Edited jointly by Israelis and Palestinians, Bridging the Divide asks why nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have had so little success in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The authors provide a brief account of Israeli and Palestinian peacemaking activities since the days of British rule, an overview of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, and a description of other efforts to bring about peace. Roughly a quarter of the book is a directory of organizations working for conflict prevention and peace building.
The book's activist authors assume that NGOs, often funded from outside of Israel, can influence the political gridlock, allegedly brought about by elites and governmental "top down" approaches to peace. Instead, NGOs can contribute to a "cognitive shift" in civil society, which can lead to political initiatives. The authors amass ways to do this ranging from "Track Two diplomacy" (unauthorized diplomacy between officials) to exhortations to Palestinians and Israelis attempting to work together to be "positive" and "honest." "The challenge," the authors declare, "is not only to explain the plight of one's side but also to present peace as a win/win situation for both sides."
While some essays critically assess previous peace initiatives, others fall into windy self-righteousness. Too often the book's good intentions are compromised by ritualized language (usually from the Palestinian side) directed not at "bridging the divide" but confirming to readers the author's political allegiance. If these well-intentioned activists cannot find a common language in a jointly written book, it remains unclear how secret financing by foreign governments (with obscure agendas) will bring them any closer to their goal.