, Israel.

The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, 69978 Tel Aviv, Israel, Tel.: +972 (3) 6409646, Fax: +972 (3) 6415802.

Neve Schalom/Wahat al-Salam, Doar Na Shimson 99761, Israel, Tel.: +972 (2) 991-2222, Fax: +972 (2) 991-2098, e-mail:,

Tami Steinmetz Zentrum für Friedensforschung, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel, Tel.: +972 (3) 6424298, Fax: +972 (3) 6407489, e-mail:,

[1] Sephardim = Oriental Jews, Ashkenazim = European Jews.

[2] Even before the war, the Likud government, in concert with the Christian Phalangists in the Lebanon, had planned to advance as far as Beirut, under the pretext of 'protecting' the Christians in Lebanon and destroying PLO bases and military infrastructure. The Knesset, meanwhile, agreed to a 'limited military operation', entailing a 40-km advance into Lebanese territory. On the same day that the then prime minister, Menachem Begin, was declaring in the Knesset that Israel was not seeking confrontation with the Syrian army and would cease hostilities as soon as an area of 40 km from the northern border had been rendered 'safe', Israeli soldiers were being parachuted into territory south of Beirut--in other words, 80 km north of the border.

[3] English 'There is a border' (meaning Israel's 1948 border).

[4] Women are only eligible for military service if they are unmarried and/or have no children, or if they refuse to do military service on religious grounds. Men studying in a yeshiva (religious school in which the Torah is taught) may also claim exemption from military service.

[5] This means that almost all male researchers also belong to the reserve forces and that practically every one of them has experience of war.

[6] No more than a selection can be presented here. For further institutions and initiatives (both Israeli and Palestinian) dealing with human rights, women's rights, peace groups, see Israel/Palestine Directory, pub. by the Alternative Information Center, Jerusalem, e-mail:

[7] Abba Eban (of the Mapai party) was, amongst other things, Israel's representative at the UN (1949-59), deputy prime minister (1963-6), and foreign minister (1966-74). Along with Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan, he resigned from his post in 1974, in response to growing popular criticism of the Yom Kippur war.

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