“I cross borders. I travel and meet people throughout Israel and throughout Palestine. With the exception of Gaza, which has been off-limits to Israelis since June 2007, I visit cities, towns, villages, and refugee camps throughout Palestine on a regular basis. Yes, I break the law in doing so. I am not afraid. I go and I listen and I talk, challenge, learn, and teach. I hear the same things from both sides: we want peace, but we have no partner on the other side.”
from Chapter One of In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine
Gershon Baskin’s memoir of thirty-eight years of intensive pursuit of peace begins with a childhood on Long Island and a bar mitzvah trip to Israel with his family. Baskin joined Young Judaea back in the States, then later lived on a kibbutz in Israel, where he announced to his parents that he had decided to make aliya, immigrate to Israel. They persuaded him to return to study at NYU, after which he finally immigrated under the auspices of Interns for Peace. In Israel he spent a pivotal two years living with Arabs in the village of Kufr Qara.
Despite the atmosphere of fear, Baskin found that he could talk with both Jews and Palestinians, and that very few others were engaged in efforts at mutual understanding. At his initiative, the Ministry of Education and the office of right-wing Prime Minister Menachem Begin created the Institute for Education for Jewish-Arab Coexistence with Baskin himself as director. Eight years later he founded and codirected the only joint Israeli-Palestinian public policy think-and-do tank in the world, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. For decades he continued to cross borders, often with a kaffiyeh (Arab headdress) on his dashboard to protect his car in Palestinian neighborhoods. Airport passport control became Kafkaesque as Israeli agents routinely identified him as a security threat.
During the many cycles of peace negotiations, Baskin has served both as an outside agitator for peace and as an advisor on the inside of secret talks—for example, during the prime ministership of Yitzhak Rabin and during the initiative led by Secretary of State John Kerry. Baskin ends the book with his own proposal, which includes establishing a peace education program and cabinet-level Ministries of Peace in both countries, in order to foster a culture of peace.The history of modern Israel and Palestine is populated with leaders stuck in the present and linked to the past, limiting their ability to imagine a different future. Inevitably, as Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine demonstrates, strategic thinking requires the ability to design a course of events, policies and decisions that create a different reality. As a center of perpetual trans-generational conflict, the reality that we have all known between Israel and the Arabs is debilitating, it stunts imagination and diminishes the ability to design policies that can change the conflictual basis of relations.
Gershon Baskin reveals how relations in the Middle East are based on justified fear, influenced by lack of human contact and reinforced by continued violence that solidify patterns of thinking and behavior that negatively influence public policies. Dr. Baskin shares his life experience and wisdom in transforming the sustentation of the conflict to breaking out of animosity and turning a new page. What the parties in conflict say and do are mutually influential and reinforcing in keeping the parties in conflict.
Title In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine
Author Gershon Baskin
Publisher Vanderbilt University Press, 2017
Publication Date: November 15, 2017
ISBN 0826521819, 9780826521811
Length 288 pages
Subjects History › Middle East › Israel & Palestine
History / Middle East / Israel & Palestine
Political Science / Human Rights
Political Science / Peace
Vanderbilt University Press is the principal publishing arm of one of the United States’s leading research universities. The Press’s primary mission is to select, produce, market, and disseminate scholarly publications of outstanding quality and originality.
“Gershon Baskin, whom I have known for many years, is one of the outstanding originators of peace initiatives in our era. This is based on a deep belief in the qualities of human affinity, human dignity, and selflessness. He is a pluralist and recognizes that social behavior is essential to building peace through participation from the bottom up. Gershon promotes the art of conversation and listening, which in my mind is a major contribution to waging peace.”
His Royal Highness Prince Hassan bin Talal
Prince of Jordan
“Gershon Baskin is among Israel’s most intrepid pursuers of peace. His book is not only a fascinating journey across the Jewish-Palestinian divide, it also provides that rarest commodity in these dark times: hope.”
Peter Alexander Beinart
The Crisis of Zionism
“In reading Gershon Baskin’s memoirs of his perpetually intensive pursuit of fostering a culture of peace, I witness not just the reach of his vision but also the strength of his beliefs, and that rare quality of mind and spirit that can call forth the best in all of us. He has demonstrated both courage and perseverance in his activities towards peace building in places where many “peace professors” dare not tread. Gershon has negotiated with ministers and officials of terrorist organizations, has faced abominably gruesome violence in areas of conflict and was active in promoting nonviolence and peace education in the midst of the resurgence of hideously horrific brutality in the land that he calls home.
In reading Gershon Baskin, I experienced a person urging us to not only imagine that together we can bring true peace to this planet, but to also be fluent about man made environmental threats and the necessity to guarantee human rights and dignity for all. Gershon Baskin’s unifying message, experience and life story promises to empower us to realize a new and better future, renewing our faith in the moral and ethnical dimensions of peace building and restoring hope for the future of our planet.”