How to Commemorate Resolution 242 and the Balfour Declaration

This November, the 2nd and the 22nd to be exact, marked the 100th and 50th anniversaries of two seminal documents of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Balfour Declaration was issued on November 2, 1917 by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour “on behalf of His Majesty’s Government” to Lord Rothschild, the representative of the Zionist Federation, the British umbrella organization of the Zionist movement. Fifty years later, on November 22, 1967, six months after the Six-Day War, the United Nations Security Council delivered Resolution 242.

Neither is very long, the former 128 words and the latter 291 words, yet their impact on the conflict has been far-reaching. The Balfour Declaration set the diplomatic ball rolling that would lead to the partition of Palestine through UN Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, seventy-years ago also this month, and the subsequent creation of the modern State of Israel in May 1948. Resolution 242 is the basis for the Egyptian-Israeli (1979) and the Jordanian-Israeli (1994) Peace treaties as well as the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli talks since Oslo (1993).

The two documents, because of their size and importance, provide a way to view the Arab-Israeli conflict through the Dual Narrative approach. As in Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon and Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet the Dual Narrative presents multiple narratives and understandings of the same events. It is essential that the Israelis and Palestinians better understand the two narratives. Narratives provide an important frame of reference to our lives; they are one of our anchors which help us make sense of our lives and give them purpose and meaning. It is understandable when we are confronted with a different narrative that we may put up resistance. Therein lies the power of the Dual Narrative, it challenges how we contextualize our lives.

As an example the Dual Narrative is an indispensable component of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies located on Kibbutz Ketura. For over twenty years the Institute has utilized the Dual Narrative in its mission to prepare future environmental leaders from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and around the world to cooperatively solve the regional and global challenges of our time. Miriam Grunfeld, a recent alumna of the Institute wrote, “To approach the conflict through the framework of ecology requires building relationships, and complicates notions of fixed boundaries and borders. It necessitates operating on all scales, from the single person to the larger community.” Those “fixed boundaries” also include the fixed narratives held by each side, and the Dual Narrative can be a way used to open each side to the different perspective of the other. As Hillel said (Mishna Avot 2:4), “Do not judge another until you are in his place.” The Dual Narrative forces us to stand in the place of the other and see and understand the world from their perceived experiences.

The Israeli Narrative

The justification and understanding of the Balfour Declaration from the Israeli perspective begins with the Bible. The Bible understood here not as a Divinely given document, but rather as the earliest and oldest account of the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.

Most of the early leaders of the Zionist movement were secular and approached the Bible from a secular perspective. Those Biblical accounts clearly put forward the idea of the centrality of the Land of Israel to Jewish identity. The word Jewish conveys an identity beyond religion. As Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan explains Judaism is an “evolving religious civilization.” That is to say, the religion is at the core of the identity, but it is more than a religion it is a civilization, a nation, a people of politics, law, art, literature, language, etc. For more than one thousand years from the reign of King Saul (1,000 BCE) through the defeat of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt by the Romans in 135 CE the Jewish people lived in the Land of Israel both as an independent nation governed by a monarchy or occupied by different empires. Throughout that period, the Temple built in Jerusalem by King Solomon (10th Century BCE) until its destruction in 70 CE by the Romans, served as the central place of worship for the Jewish people.

After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE and the defeat of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 CE when the Romans destroyed many Jewish towns, executed large numbers of Jews, forbade Jews from living in or near Jerusalem, enslaved and expelled Jews, the Jewish people in many ways should have disappeared. The theologian and Zionist thinker Martin Buber wrote (1942) in his essay, “Hebrew Humanism,” how the Jewish people were able to survive, “I am setting up Hebrew humanism in opposition to that Jewish nationalism which regards Israel as a nation unto other nations and recognizes no task for Israel save that of preserving and asserting itself…By opposing Hebrew humanism to a nationalism which is nothing but empty self-assertion, I wish to indicate that, at this juncture, the Zionist movement must decide either for national egoism or national humanism….Israel is not a nation like other nations, no matter how much its representatives have wished it during certain eras. Israel is a people like no other, for it is the only people in the world which, from its earliest beginnings, has been both a nation and a religious community…Israel was and is a people and a religious community, and it is this unity which enabled it to survive in an exile no other nation had to suffer, an exile which lasted much longer than the period of its independence.”

