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Countering single-narrative academic tours of Israel

A number of programs bring international professors to Israel, shaping the way they teach their students about the country and conflict. What’s missing is a Palestinian narrative. But can any alternative program match the all-expenses-paid tours and luxurious accommodations offered by the hasbara-centric Israel programs?

By Olga Gershenson

In the last few years, a new discipline by the name of Israel Studies has emerged on the academy scene. The field, which includes politics, society, and culture of the State of Israel, is a rather new development which has resulted in an effort to train faculty in the field and to encourage them to teach courses in it. Today, there are several educational programs that do just that, and since these programs arguably influence how Israel-related subjects are taught to a whole generation of students, it is worth looking into them.

The Brandeis University Summer Institute for Israel Studies hosts professors on campus for a series of seminars, and then takes them to Israel, for a grand-tour of the best it has to offer: historic sites, museums, universities, meetings with politicians and cultural figureheads. Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) will take you on a 10-day, all-expenses-paid tour of Israel, using it as a case-study to learn about “terrorism and the threat it poses to democratic societies.” The Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University runs an annual workshop for university faculty on Israel and Middle East. It is a 12-day education and travel program that takes participants “to visit key sites, cities and regions where important events in the modern history of the region took place.” These programs are wonderfully organized and well funded. As a participant, you’ll be placed in five-star accommodations, wined-and-dined, and, in some cases, even rewarded with a sizable stipend. What’s not to like? Indeed, professors come back happy and content, incorporate the content into their own courses and recommend the programs to their colleagues.

So far so good. But here is a thing: all of these programs will give you an Israeli narrative of Jewish-Palestinian relations. The assumption is that Israel must remain a Jewish state, that a Law of Return is just, that Israel is a democracy, and that its continuous occupation of the West Bank for over 40 years is necessitated by the security concerns. Moreover, in that narrative Israel is posed as a peace-seeking country whose repeated effort at the just resolution was only thwarted by Palestinian terrorism and misguided leadership.

Claims of non-partisan nature and highest academic standards notwithstanding, all three programs have a political agenda: they use academic knowledge to support Israel and its policies, usually in smart and subtle ways. And yes, they make gestures towards fair representation. Brandeis Institute started recently including short forays into the occupied territories and token meetings with Palestinian politicians. Similarly, the Tel Aviv University program offers lectures not only by Israeli, but also Palestinian scholars. This might be a positive development, but the overall perspective of the programs remains that of pro-Israel advocacy.

This is obvious if we look at the funding: the Brandeis program is supported by pro-Israel advocacy organizations, such as the Schusteman Foundation, whose explicit statement is to “…support the State of Israel and repair the world.” Repairing the world is an inspiring mission, but supporting the State of Israel is a political platform. FDD is also predominantly privately funded, with an official agenda, “to help free nations defend themselves.” Despite carefully worded assurance that it is non-partisan and not anti-Islam, its rhetoric is fueled by a neo-conservative agenda. So it should come as no surprise that FDD’s take on Israel is unequivocally supportive as well: “Israel is a long-standing ally of the United States in an increasingly unstable Middle East. It remains one of only two democracies in the region, with a powerful military, and a vibrant, sometimes fractious society that has struggled for decades to reach accommodations with its neighbors.”

Clearly, what is needed is a counterpoint to the pro-Israel advocacy programs, where a college professor can learn a Palestinian narrative. The problem is finding such a program.

The only agency offering a program that presents a Palestinian narrative is Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (FFIPP). However, FFIPP mostly focuses on students, for whom they organize internships and educational programs. Interested professors are allowed to join, after paying tuition and airfare. FFIPP’s program is excellent, but it can hardly compete with the luxurious all-expenses-paid pro-Israel advocacy programs. Instead of five-star hotels, on FFIPP trip, a night in a hostel bed is a best-case scenario, and shower is not always an option. Only highly-motivated faculty would find it appealing. No wonder that in the last several years, only very few professors have joined FFIPP’s inspiring program. This is not to criticize FFIPP — their mandate is different and they serve it with distinction. But it is to say that more programs are needed to educate professors about the Palestinian narrative as much as about Israel’s. Without this important counter-point, the existing programs will remain what they are now — propaganda sugar-coated as education.

