Success of Arab-Israeli coexistence programs questioned

Haifa University study: Gov't education program failed to create change in Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

By YANIV SALAMA-SCHEER, ELLIS WEINTRAUB
February 8, 2007 23:18
2 minute read.
Success of Arab-Israeli coexistence programs questioned

arabs vs jews 88. (photo credit: )

 
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New research conducted at the University of Haifa shows that educational programs designed to encourage coexistence between Israeli and Arab-Israeli youth lack a lasting effect. Two months after 2,000 Arab and Jewish children attended school together in a government program called Pogshim, the university's Education Department studied over 1,000 Jewish and Arab students, ages 15-16, who participated in the program. Results showed that the program failed to create a long-term change in the beliefs of the participants regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, according to the study, only beliefs not central to the conflict changed, which were then not reinforced once the program ended, resulting in a gradual return to participants' previous way of thinking. Dr. Yigal Rosen, who oversaw the research, explained that "effecting change in central beliefs requires widespread social and environmental changes. Educational programs have very limited effects without political-social support." The Education Ministry does not agree with the findings of Dr. Rosen. "The University of Haifa can print whatever statistics they like," a ministry spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post. "These are the official findings of the Ministry of Education." The ministry has found that integrative programs, such as Pogshim, have reduced an emphasis on stereotyping between Jews and Arabs, and are a valuable tool for future generation. According to ministry figures, the lessons participants have learned have led to an increase in participants' belief that there can be future coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel, as well as an increase in the number of participants who would be willing to live in a coexistent community. According to Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Pogshim is successful. "The program brings together Jewish and Arab youths, and places a great importance on a mutual dialogue," Tamir said in a statement. "In today's realty, this is a necessary experience which contributes to bringing youths together and extinguishing racism while developing a communal experience." The Haifa study asked participants to rank statements and stereotypes relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Statements such as: "1948 marked the beginning of a long series of events during which the Palestinians lost their land, homes and property and became refugees," and "the right of the Palestinians to self-determination is based on UN resolutions and international recognition" were ranked as central to the Palestinian nationalist story. According to the study, these core beliefs did not change after participation in the program. On the other side of the spectrum, students ranked the statements: "Jews have a historic right to the land," and "the Balfour Declaration afforded the Jews international consent to establish the State of Israel" as central to the Jewish-nationalist story - beliefs which according to the study remained the same after participation in the program. "In order to bring about significant change in the youths' perceptions, major social changes need to take place," Dr. Rosen stressed. "The change in understandings they adopt during the programming will disappear in a short time and the country's youth will return to the same old understandings and stereotypes. The program for peace cannot be an island in the social climate. If this is the case, the influence of the program is very limited."

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