That combination of being a nation and a religion, as Buber describes it, became the key to Jewish survival during 2,000 years of exile and the reestablishment of the Jewish state in 1948. With the destruction of the Temple, the rabbis, the priests of the Temple, became the religious and community leaders. As they created Rabbinic Judaism, an adaptation to the new reality the Jews faced, they took the idea of Jewish national identity and its connection to the Land of Israel and incorporated it into the daily, weekly, monthly, yearly religious experiences of the Jewish people. Synagogues around the world face Jerusalem. Changes are made in the liturgy throughout the year are not based on where the worshiper may be, but rather on the seasons and environment of the Land of Israel. It makes no sense to talk about the planting trees in the heart of winter in Montreal or Moscow, during the celebration of Tu B’Shvat, but it does if you want to maintain a connection to the Land of Israel no matter where you are.

In the late 1980s the Dalai Lama, realizing that the Tibetan exile would go on for a long time, approached rabbis and Jewish educators to learn how Jews had survived their exile for so many millennia. They first met in New Jersey and then carried on the conversation in Dharamsala. The Dalai Lama was told that maintaining a connection to the land was essential for Tibetian identity to survive a long exile. A fascinating account of these meetings can be found in Rodger Kamenetz’s The Jew in the Lotus.

In essence the rabbis took the idea of a national identity tied to a specific land and turned the Jewish religion into its carrier. What led to the germination of that seed by the Zionist movement at the end of the 19th century? For that we need to turn to the end of the 18th century and the American and French revolutions and the ideas of liberté, égalité, and fraternité that became the political guide for much of the West. Out of those movements the modern idea of the nation-state began to emerge and with that the question of what rights did Jews as a minority have within different nations. That question was answered in Western Europe, less so in Eastern Europe, with the extending of political and economic rights to Jews as the confines of the ghetto began to crumble. Jews, who for centuries lived amid Arabs, Turks, and Iranians, fared better for the most part than their Jewish siblings in Europe. Though the idea of Jews being forced to wear markings on their clothing to set them apart from the majority group originated in Islam in the early 8th century, and following the establishment of Israel in 1948 anti-Jewish violence flared up in the Arab countries and Iran from which over 800,000 Jews were expelled or left those countries in the following decades, the majority moved to Israel.

In Western Europe as the 19th century rolled along Jews were no longer confined to ghettos and certain and professions, but there was a price, a quid pro quo: Jews, you can join us but don’t be too Jewish. Jews understood the bargain, and many began to change their clothes, what they ate, how they worshiped, and how they designed their synagogues (many looked and sounded more like churches). That inherent tension could only last so long. The end of the 19th century saw a new wave of anti-Jewish activities return to Europe, with violent and deadly pogroms in Eastern Europe and anti-Jewish ideas in Western Europe most famously seen in the Dreyfus Affair.

In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew from Alsace, the French border area with Germany, was charged, on trumped up evidence, with spying for Germany. His trial became a cause célèbre across Europe. Emile Zola would publish an open letter to the president of France entitled “J’accuse” in which he accused the French authorities of knowingly arresting Dreyfus on fabricated evidence; what Zola called a “treason against humanity.” Following the Dreyfus trial was an Austrian journalist, Theodor Herzl, who happened to live on the same street as Sigmund Freud in Vienna. Watching the events unfold Herzl came to the conclusion that since Europeans had been creating nation-states throughout the 19th century, combined with the resurgence of anti-Jewish activities in Europe, it was time to take the idea of the Jewish nation that had been preserved for 2,000 years within the religion and germinate that seed. In late 1895 while living in Paris at the Hotel de Castille Herzl wrote The Jewish State. It was published in Vienna in February, 1896 and with that the Zionist movement was born. The First Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland in August, 1897. For the Zionist movement their activities heralded a long overdue homecoming.

The Zionist movement divided itself into two branches; Practical Zionism and Political Zionism. The former worked on land purchases and helping Jews emigrate back to the land, while the latter focused on international support for the Zionist movement. The Balfour Declaration was a result of those efforts. With World War I raging the British and Germans looked for leverage to help with their respective war efforts. Both reached out to Zionist leaders with the false belief that Jews had great influence in the United States; the Germans hoped the Jews of America could keep the Americans out of the war, while the British hoped they would get the Americans in the war. That influence simply wasn’t there. The British also thought the Zionists could help keep Russia in the War since so many Bolsheviks were Jewish. It was of course a complete misreading of the party. The Communists were not at all interested in a new country being created, their goal was to see the “workers of the world unite.” The British fearful of what the Germans might offer the Zionists issued the Balfour declaration on November 2, 1917. Five weeks later on December 11, 1917 General Allenby entered Jerusalem having defeated the Ottomans. In the aftermath of World War I the British Mandate was created in 1922. The Mandate included the Balfour Declaration and added, “Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”