Correction:
A reference to TAU’s Moshe Dayan Center as “staffed mainly by ex-military and ex-security specialists” has been removed due to the statement’s inaccuracy.

Olga Gershenson is Associate Professor of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. rsgengland

      There are countless organizations throughout the world peddling the Palestinian narrative.
      Political groups, student unions and religous organizations send study and tour groups to the area constantly.
      And their narrative is strictly anti-Israel.
      So it comes as no surprise that when the few pro-Israel tours and courses are organized, theirs will be from the pro-Israel point of view.

      Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      I will take Olga seriously when she can show me that the Palestinians (who at 972 are always shown to be much better and nicer and more ethical and respectful of human rights than Zionist Jews and Israelis are) present a Zionist-Jewish “narrative” for balance when THEY show people around the West Bank and present their guests with their usual shopping list of grievances.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        Why is it so hard for multiple narratives to exist? The beliefs of the majority of the population between the river and the sea do not require a zero-sum game. There was a War for Independence and Existance in 1948, and also intentional and organized ethnic cleansing. The idea of the Wall was to prevent infiltration but the route was chosen to effectively annex juicy real estate. Palestinian-Israelis are granted equal rights under the law but in practice are effectively discriminated against. A 5000 year old book of dubious provenance says that this is my property, but there’s someone else living where I want my house to be.

        Reply to Comment
        • Rauna

          Haifawi, well said.

          Reply to Comment
      • XYZ, you’ve used this phrase ‘shopping list of grievances’ very often and it shows that you have a poor grasp of typical Palestinian experience under occupation. (I say ‘experience’ and not ‘narrative’ for a reason.) When friends and family have visited me, I have rarely needed to say much for them to understand the day-to-day experience; it’s enough for them to step outside and use their eyes. As my father said to me one morning, after going outside to discover a surprise ‘demonstration of presence’ in our street, complete with Alsatians, “How is it that I can’t go anywhere here without bumping into the Israeli army? And their dog?” He didn’t require any political commentary from me to see how all the things he saw affect people’s daily lives on a practical level. It’s not about a story or a narrative. It’s about how people have to live, something that you consistently shy away from.

        No one claims that those people are perfect. It’s not a question of them being ‘nice’. It’s a question of them being under military rule. There is a huge power disparity and +972′s commentary typically reflects that in a way that the Israel programs mentioned in the article never will.

        Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          I don’t doubt that Palesainians don’t like the Israeli presence in the West Bank, but it must be understood that that both the Palestinian leadership (HAMAS and FATAH) and the Palestinian people as a group prefer the continuance of “the occupation” to the achievement of a compromise peace, which they have repeatedly rejected since Oslo in 1993.

          When I refer to the “shopping list” of grievances I am talking about demands that go far beyond “ending the occupation” in the West Bank, but things like the demand for the “right of return” which they aren’t going to get. It is no less a friend of the Palestnian people like Avrum Burg who told them that the success of the Zionist movement was based on their willingness to accept the idea that when they are offered something, they took it. The Palestnians are still fixed on the idea of “all or nothing” and the Arab-Israeli conflict being a zero-sum game. Given that there is no reason to think that the occupation is going to end, the next best thing is to try to ease conditions for the Palestinians, and, interestinly enough, it is “extreme-right winger” Naftali Bennett who is talking about this.

          Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            Apologists for Zionism are still fixed on the idea that only the Palestinians rejected offers – The Jewish Agency and WZO tabled the Peel plan because they did not care for the proposed boundary of the Jewish state, and the reaction to Uganda is well-known.

