Jews and Arabs in Israel Encountering Their Identities

Transformations in Dialogue


Maya Kahanoff

Publisher Van Leer Institute Press and Lexington Books
Language English
Year of Publication 2016

Controlled and intentional intergroup encounters have been a feature of Arab-Jewish relations in Israel for more than four decades. They have a long and well-documented track record and an almost equally-long literature critical of their goals, intentions, and success. The book describes the multidimensional process of intergroup dialogue between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, revealing the profound inner turmoil it creates beneath the surface and its powerful potential to transform mutually negating relations. Kahanoff takes us beyond the usual level of the intergroup encounter to examine the dynamics that take place between and within each group and then, most boldly, within the consciousness of individual participants. She argues for the unsettling and dangerous nature of dialogue as crafting a space where individuals encounter not only the image or narrative of the other but also the image or narrative of the self. The author argues that dialogue contains the potential to destabilize a person's sense of identity and that the seeming failure of overt dialogue may signal the beginning of a process of inner dialogue and transformation.

By uncovering the reality of the wide spectrum of feelings associated with multiple identities in each Arab and Jewish dialoguer, Kahanoff manages to break away from the simplistic and classic dichotomies of victim/oppressor; weak/strong; bad/good; moral/immoral. This book offers powerful insights in the professional and personal development of a peacemaker who dares to question the emotions associated with the power dynamics of Arab-Jewish encounters. In addition, it offers useful analytical frameworks to make sense of the complexity of meeting and handling the ‘other’ inside each of us.

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