Coexistence in the Middle East – What is HIStory?


Why is it actually HIStory and not HERstory or THEIRstory? We use the term “his” because the world was for centuries ruled by men and the literal meaning of the word “history” shows the problem of telling a story from one’s perspective, not from an objective point of view. History is never right or wrong, it is a matter of perspective. The Israeli-Arab war of 1948 is known in Israeli society as the “Independence War” while the Palestinians and the Arabs in general call it the Nakbah (“Catastrophe”). Jews call the land on which they are living “Eretz Israel”, while the Palestinians call it “Palestine”. The Jews are tracing their roots back to the exodus from Egypt while the Palestinians say they are descendants of the Canaanites. Both opinions are not wrong.

On July 4, 2010, participants of the „Coexistence in the Middle East” program heard two lectures about the two narratives of the history of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Gershon Baskin and Hanna Siniora, co-directors of IPCRI, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information taught students from all over the world what it actually means to look at the past from different perspectives. Both veteran activists and practitioners told their side of the story and concluded with the statement that there can not be agreement on the past because all sides of the story are correct, but that there can and should be agreement on the future for peace.

Elaborating on this point, they stated the following. Opinions regarding the starting point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are divided, and for each event in this conflict, at least two different narratives unfold. This is okay as long as we do not blame someone as being incorrect or even lying. It is necessary to understand different experiences, emotions and reactions to past events and learning from this, Israelis and Palestinians should accept the conflicting narratives of the past to agree about it. Both peoples need to look forward and to overcome all the disputes about the past, in order to create a peaceful future. Then it may still be HIStory but it will be actually THEIRstory.

ICCI and the International Institute of Leadership initiated together a joint academic tour program with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for Summer 2010, which promotes coexistence through the training of future leaders using academic and experiential seminars that allow direct contact with different cultures. The special academic program, which is coordinated and partially taught by ICCI director Dr. Ron Kronish, is also sponsored by the Israel National Commission for UNESCO.


Thilo Schöne is a student intern with ICCI this summer. Among other things, he is responsible for ICCI’s blog and Facebook page. He will also deal with possible donations from German foundations. Thilo is a senior at Dresden University, Germany, majoring in Political Science and History. He specialized in Middle Eastern Studies and Israeli Politics and interned at the European Parliament in Brussels. Thilo is politically active in the Social Democratic Party of Germany and participated in exchange programs of the Willy Brandt Center, meeting Israeli and Palestinian young people. Originally from Dresden, he spent a semester at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and interned in parallel at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, East Jerusalem.

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