            There’s also a more obscure path Zionist settlement could have taken: The French high commissioner of Lebanon discussed Jewish colonization of Syria with Weizmann, but the idea was poorly received in the Jewish Agency because there was no chance it could extend to southern Lebanon.

            http://www.bintjbeil.com/E/history/zionism.html

            Of course, most of these supposed offers the Palestinians rejected like the UN partition plan were not really offers.

            Reply to Comment
      • Leen

        What is ironic is when I took a course on Zionism and Israeli politics and society, I think I became even more anti-zionist. Although cultural zionism I don’t really have a problem with, but the idea of segregation and separation to me seemed to feed into racism even more.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn9

      The Palestinian narrative is terribly well represented on most college campuses. Professors don’t need to travel anywhere to get their daily fill of Israel-bashing articles, studies and reports put out by 972mag and its ideological brethren.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        The claim that ending an ‘occupation’ is not a security risk has been certainly proven to be a lie given the result in both Gaza and Lebanon of tens of thousands of rockets lined up to fire on Israeli cities. How can then the ‘occupation’ of territory 2km from the main international airport not be a necessity on the basis of security concerns?

        Reply to Comment
        • Rauna

          You left Gaza in 2005 with a string attached and expect the Gazan to glorify you. You can’t have it both ways my dear…

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            We left south Lebanon in 2000 with no strings attached. We left Gaza in 2005 in the hands of the Palestinian Authority. Which both ways are we having it?

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            We want Arabs to have a happy life and we want them to leave Israel alone.

            Unthinkable.

            Reply to Comment
    4. dukium

      What’s going on beyond the green line has nothing or very little to do with security. In light of what is going on there sentences like we want simply “them to leave Israel alone” are really Unthinkable.

      Moreover:

      When everything is said and done, how important is the West Bank to Israel’s defense?
      To answer the question, our best starting point is the situation before the 1967 war. At that time, the Arab armed forces surrounding Israel outnumbered the Jewish state’s army by a ratio of 3-to-1. Not only was the high ground in Judea and Samaria in Jordanian hands, but Israel’s capital in West Jerusalem was bordered on three sides by hostile territory. Arab armies even stood within 14 miles of Tel Aviv. Still, nobody back then engaged in the sort of fretting we hear today about “defensible borders,” let alone Abba Eban’s famous formulation, “Auschwitz borders.” When the time came, it took the Israel Defense Forces just six days to crush all its enemies combined.
      Since then, of course, much has happened. Though relations with Egypt and Jordan may not always be rosy, both countries have left “the circle of enmity,” as the Hebrew expression goes. Following two-and-a-half decades of astonishing growth, Israel’s GDP is now larger than those of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt combined. As to military power, suffice it to say that Israel is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of arms.
      Syria, Israel’s main remaining hostile neighbor, has never on its own been strong enough to seriously threaten Israel. While Damascus is getting some weapons from Iran, the latter is no substitute for the genuine superpower patron that Syria had in the old Soviet Union.
      Overall, therefore, Israel’s position is much stronger than it was at any time in the past. So how does the West Bank fit into this picture?
      One of the main threats that Israel faces today is from ballistic missiles. Yet everybody knows that holding on to the West Bank won’t help Israel defend itself against missiles coming from Syria or Iran. Even the most extreme hawk would concede this point.
      As far as the threat of a land invasion, it is of course true that the distance between the former Green Line and the Mediterranean is very small — at its narrowest point, what is sometimes affectionately known as “Old” Israel is just nine miles wide. As was noted before, it is also true that the West Bank comprises the high ground and overlooks Israel’s coastal plain.
      On the other hand, since the West Bank itself is surrounded by Israel on three sides, anybody who tries to enter it from the east is sticking his head into a noose. To make things worse for a prospective invader, the ascent from the Jordan Valley into the heights of Judea and Samaria is topographically one of the most difficult on earth. Just four roads lead from east to west, all of which are easily blocked by air strikes or by means of precision-guided missiles. To put the icing on the cake, Israeli forces stationed in Jerusalem could quickly cut off the only road connecting the southern portion of the West Bank with its northern section in the event of an armed conflict.
      Related
      Shades of Algeria on the West Bank
      Palestinian Terror Wanes, but Fear Remains
      What Unites Shiloh and Jerusalem
      Peace Is Worth the Risk Of Withdrawing From the Golan
      The defense of the West Bank by Arab forces would be a truly suicidal enterprise. The late King Hussein understood these facts well. Until 1967 he was careful to keep most of his forces east of the Jordan River. When he momentarily forgot these realities in 1967, it took Israel just three days of fighting to remind him of them.
      Therefore, just as Israel does not need the West Bank to defend itself against ballistic missiles, it does not need that territory to defend itself against conventional warfare. If it could retain a security presence in the Jordan Valley, keep the eventual Palestinian state demilitarized and maintain control of the relevant airspace, that would all be well and good. However, none of these conditions existed before 1967; in view of geography and the balance of forces, none is really essential today either.
      And how about terrorism? As experience in Gaza has shown, a fence (or preferably a wall) can stop suicide bombers from entering. As experience in Gaza has also shown, it cannot stop mortar rounds and rockets. Mortar and rocket fire from the West Bank could be very unpleasant. On the other hand, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran already have missiles capable of reaching every point in Israel, Tel Aviv included. Many of those missiles are large and powerful. Compared to the damage they can cause, anything the Palestinians are ever likely to do would amount to mere pinpricks.
      Furthermore, in recent years Israel has shown it can deal with that kind of threat if it really wants to. Since 2006, when the Second Lebanon War killed perhaps 2,000 Lebanese, many of them civilians, and led to the destruction of an entire section of Beirut, the northern border has been absolutely quiet. Since Operation Cast Lead, which killed perhaps 1,200 Gazans, many of them civilians, and led to the destruction of much of the city of Gaza, not one Israeli has been killed by a mortar round or rocket coming from the Gaza Strip. Since mortar rounds and rockets continue to be fired from time to time, that is hardly accidental. Obviously Hamas, while reluctant to give up what it calls “resistance,” is taking care not to provoke Israel too much.
      Keeping all these facts in mind — and provided that Israel maintains its military strength and builds a wall to stop suicide bombers — it is crystal-clear that Israel can easily afford to give up the West Bank. Strategically speaking, the risk of doing so is negligible. What is not negligible is the demographic, social, cultural and political challenge that ruling over 2.5 million — nobody knows exactly how many — occupied Palestinians in the West Bank poses. Should Israeli rule over them continue, then the country will definitely turn into what it is already fast becoming: namely, an apartheid state that can only maintain its control by means of repressive secret police actions.
      To save itself from such a fate, Israel should rid itself of the West Bank, most of Arab Jerusalem specifically included. If possible, it should do so by agreement with the Palestinian Authority; if not, then it should proceed unilaterally, as the — in my view, very successful — withdrawal from Gaza suggests. Or else I would strongly advise my children and grandson to seek some other, less purblind and less stiff-necked, country to live in.
      Martin van Creveld is an Israeli military historian and the author of “The Land of Blood and Honey: The Rise of Modern Israel” (St. Martin’s Press, 2010).

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Between 1948 and 1967 Israel had to pursue a very aggressive posture to compensate for its lack of strategic depth. It won a stunning victory in 1967 by launching a preemptive attack because it could not endure the strain imposed by the permanent threats on its borders to its reserve army and economy. Its enemies did not suffer the same penalties for lining up their armies on the indefensible borders and threatening Israel on a daily basis. Nobody in 1966 fretted about defensible borders because they weren’t even remotely feasible. They didn’t exist and the only thing to do was to deal with that situation. Between possession of the Golan, a demilitarized Sinai and control over the heights overlooking the Jordan Valley Israel actually has a decent position while its enemies are the ones that need to overcome territorial challenges.