The Palestinian Narrative

If the Israeli narrative can be summed up in one word, homecoming, then the Palestinian narrative can be summed up as invasion, an imperial colonial invasion. Those vastly different experiences greatly cloud so much of how each side perceives itself and understands the other. While this century plus long conflict is complicated on many levels it can in many ways be reduced to those two disparate experiences; homecoming versus invasion. Homecoming is something someone does, while invasion is something that happens to you. Follow the line of thought on any issue related to the conflict and it will most likely end at these two perspectives.

For the Palestinians the Balfour Declaration was but the latest attempt by European imperial powers to control the Middle East, especially when it came to the Holy Land. As early as April, 1799 after Napoleon had defeated the Ottomans in Egypt and his army had marched through Palestine and laid siege to Acre, he issued a call for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This call he hoped would lead Jews to serve his growing imperial interests in the region. He was defeated at Acre by the Ottomans with the help of the British who had their own imperial designs on Palestine. In 1800 Napoleon declared, “If I governed a nation of Jews, I should reestablish the Temple of Solomon.” For the next 150 years the British and the French would be frenemies when it came to Palestine and their own imperial interests with conflicting promises made to Zionists and Palestinians.

With the defeat of Napoleon by the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo in 1815 the British became the main carrier of the message of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. As with the French they were motivated by Jewish support for their own imperial interests. In 1840 the British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston wrote to the British Ambassador in Constantinople, “There exists at the present time among the Jews dispersed over Europe, a strong notion that the time is approaching for their nation to return to Palestine…It would be of manifest importance to the Sultan to encourage the Jews to return and to settle in Palestine because the wealth which they would bring with them would increase the resources of the Sultan’s dominions; and the Jewish people, if returning under the sanction and protection and at the invitation of the Sultan, would be a check on any future evil designs of Mehmet Ali or his successors…I have to instruct Your Excellency strongly to recommend to hold out every just encouragement to the Jews of Europe to return to Palestine.” Inherent in this declaration was the idea to use the Jews to keep the Egyptian Viceroy and reformer Mehmet Ali expansionist ideas, including Palestine, in check.

In 1880 in his book, The Land of Gilead, former British MP Laurence Oliphant wrote about his support of Jews returning to Palestine. There he advocated for the local Palestinian population to be placed on reservations in the same way Native Americans had been treated in North America. He wrote, “In fact, the same system might be pursued which we have adopted with success in Canada with our North American Indian tribes, who are confined to their ‘reserves,’ and live peacefully upon them in the midst of the settled agricultural population.”

In 1907 British Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman wrote in a report which he submitted to the British government, “There are people (the Arabs, authors note) who control spacious territories teeming with manifest and hidden resources. They dominate the intersections of world routes. Their lands were the cradles of human civilizations and religions. These people have one faith, one language, one history and the same aspirations. No natural barriers can isolate these people from one another…if, perchance, this nation were to be unified into one state, it would then take the fate of the world into its hands and would separate Europe from the rest of the world. Taking these considerations seriously, a foreign body should be planted in the heart of this nation to prevent the convergence of its wings in such a way that it could exhaust its powers in never-ending wars. It could also serve as a springboard for the West to gain its coveted objects.”

Through the Balfour Declaration ten years later the Zionists were more than happy to serve the interests of the British and be that foreign body planted in the heart of the Arab lands. In 1915 Sir Henry McMahon met with Sherif Hussein of Mecca and made a series of promises to the Arab people. In exchange for their helping the British and the allies push the Ottomans out of the Middle East those lands would be given back to the Arab peoples. Based on the McMahon-Hussein correspondence Arabs clearly believed that included Palestine. The British decided otherwise and two years later issued the Balfour Declaration showing their alliance with the Zionists. To compound matters in 1916 the French and British, anticipating victory over the Ottomans, secretly agreed on how they would divide up the Ottoman Empire after the War in an agreement known as Sykes-Picot Agreement. This too was counter to the McMahon-Hussein correspondence.

