Mapping Sources of Mutual Distrust in Palestinian and Israeli Societies and Politics: role of education, daily life experiences, and exposure to violence

by: Dr. Roby NathansonHenry FishmanProf. Daniel Bar TalDr. Ephraim LaviePhd, Tsafrir GoldbergPorat Peretz
Palestinians and Israelis distrust and fear each other. Evidence from joint Palestinian-Israeli survey research indicates that distrust and fear are detrimental to peace-making. It is suspected that school education, daily life experiences-- including economic costs related to the continuation of the status quo-- and exposure to mutual violence are critical sources that contribute to the very high levels of distrust and fear.

Mapping Sources of Mutual Distrust in Palestinian and Israeli Societies and Politics: role of education, daily life experiences, and exposure to violence

The overall objective of this research is to map out, identify, and explain how and why each of these sources impedes the efforts toward a successful peace process and what must be done, by both sides, to weaken their impact or neutralize them. 

Specifically, we seek to:

(1) Identify and map out the most important socio-political and economic elements that feed existing distrust, thereby contributing to widespread misperception, unwillingness to compromise, and thus stagnation in the peace process;

(2) Empirically demonstrate a direct or indirect relationship between these sources and the high levels of mutual distrust and fear.

(3) Produce evidence-based policy recommendations that can potentially reduce mutual distrust/fear.


Six research activities were carried out in our research:

(1) Review selections of textbook material to be used in classroom experiments, the organization of at least a dozen classroom experiments on each side,  involving selected material and students, and the organization of at least a dozen focus groups with teachers and students in various school types, religious, governmental, private, etc.

(2) two major surveys on each side among representative samples, with added samples for youth, to measure overall public and youth exposure to violence, hardships, as well as personal tragedies and examine the ramifications of the findings with focus groups, particularly with the youth.

(3) specially designed survey research experiments and case studies in which respondents under different levels of stress and hardship are observed, interviewed, and compared with similar respondents who were generally not exposed to suffering and hardships;

(4) evaluate experiences and review lessons learned from other conflict areas, particularly in Europe through background research, meetings, and workshops with experts and historians; 

(5) preparepublish and disseminate reports and findings of research and recommendations to the public and various beneficiaries, including the publication of proposed textbook material that can be used by both sides to supplement existing textbooks.

(6) workshops and briefings for various local and international policy-making bodies, particularly among the final beneficiaries.

The following material represents the publications of our joint research.

1) Joint Palestinian-Israeli public opinion polls on trust

 2) Sustainable Peace Education: Report on lessons learned from Europe and elsewhere

This report studies the practice of peace education. It offers an introduction to the way peace education has developed over time and how it is addressed academically. It draws from concrete examples mainly in Europe, while considering lessons from successful experiences for Israel/Palestine.


3) Case Studies

 Impact of Daily Life Hardships on Mutual Trust and Support for Palestinian-Israeli Peace Process: Families and Individuals Affected by Terrorist Attacks.

 Impact of Daily Life Hardships on Mutual Trust and Support for Palestinian-Israeli Peace Process: Israeli Residents Attacked by Rockets and Incendiary Balloons from the Gaza Strip.

 Impact of Daily Life Hardships on Mutual Trust and Support for Palestinian-Israeli Peace Process: Veterans that Served in the West Bank.


4) Textbook Passages for Sustainable Peace Education:

   "Perspectives in history: Understanding Different Views"- The Partition Plan and 1948   

Palestinians and Israelis use their different historical narratives to prove their rights or the basis of their presence in this country. Each party claims that it has proven the truth concerning its connection to this land. At the same time, this raises controversy and clashes between successive generations on both sides. This text's objective is to provide a wider perspective and to provide Jewish and Arab students with an alternative viewpoint. 

   "Willing and Able: How to Think of Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians?"   

The peace process faced many obstacles on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Although most Israelis support a two-state solution, roughly one-third believe such a solution is achievable in the foreseeable future. This text's goal is to alleviate skepticism regarding the peace process and to show through logical and deductive arguments that peace is desired and achievable.  


  "Islam and Judaism- Sister Religions?" 

Muhammad, the founder of the religion of Islam, met Jews during his travels in the Arabian Peninsula. At first, he even tried to convert them to the new religion. It is possible that as a result a considerable number of similarities can be identified between Judaism and Islam. Some see Islam and Judaism as sister religions, united around a co-founding father; Abraham, and around a similar conception of Mitzvah and Halakhah. This text's goal is to demonstrate religious similarities between Jews and Muslims.


[This research is part of a joint Palestinian-Israeli Project on “Mapping Sources of Mutual Distrust in Palestinian-Israeli Relations” funded by the European union. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the European union.]