        The strategic environment has certainly changed and it will change again in the future. For example if you look at the Palestine Papers back in 2008 the negotiators between Israel and the Palestinians (and the American mediator) were sure that there would no longer be a threat from the East because the Americans would be in Iraq ‘for a very very long time’. This allowed Olmert and Livni to make offers that in retrospect were overly generous. Only 4 years later the Americans are out of Iraq and the threat from the East is hardly implausible.

        Ballistic missiles do not conquer territory. Tanks and infantry do. Ballistic missiles do not deliver supplies to tanks and infantry. Trucks do that running over roads. The missile argument suggests that there is a threat that the West Bank does not help with. This is true. It does not remove the threats for which the West Bank functions as a strategic asset.

        The West Bank is surrounded on three sides by Israeli territory. On the fourth side is a border that is not with Israel. If Israel has no control over that border (which you don’t consider ‘essential’) and the Palestinians have full control over it at what point does the threat force Israel into attacking whatever sets up base in the West Bank? The idea that Israel can attack at any time does not stand up to scrutiny given the external constraints on Israeli unilateral action. Is it when Hezbollah sets up bases to train Palestinian fighters for the next war? Is it when Iran sets up anti-air defenses? Is it when al-Qaeda digs in rockets and artillery aimed at Tel Aviv? The presumption that a withdrawal from the West Bank would be accompanied by the establishment of a stable and friendly state of Palestine is entirely baseless. Friendliness can be ruled right out. Stability seems unlikely given the track record of the other states in the region that share a similar political culture. What would stand in the way of rockets and missiles finding their way into the West Bank and Hamas using them to launch volleys of explosive metal at Kfar Sava? They wouldn’t need Fajrs to do it. They could do it with a catapult. You suggest that this threat should be dismissed because Iran and Hezbollah have larger missiles. What is the relation between these two points? Is it that the threat from Iran and Hezbollah would go away were Israel to withdraw from the West Bank? Or is it that an Israeli resident of Raanana should accept the idea that a rocket might land on his house from Qalqilya because it could have been a bigger warhead fired from Iran?

        In other words, to suggest that there is no strategic value to holding onto the West Bank you have to postulate that the alternative is a stable and friendly Palestinian state that does its best to avoid the intervention of outside actors hostile to Israel. The odds of this actually taking place should a Palestinian state arise is pretty much zero. You seem to also postulate that there are bigger threats so ‘smaller threats’ like thousands of rockets landing on the country’s main commercial center or an enemy army setting up bunkers and artillery overlooking a country’s main transportation arteries should be discounted. You also have to postulate that Israel will be free to act unilaterally at the first sign of threat which is a position that doesn’t stand up to any amount of scrutiny given what we just experienced with Israel facing major constraints on its action in a territory that it withdrew from based partially on the same logic you are trying to sell here. That it has been able to overcome such constraints and act when needed in the past doesn’t assure that it would be able to do so in time in the future. It also doesn’t suggest that it should act precisely in a manner which would likely put it in that same scenario.

        I happen to agree that parts of the West Bank can be given up unilaterally but I don’t accept for a second the argument that the West Bank has no strategic value which you argued in your previous post. So, yes, the occupation of the West Bank is necessitated by security concerns. Not all of it has to be under Israeli control indefinitely but there is no viable framework at the moment to reach any scenario more beneficial to Israel than the status quo.

        Reply to Comment
      • David

        The ‘strategic depth’ argument has been greatly overstated, although it does have some limited validity.

        As long as Israel maintains air superiority, a surprise invasion from across the Jordan Valley is not realistically possible. The IAF would detect and destroy any hostile army before it could even cross the river.

        The real problem is the potential smuggling of rockets or artillery into the West Bank. But this problem could be solved by civil means, without a continued military occupation.