Because for two-thousand years, including during the formative years of Islam, Judaism as discussed above presented itself as a religion with its national identity much less visible there was a perception that being Jewish was only about belonging to a religion. This would lead to Arab opposition of Zionism by saying that a religion was not entitled to a country. While the clash of this conflict is between two nations it has taken on an increased religious narrative by both sides during the more recent decades of the conflict. Those narratives range from exclusivist positions saying that only their groups have rights to the land to the exclusion of others to more inclusive positions that are motivated by the values of peace and the interconnectedness of humanity.

One of the most irritating aspects of the Balfour Declaration is that the point of reference in the document for the local Arab population was not them but the Jews, who for the most part had just arrived. The Balfour Declaration refers to the local Arab population as the “existing non-Jewish communities,” even though they made up 86% of the population and well over 90% of the land ownership. The wording implied that the Arabs are a minority, when at that time they were the great majority of inhabitants and landowners in Palestine.

The Zionist movement was largely motivated by the latest long chapter of anti-Jewish activities in Europe as it pushed for The Balfour Declaration. For the Arabs of Palestine, that was a problem for Europe to address in Europe, and not address their anti-Jewish sentiments by supporting Zionism as a cover to colonize the Arab land with Jews. In addition, who were the British to give away a land that was not theirs and much less a land they had not even conquered yet. The defeat of the Ottomans in Palestine with the fall of Jerusalem to General Allenby did not take place until five weeks later on December 11th. The Battle for Beersheva had only taken place two days earlier on October 31st, and the Battle of Huj, one of the last cavalry charges of the British Army, would not take place until November 8th. From the perspective of the Arabs of Palestine the Balfour Declaration was the latest unjust, illegal, and illegitimate European colonial activity.

The Fifty Years from 1917 to 1967

The half century from the Balfour Declaration to UN Resolution 242 first witnessed the two and a half decades of the British Mandate that saw numerous acts and periods of violence particularly in 1929 and 1936 through 1939. Between 1919 and 1939 some 370,000 Jews moved to Palestine; that number increasing greatly with the rise of Hitler in 1933. As a reaction to the violence the British would begin to place restrictions on their support of Zionist activities and then back track to a degree. This pattern only increased the hostility of the Jews and Arabs to the British. In the 1937, eighty years ago, the Peel Commission, in response to the violence, advocated for a partition of Palestine, the first attempt at a two-state solution. The Zionist leadership supported the Plan, but there was fierce debate and division within the Zionist movement. The Arab leadership opposed the plan, but quietly there were those who supported the idea. In the end the plan went nowhere.

Two years later in 1939, concluding that the Partition Plan was unattainable, the British issued their last White Paper of the conflict. The Paper called for an independent state, neither Jewish nor Arab, a Binational State, to be established by 1949. The Paper also stated that from 1939 to 1944 75,000 Jews would be allowed to immigrate to Palestine and after 1944 only with consent from the Arabs. Jewish land purchases were also restricted. World War II would break out that year and the Shoah, the extermination of 6 million Jews would last until 1945.

In response to that catastrophe the United Nations voted to partition Palestine in 1947 and the State of Israel declared itself into existence in May 1948. In the course of the fighting that began right after the announcing of the Partition Plan on November 29, 1947 Israel was attacked first by the local Palestinian population and later by seven Arab countries. At the end of the fighting in March 1949 Israel had increased its territory beyond the Partition Plan and some 700,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees either by fleeing the fighting or being expelled by Israeli forces. At the end of the fighting where Arab armies stood no Jews remained or were allowed to remain. In many ways it was a war with both sides fighting for keeps. The Israelis called the war, Milkhemet Ha’Atzma’ut, The War of Independence, the Arabs called it Nakba, Catastrophe.

In the decades that followed an unsettled tension existed with various levels of violence erupting ranging from Fedayeen attacks on Israel from neighboring Arab countries to all-out war. In 1951, King Abdullah I of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, while visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, was assassinated because of his support of peace with Israel. Prince Hussein, Abdullah’s grandson, life was saved in the assassination attempt when a bullet was deflected by a medal that his grandfather had had pinned to his chest. Prince Hussein, would become King Hussein the following year, succeeding his father, King Talal, who abdicated from the throne for health reasons. In 1994 King Hussein would sign a peace treaty with Israel.

