Conflict Mediation and Multiculturalism
For the past decade City University has provided the base for a unique undertaking in cross-conflict dialogue designed to enable students born and brought up in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to gain a deeper understanding of the factors that drive and perpetuate conflict. The reasoning behind this endeavour is essentially that those directly involved in conflict all their lives can benefit educationally from an opportunity to stand back and reflect (literally leave the conflict zone for duration of their undergraduate degree) in conjunction with counterparts from opposing sides.
Conceived first and foremost as an educational programme for those directly involved in conflict, the Olive Tree Programme has benefits for the wider student and staff community at City and beyond who share a fascination with the Middle East and/or Conflict Studies. Thus, the Programme has become a platform for debate about the nature of conflict, cross-conflict dialogue and political change with diverse audiences in London and beyond. The scholars and facilitators involved in the programme undertake speaking engagements to a range of audiences including parliamentarians, Foreign Office officials, religious and interfaith groups, lawyers and students.
The Middle East Forum, convened 5 or 6 times during the academic year, models how academia can serve as a setting for exploring complex issues and developments overseas that are of concern to both policymakers and civil society groups in Britain. Experts and practitioners from different walks of life, including the media, the diplomatic service, the military, artists and clerics are invited to participate in panel discussions with students and staff from across the university as well as members of the general public. In 2012-13, for example, the Forum discussed the war in Syria, 'War and Diplomacy - lessons from the British experience', 'Religion, Politics and Identity in Israel', and media coverage of the Arab uprisings. In 2013-14 the Forum discussed 'The Changing Shape of War in the Middle East', the implications of the Arab uprisings and subsequent conflicts for Israel and for the Palestinians, and 'Hopes and Fears for US Mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict'.
In Autumn 2014 the Forum will convene in October to discuss the challenges facing journalists reporting on political violence and sectarian conflict in the contemporary Middle East; and again in November to discuss the relevance and standing of International Law in the contemporary Middle East.
A. Dialogue and Narrative Mediation
Capitalizing on the experience accumulated since 2004 when the Olive Tree Programme started and the insights and expertise of alumni and others working on conflict issues, identity politics and narrative construction in the Middle East, research ongoing under the CIPS umbrella includes:
1. Perceptions and Expectations of Cross-Conflict Dialogue - This research challenges the commonly held assumption that cross-conflict dialogue is productive of compromise between antagonists and posits instead that familiarity with 'the other' may significantly entrench political differences at the same time as deepening understanding of the emotional drivers of conflict. Contact details.
2. The Role of Narrative Construction in Conflict and Mediation - This work is informed by years of experience in cross-conflict dialogue at City University that has challenged the participants to research the national and/or historical narratives that inform their identity formation and understanding of the other. The educational value of this approach becomes clearest as dialogue participants present alternative narratives (the findings of their research) to each other and in the process are able to discern projection and 'othering' at work and thence revise their understanding of what is and is not 'true'. Contact details.
B. Aspects of Multiculturalism
Britain and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - This is a three-part project looking at (a) explanations for the level of passion and commitment invested in activism on the conflict among people who are neither Israeli nor Palestinian; (b) British representation of the Palestine issue as an exemplar of how Palestinian identity, needs and rights (or lack thereof) have been framed or depicted since 1917; and (c) lessons to be learned for British multiculturalism and the 'values' debate. Contact details.