        As part of a two state deal between Israel and the West Bank, the two sides could form a customs union and a joint border police, with neutral third-party participation. Both sides would benefit. Israel would get visibility and joint control over what comes in to the West Bank, while the Palestinians would get customs houses at the ports in Haifa and Eilat.

        A win-win situation, no occupation required.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          “As part of a two state deal between Israel and the West Bank”
          You found a Palestinian willing to make a peace deal between Israel and just the West Bank?

          “the two sides can form a customs union and a joint border police with third party participation”

          Once the Palestinians achieve independence they can jettison any and all customs agreements and throw out the third-party participation. If presuming the Jordan Valley is Palestinian territory under your plan they would also be able to throw out the Israeli participation. For an example of ‘third-party assurances’ please find me the European monitoring force for the border crossing between Egypt and Gaza agreed to as part of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.

          “As long as Israel maintains air superiority, a surprise invasion from across the Jordan Valley is not realistically possible. The IAF would detect and destroy any hostile army before it could even cross the river.”

          That is wonderful in the case of an Iranian declaration that they are planning to send their tank forces to destroy Israel. What if they… gasp.. not declare that this is their intention and instead send ‘building materials’ and ‘tourists’ to set up ‘summer camps’ for the Palestinian children? Is this the point at which Israel reconquers the West Bank or would it use civil means? A few hundred truckloads of anti-tank and anti-air missiles come through along with two brigades of ‘volunteers’. Is this when Israel reconquers the West Bank or would it use civil means? The Iranians now send more ‘building materials’. This time it is to build mosques to preach co-existence and environmentalism. The mosques end up looking an awful lot like fortresses with bunkers and seem to be positioned in hills overlooking the major Israeli highways and conveniently they are right next to the ‘summer camps’ and the ‘volunteers’ and ‘campers’ regularly use them for prayer and recycling. In a masterful architectural gesture other mosques appear to have anti-air installations built in. Is this when Israel invades? Now Iran decides to set up a car assembly plant in Nablus but surprisingly that plant doesn’t produce any cars. Still, it is producing something relatively heavy out of the ‘car parts’ being sent through Jordan? Is it now that Israel acts? Or would that be damaging to the process of reconciliation and peace-making and destabilizing to the region according to the UNSC?

          As to the rocket threat. See above about the Iranian terror base. The same scenario applies.

          So, unless it retains control over the Jordan Valley Israel has no ‘civil means’ of preventing rockets and missiles from being set up next to Kfar Saba. ‘Civil means’ and ‘signed agreements’ are incapable of preventing anything should a hostile Palestinian government arise. The chances of that happening are terribly good over the course of the next few years if one doesn’t count the current Palestinian government as hostile already (well, the one in the West Bank anyway, because I doubt there is much argument about the hostility of the Palestinian government in Gaza).

          Reply to Comment
    5. The article was superficial blather. The notion that Brandeis or Foundations for the Defense of Democracies is required to do anything more is comparable to saying that an innocent person must assist with proving his own guilt. Almost no message we are exposed to on a daily basis – whether it be political or product oriented – provide some sort of idealistic balance. Most of the people on FDD or Brandeis trips are capable of providing their own perspective and processing the information they are exposed to. Accusing FDD or Brandeis of bias is like accusing a Democrat of bias because he doesn’t support a Republican position. We live in a contestatory democracy and seasoned judgment and defensible preferences emerge from the clash of ideas and perspectives. Being exposed to a Palestinian perspective is of course important, even necessary, but not every group carries that burden. Given the criticism of Israel around the world, I do not see any unfair advantage for Israel because of pro-Israel professorial tours.

