For the first time on an American university campus, Israeli, Egyptian, and Palestinian professors have been co-teaching a course about the Arab-Israeli conflict, offering students contrasting perspectives on the Middle East—all at once.
The Brandeis course, "Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East," focuses on key documents and developments in the area, and it places special emphasis on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the different narratives adopted by the parties on the conflict, according to the school's bulletin, which posted information about the new course this past summer.
"What you get in this course is a sense of the competing narratives and different perspectives that each of the important parties has about the course of events in the Middle East in the past half-century," Professor Shai Feldman, the director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis, told Brandeis News.
During the first half of the semester, Feldman taught the weekly seminar-style course with visiting professor Dr. Abdel Monem Said Aly, director of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, focusing on the regional dimension of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This coming Friday, Feldman will begin teaching the second half of the course with visiting professor Dr. Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, to focus on the Palestinian-Israeli components of the war.
Each lecturer takes his turn addressing to the class while the other listens on the sidelines, interrupting if he objects to the way an issue was presented or has a different perspective to add. In this way, the class gives students a rare opportunity to compare varied backgrounds and experiences on the topic, Feldman told The Jewish Advocate, an opportunity he is not aware of at any other university in the United States.