In light of the ongoing Fedayeen attacks and Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal, war broke out in 1956. It was known as the Suez Crisis, or the Sinai War in Israel, and the Tripartite Aggression in the Arab world as Israel, France, and Great Britain joined forces to attack Egypt. In 1964 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in Jerusalem. In the mid 1960’s tensions grew between Syria and Israel over water. This led to an alliance between Syria and Egypt. Falsely informed by the Soviet Union that an Israeli invasion of Syria was imminent Egypt mobilized troops, demanded the UN Peacekeepers leave the Sinai Peninsula and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. On June 5th fearing an attack by Syria and Egypt, Israel preempted beginning the Six-Day War. Israel told Jordan, who had occupied the West Bank since 1949 (which was only recognized by England and Pakistan), that she had no interests in war with Jordan. King Hussein, who was given false reports of Egyptian success, attacked Israel. In response Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank and some 250,000 new Palestinian refugees were created. Israel also captured the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights during the course of the fighting. On September 1st the Arab League meet in Khartoum and declared, “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.” On November 22 the United Nations passed Resolution 242.

Resolution 242 and the Palestinian Narrative

As with the Balfour Declaration fifty year earlier when the Palestinians were referred to as the “non-Jewish communities in Palestine” in Resolution 242 they were referred to as “the refugee problem.” For Palestinians it was another example of their non-identification by outside parties.

With no representation at the UN, they were not able to partake in any of the deliberations. Seven years later in 1974 the PLO was granted “observer status” at the UN and in 2012 it was upgraded to “non-member observer status,” culminating in 2015 when Palestine was recognized as a state by the UN. In calling for the “end of belligerency” Resolution 242 acknowledged the “sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area.” Since Palestine was not recognized as a state at that point the Resolution bypassed Palestinian aspirations.

In the 1960s Palestinian identity was in transition from a clear localized identity to a separate national identity. In the early stages of Palestinian opposition to Zionism Palestinians saw themselves not as a separate nation but rather a part of Greater Syria. At the first Palestine Arab Congress held in Jerusalem in 1919 in addition to asking that the Balfour Declaration be rescinded they called for Palestine to be included as, “an integral part of…the independent Arab Government of Syria within an Arab Union, free of any foreign influence or protection.” This was also the findings of the King-Crane Commission sent by the President Wilson in 1919 to determine what should be done with the Ottoman Empire. That Commission, based upon its interviews within the region, recommended that Palestine become part of Greater Syria and that the Zionist plan be greatly curtailed. As the decades rolled on a Palestinian national identity surfaced and strengthened in opposition to Zionism. All nationalism has a beginning; the ancient Israelite national identity defined itself in many ways against the local population it found there at the time.

One of the bones of contention between Israel and the Arab world over the Resolution was the order of events when it came to establishing “a just and lasting peace.” The resolution lists withdrawal from territories first to be followed by “termination of all claims or states of belligerency” and the “right to live in peace with secure and recognized boundaries.” The Arab world insisted on this order while Israel said it would only follow the opposite order. In the end when it came to the Israeli-Egyptian (1979) and Israeli-Jordanian (1994) peace treaties signed between those governments modalities addressing both simultaneously were created. In 1988 the PLO accepted Resolution 242.

The other area of disagreement came from the wording when it came to discussing the withdrawal from territories captured by the Israelis in the Six-Day War. The Resolution reads, “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” In drafting Resolution 242 British Ambassador to the UN, Lord Caradon, American Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg and US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Eugene Rostow, who all played important roles in the wording of the text, specifically left the definite article, the, out of the sentence so it did not read withdrawal from the territories. By not including the definite article the sentence left room for adjustments of borders. The Arab world objected to this and would refer to the French version that had the definite article, les. While the definite article is used in the French version, it is there for grammatical reasons. .. At the United Nations when there is a disagreement over texts words of the text of a resolution drafted become the version that is followed; in this case the English version without the the.
Resolution 242 and the Israeli Narrative

In contrast of the Three No’s of Khartoum the Israelis were pleased that the Resolution implied the neighboring Arab states needed to engage with Israel in negotiations and eventual peace and recognition. The Israelis also read the line, “a just settlement of the refugee problem,” as referring not only to the Palestinian refugees but also to the Jewish refugees from Arab lands. As discussed above the Israelis agreed with the English version of the Resolution and the missing definite article that allowed for flexibility when it came to creating permanent borders, as well as the need for withdrawal from territories and the end of belligerency that would happen at the same time.


One of the greatest challenges in this conflict, or any conflict for that matter, is the dynamic of allowing one’s own narrative to block out the ability to hear the other narrative. Israelis need to understand how their endeavor can legitimately be seen by Palestinians as an invasion, while at the same time Palestinians need to understand Zionism is based on an authentic historic connection the Jewish people have to the land.