      Reply to Comment
      • Alan

        I agree that this a deeply flawed screed(my guess is that Professor Gershenson went on one of the boondoggles and then decided to write an “expose” for a web magazine with no journalistic standards). The biggest problem with this piece is that it’s completely divorced from reality. I’ve been teaching in American colleges for more than 30 years and the reality is that the Palestinian narrative predominates in courses about the Middle East– and I say this as someone who is sympathetic to the Palestinian narrative, as someone who is a progressive Zionist, as someone who thinks that Netanyahu has been a disaster for Israel, and as someone who has been vilified for defending Israel and for embracing the label of Zionist. The left likes likes to peddle the myth the powerful Jewish interests control “the conversation” about Israel in academia–a myth Professor Gershenson taps into– but the reality is that identifying as a Zionist in academia is a really bad career move.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Bruce Phillips

      The description of Brandeis SIIS is ill-informed. I would not call a dorm room bed “luxurious” to begin with. Within the first few days of the seminar we had a session on “Parallel narratives” and then two sessions with a Palestinian social scientist. My cohort (2012) included lefties and righties and everywhere in between. My “classmates” were accomplished scholars all. If the SIIS were “hasbara” we would have spotted it right away. Everyone I got to know well was appreciative of the first class scholars we heard from and met with. I just submitted a course on “Society and Culture of Israel” to the Middle East Studies Program of my university, so you know it had better be serious course. I am disappointed that 972 would publish such shoddy reporting.

      Reply to Comment
      • directrob

        Did you read the article? If so you could have put more attention to your riposte. Instead of refuting it you confirm it.

        You submitted a course on “Society and Culture of Israel”.

        To the untrained I it looks like you went to Brandels to let them correct your course.

        “Fellows will be required to present syllabi for the courses they plan to teach on their home campuses.”

        http://www.brandeis.edu/israelcenter/SIIS/aboutSIIS.html

        Are you sure you were not manipulated in “smart and subtle ways” (of course no outright recognizable Hasbara propaganda). Can students still trust your course as an academic course, or has it been compromised and made more positive for Israel.

        Reply to Comment
    7. MEJDI Tours creates custom itineraries for all kinds of groups – academic, religious, etc – and offers a multi-narrative approach for anyone who is interested in creating a more complex and nuanced experience for themselves and their group. The concept has been so popular that MEJDI has won an award from the UN on intercultural innovation and National Geographic bought the concept for their own tours to the Holy Land…

      Reply to Comment
    8. Piotr Berman

      I am slightly impatient with the notion of “narrative”. The art of making narrative is similar to the art of making paper snowflake, the more you manage to cut out without the snowflake falling apart the more beautiful the result is.

      One comparison that could be made is conflicts between Armenians and Azeris. It is a “frozen” conflict in the sense that there are no military actions on the scene, but both sides are ready to resume at the moment notice, and the “war of narratives” is in full swing, and so is mutual hatred.

      Reply to Comment
    9. To my reget, Prof. Gershenson repeats an enduring, albeit inaccurate notion that the Dayan Center “is staffed mainly by ex-military and ex-security specialists.” This is an old canard, which Stanford’s Joel Beinin has enjoyed disseminating over the years. As a senior fellow at the Center for many years, I can only say that it simply isn’t true. Just look at the biographies of its researchers, all of whom are scholars in the field of modern Middle East history. We all know that tt takes many years to climb up the greasy pole of academe, and one can’t simply “parachute” in from the defense establishment. Perhaps Prof. Gershenson has confused the Dayan Center with the INSS (formerly Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies), which indeed is staffed primarily by ex-military and security specialists and is a classic think tank that is not an integral part of Tel Aviv University. In any case, as a regular lecturer in the Workshop that she dismisses as propaganda, she obviously hasn’t taken the time to learn what goes on there, and shows little respect for the academic integrity of the lecturers, let alone the participants.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Micheal

      I’m a teacher in Middle Sex university and I just got a 10 days Israel tour package from my university as It’s an educational tour where we a team of 15 teachers are moving towards the Israel and it was great to read this article right on it. We’re using Wonder tours guidance for our tour i.e. http://www.wonders-tours.com/israel-tours-271

      Please let me know if any one of you guys have any better suggestions?

      Reply to Comment
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