Conflict and education in Israel: university educators and challenging conflict narratives
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This research represents an innovative examination of the role of university educators in protracted ethnic conflict. In this exploratory qualitative case study, Israeli professors from five universities were asked to share their experiences and opinions as educators. They were invited to share their perceptions and perspectives when asked if they chose to challenge conflict narratives in the classroom. Research participants were asked to picture the future and to communicate their fears, worries, hopes and wishes. The educators interviewed in this study felt the atmosphere in Israel was hostile to individuals who teach from a critical standpoint and that there could be repercussions for persons who challenged the Zionist narrative. Educators used a variety of methods regarding contested materials: some spoke freely, many used a comparative approach using examples external to Israel, and some refused to discuss sensitive issues in the classroom. The results of this study point to an escalation in extreme positions in Israel, an inhospitable atmosphere for critical academics and a general pessimism regarding the future. However, this study also revealed the majority of those interviewed used strategies to challenge narratives of conflict in the classroom and most felt it was essential and beneficial to do so. Many respondents felt worried and uncertain about the future, most struggled to imagine a future that encompassed the qualities of ‘positive peace’ including mutual cooperation and equity among individuals and even fewer could imagine the means to manifest such a reality. When asked to imagine the future, responses were conservative, pessimistic and fearful and few educators articulated their professional contributions to social change.