Contacts continue despite mutual fury

July 13, 2001

Joint projects between Israeli and Palestinian academics are continuing despite the latest eruption of violence in the region.

"They are low-profile and on a one-to-one basis. However, meetings are extremely difficult," said Edy Kaufman, executive director of the Truman Institute, which is affiliated with the Hebrew University. About 20 projects are going on under the institute's auspices, Mr Kaufman said, despite official Palestinian attempts "to pressure organisations not to work with their Israeli counterparts".

Yet he could not minimise the "anger and bitterness on both sides. Each side feels betrayed."

Albert Aghazarian, director of the public relations department of Bir Zeit University on the Palestinian West Bank, described the atmosphere as disruptive and Israeli actions as totally arbitrary and "worse than apartheid". "It is the last dirty colonialist war in the world," he said.

But there are some signs of progress. Haifa University, the scene of earlier clashes between Jews and Arabs, had calmed down since the beginning of the intifada, according to Amatzia Bar-Am, director of the Jewish-Arab Centre.

A year ago, Arab students "flouted every rule - about how, when and where they were allowed to demonstrate", Professor Bar-Am said. His answer was to initiate a dinner for 60 Jewish and Arab students. "The most heart-warming sight was rightwing Jewish students sitting opposite secularist pan-Arab nationalists."

Demonstrations that took place a week after were disciplined and marked by a lack of hostility, Professor Bar-Am claimed.

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