IHJR Projects in the Middle East
A meeting in 2004 at the Salzburg Global Seminar laid the groundwork for cooperation between the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation and Palestinian and Israeli scholars, to underscore the shared history of the region and to promote a mutual understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. These initial deliberations laid the foundation for four projects, which were all completed throughout the year 2011.
The IHJR projects in the Middle East aimed to engage Palestinian and Israeli scholars in researching and writing distinct narratives of the contentious events in the history of their region. By juxtaposing these narratives the IHJR aims to foster a better understanding of the commonalities of their past.
In the project ‘War of independence, Nakba’ two historians conducted research on the different narratives of the War of 1948, which remains one of the most contentious events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Sacred Sites project represents a narrative examining historical and religious perspectives of three religious sites that are sacred to both Jews, Muslims and Christians.
In this project, six Palestinian and Israeli scholars collectively explored multiple contemporary narratives on the Palestinian refugees of 1948, by analyzing people’s reactions on photographs taken from Israeli archives concerning the events of 1948.
The ‘Historical Memory on Haifa 1948’ project encompasses a series of joint research initiatives whereby Israeli and Palestinian scholars focused on actual events of the period surrounding 1948 and how they affected the lives of Jews and Palestinians in Haifa.
The IHJR Middle East Project is funded in part by the Ford Foundation, the Arcadia Trust, the MacArthur Foundation, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, and the European Commission Partnership for Peace Programme.
War of Independence, Nakba
In this project two historians, Adel Manna and Motti Golani, an Israeli and a Palestinian with an Israeli citizenship, displayed narratives of the 1948 War and its outcome, documenting what has become known as the Palestinian ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe) and Israel’s independence.
The publication of the project is called ‘Two Sides of the Coin: Independence and Nakba 1948’. According to the authors, the narratives are presented to “facilitate recognition (though not necessarily acceptance) of the narrative of the other (…) in order to transform the 1948 narratives from a tool for mobilizing people to continue the conflict….to a tool for facilitating empathetic identification of common ground for continued discussion based on mutual listening”.
The narratives are accompanied by 24 maps that display the historical events surrounding 1948; the demographic composition prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, the battles, the refugee movements during the 1948 War, the UN Division Plans and the immediate postwar situation.
Several professors have incorporated the publication as an educational tool into their school curriculum.
An Israeli-Palestinian team initially conducted research on 14 sites, deemed sacred by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Due to political circumstances the team could no longer complete the work. Consequently, IHJR compiled existing material and wrote a report titled ‘Sacred Sites in the Holy land: Historical and Religious Perspectives’, published in 2011.
The report contains religious and historical narratives on three sacred sites in Israel and the Palestinian Territories; Al Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount; Cave of the Patriarchs/Cave of Machpelah: Sanctuary of Ibrahim/Ibrahimi Mosque and; Kever Shmuel/Nabi Samu’il. The IHJR anticipates that these narratives will contribute to the understanding that the sites are significant to these faiths. The Institute seeks to promote further research and dialogue on these and other sites and regions with disputed historical and religious legacies.
Palestinian Refugees of 1948
In the Palestinian Refugees of 1948 project the IHJR worked with a team of six Israeli and Palestinian scholars: Sami Adwan, Efrat Ben-Ze’ev, Menachem Klein, Ihab Saloul, Tamir Sorek and Mahmoud Yazbak. They explored the role of memory and remembrance of the Palestinian refugees of 1948 among Israeli and Palestinian communities.
In the first half of 2010, the project was constructed around a selection of pictures taken from Israeli archives concerning the events of 1948. In the second half of 2010 Israeli and Palestinian third generation students from universities in Israel, the West Bank and the Netherlands were asked to comment on these photos and express their personal impressions. The Israeli and Palestinian scholars then analysed the individual reactions of these students as the basis for their essays in the publication “Zoom In, Palestinian Refugees of 1948, Remembrances”, which was published in April 2011.
The multi-perspective commentary and analysis underscores the urgent need for building a greater understanding for the common history of this region.
This publication is used in educational workshops in Israel and the Palestinian Territories and in the U.S.A.
Historical Memory Project on Haifa 1948
Haifa is an excellent example of the clash between history and memory among Palestinian and Jewish Israelis. Most Jewish Israelis and especially the Jewish residents of Haifa, call Haifa “The City of Coexistence”, an image which is being cultivated and propagated by the city government of Haifa. For most Palestinians, however, Haifa is a symbol and icon for the Palestinian Nakba (disaster). This manifested gap between the Palestinian and the Jewish perceptions of Haifa’s history and presence is the point of departure for this project.
Although there is an extensive body of literature written on the historiography of Haifa, based on archival documents, newspapers, memories and biographies, with few exceptions, Jewish writings on Haifa are based on Hebrew and English documents, while the Palestinians’ writings are based on Arabic and English sources. This project aims at identifying commonalities and differences between these perceptions, and to dispel respective myths that plague conversation between the sides both at the level of civil society, and in peace talks.
In the publication ‘Haifa Before and After 1948, Narratives of a Mixed City’ respected Palestinian and Israeli researchers and experts on Haifa and other relevant third party authorities applied the IHJR model of “shared narrative” to a specific case in which there are currently conflicting historical narratives and public perceptions. With this micro-level approach, they explore the social, cultural and economic layers of Haifa surrounding the year 1948.