Dialogue survives despite conflict

October 27, 2000

Israeli academics believe their personal contacts with Palestinian colleagues will continue despite the violent confrontations in Israel and the West Bank.

Paul Schamm, project coordinator at Hebrew University's Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, which oversees 195 academic projects, is cautiously optimistic.

"I hope that a lot of our relationships with academics, which have been built up over the years, will continue. The personal aspect is immensely important. Palestinians understand that we are committed to similar goals. The political situation is the backdrop against which our work takes place," he said.

Palestinian students from universities on the West Bank and in Gaza have been prominent in the demonstrations in the latest crisis. It is likely that they are among the casualties, although there is no official confirmation.

All Palestinian universities are effectively closed as a result of the "sealing off" of the occupied territories and withdrawal of the few remaining travel permits.

Walid Salem, director of the Jerusalem branch of Panorama, the Palestinian Centre for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, a non-governmental organisation that cooperates with the Truman Institute, said: "Israel will not find other neighbours and the Palestinians will not find other neighbours. It is our fate to have to cooperate."

But Mr Salem is in the minority. He favours normalisation with Israel on all levels, even in this crisis. "This kind of situation makes Palestinian-Israeli shared work very difficult," he said. "The reality is that with Palestinians under closure you can't move from Ramallah to Nablus, so how can you get Palestinians to Notre Dame (in East Jerusalem)?I If the clashes continue, Israeli-Palestinian mutual research and all initiatives will be harmed."

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