In his in depth study on Israeli-Palestinian people-to-people NGOs, A future for Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding, Ned Lazarus makes the important point about the positive impact that projects the sharing of narratives has on participants. Referencing a report by USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation, Lazarus found 80 percent reported greater willingness to work for peace; 77 percent reported increased belief in the possibility of reconciliation; 71 percent improved trust and empathy for the other; and 68 percent increased levels of acknowledgement and knowledge about the other narratives” in such dialogue groups. This underscores the invaluable role of the Dual Narrative as a tool that should be more utilized in this conflict.

An acknowledgment by Israelis of the Palestinian narrative will not lessen the validity of their cause, and such a recognition by Palestinians of the Israeli narrative will not take away from their national aspirations. Rather, such mutual acknowledgments can open doors to new perceptions and opportunities. This conflict will not end when both sides agree on everything, rather the challenge is for both sides to learn to acknowledge the profound different narratives and by so doing discover a different way to go forward. An accord will not bring about instant peace with all the problems disappearing the day after the treaty is signed; such an agreement will be the most important step to continue the work of reconciliation. 100 years after parts of Austria were given to Italy after World War I not all the tensions from that change have disappeared, but people have found ways to move on.

This point cannot be stressed enough. The phrase, “I hear you,” means more than an audio encounter has taken place. It means, “I recognize and understand who you are.” A major obstacle in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is the belief that the other really doesn’t understand who they are; and with that comes the chasm of no trust. Trust can be built with someone who you feel grasps who you are; if you trust someone you can still disagree with them and find ways to advance. The 100 plus organizations of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) model this.

Three caveats need to be addressed when discussing the Dual Narrative. The first is, just because words have been exchanged it does not mean that both sides understand each other. When it comes to Israelis and Palestinians most of the time the lingua franca they use is English which is at best the second language of the speakers. This raises the problem of translation, and translation across cultures which is addressed on the metal level by Richard O. Collin in Moving Political Meaning across Linguistic Frontiers and on the macro level by Raymond Cohen in Culture and Conflict in Egyptian-Israeli Relations: A Dialogue of the Deaf. The anthropologist Edward Hall in his groundbreaking 1976 book Beyond Culture writes about how some cultures communicate through explicit messages while other cultures rely more on context. Israelis are an example of the former and the Palestinians are an example of the latter. This is all to say that facilitators of such dialogues need to be very attuned and sensitive to these dynamics and help participants better truly hear and understand each other.

The other issue that needs to be addressed is the idea of the Dual Narrative as a binary approach to dialogue. The concept of a Dual Narrative implies two sides, which there may be, but that does not mean they are entirely monolithic. That is to say not all Palestinian think one way, or for that matter do all Israelis, Zionists, Jordanians, Muslims, Jews, etc. Within each group there is a spectrum of viewpoints and understandings. While the Dual Narrative is a tool towards greater understanding of the other the nuance of a range of perspectives should never be lost.

Finally for Palestinians an engagement with the Dual Narrative which focuses for the most part on the history of the conflict, should in no way be seen as a substitution for, or avoidance of addressing the realities of today. As Jonathan Kuttab has written dialogue must take in to account the realities of asymmetry and never be a substitute for action when it comes to the status quo.

For decades peace initiatives have focused on what are called the core issues of the conflict: borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem. While core, not much is left to negotiate with regard to those issues. In many ways, what is preventing an agreement from being reached are the issues under the table including fear, mistrust, trauma, responsibility, cultural differences, breaking down myths, and acknowledgment and a better understanding of the other. At the end of the day the Dual Narrative has the ability to create an innovative process between Israelis and Palestinians that addresses those critical interpersonal issues. Until they are addressed and scaled up with more participants, both in formal negotiations and in more and more encounters between Israelis and Palestinians, any agreement will be much harder to reach. For an exploration on the necessity and complexity of the addressing those under the table issues see Reconciliation from a Social-Psychological Perspective by Herbert Kelman and Instrumental and Socioemotional Paths to Intergroup Reconciliation and the Needs-Based Model of Socioemotional Reconciliation by Arie Nadler and Nurit Shnabel.

It was perhaps said best by the Muslim jurist from the Islamic Golden Age, Imam Al-Shafi’i, “Never do I argue with a man with a desire to hear him say what is wrong, or to expose him and win victory over him. Whenever I face an opponent in debate I silently pray – O Lord, help him so that truth may flow from his heart and on his tongue, and so that if truth is on my side, he may follow me; and if truth be on his side, I may follow him.”