Past Program

Oct 08 - Oct 11, 2004

Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation: Middle East Conference



Salzburg Seminar

Institute for Historical

Justice and Reconciliation


The Practical Application of History for the Contemporary World


Middle East Planning Meeting

7-11 October 2004


Participants Logon Here


The IHJR Middle East Planning Meeting, October 7-11, 2004, was intended to assess the advisability and feasibility of engaging historians and public figures from the Palestinian Territories and Israel in a sustained dialogue regarding unresolved historical legacies ofthe region. The meeting was attended by a group of 22 Palestinian and Israeli public intellectuals and scholars. (Attachment A) It was clear that both sides were eager to work together, and recognized that the historical investigations provide a space for post conflict activities in an on-going conflict.


The discussions focused on several significant topics: What is the potential for developing a shared history? What methodology should be used? In examining the various myths that have developed over time, which case studies could have the greatest potential for success?


It was agreed that the key to a successful project would require the bridging of serious historical research with contemporary public dialogue. In order for a project to succeed, several underlying principles need to be recognized.


1) Empirical evidence is important. To the legitimacy of the project;

2) The recognition of facts by both parties is vital;

3) It is important to carve out an original niche for the project and not to replicate current or past efforts by the historical community;

4) A joint narrative that does not deny the legitimacy of the other is important in the process.


Methodology: The group determined that there was extensive potential for exploring issues of mutual interest to Palestinian and Israeli scholars, and that this work could be undertaken by joint teams of researchers and writers. In exploring the modalities for such work, a number of issues need to be explored and clarified: the current state of research and availability of research materials; the agreement on a common methodology and standards; and the ability for scholars to work collaboratively either within the region or in a neutral site outside the region.


Case Studies: The group examined several possible historical topics including the "Holy Land", "1948", and "Refugees." From the discussion on negotiating histories, the following case studies were identified as potential joint projects by Palestinian and Israeli scholars. These include:


1) Camp David 2000 and the Beginning of the Second Intifada.

Both the Palestinian and Israeli participants in the IHJR planning meeting stressed the need to analyze the background to the Camp David Summit, the steps leading up to proceedings and the events following it. It was recognized that despite the promising rapprochement, the negotiations failed and subsequently a "fabricated narrative" emerged. Several myths have taken hold in the popular consciousness: one regarding the "97%" Israel offer of territory; another dealing with the idea that the Palestinians argued for the absolute right of refugees to return, and thirdly, that the Palestinians responded to the failure of the discussions by concertedly launching the current Intifada. The conveners of the IHJR Middle East Project would recommend a close collaborative Israeli-Palestinian study that could produce a clarifying and shared narrative account of these events.


2. 1948 - Historical Atlas

With regard to the events beginning with the United Nations partition of Palestine in December 1947 and culminating with the arms agreement between Israel and Syria in July 1949, many myths and questions persist in public discussion. Despite the extensive literature, it was agreed that additional issues would need to be examined from both sides of the conflict eg. How did the British role and interests shape the war until May 1948?What were the intere