Southern History Project


Side by Side

In 1998, Palestinian and Israeli researchers formed the Peace Research Institute on the Middle East, with support of Germany’s Peace Research Institute.  Their text, Side by Side, places Israeli and Palestinian narratives of history alongside one another and presents both the discrepancy in these narratives as well as the fierce emotional attachment we hold to the stories of our past.

It’s a bold step forward, and a shift towards a broader view of a conflict, to focus not on the consequences of war but on its ideological roots.  Perhaps the researchers were tired of an attempt to negotiate what seemed non-negotiable.  Perhaps they found, as we do in the South, that dueling narratives rarely sit side by side in their human forms because we have developed a geographic workaround:  we live in separate communities and attend separate schools.

Palestinian, educator Samia Shoman has developed a framework for teaching humanity and conflict: fact, perspective, narrative, and your truth.  In the immediate, the negotiation of historical narratives may not integrate our classrooms.  But this framework, and these distinctions alone, have power.  We do not have to lose our personal truth in the acceptance of a broader historical view.  We simply need to recognize that our people’s voices do not make up history, in entirety.  That there is no history in entirety.

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