Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Integrity of the Guileless in Gaza

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Integrity of the Guileless in Gaza

Article excerpt

John Brewer reflects on the spiritual motivations of those moved to end conflict in the Middle East.

Bridges across an Impossible Divide: The Inner Lives of Arab and Jewish Peacemakers

By Marc Gopin

Oxford University Press, 240pp, Pounds 18.99

ISBN 9780199916986

Published 29 November 2012

In recent years two developments have occurred in social science, both of which are well exemplified in this book. The first is its re-enchantment or sacralisation, as notions of love, compassion, hope and forgiveness become part of the vocabulary of social science. The other I would call the second-wave cognitivist revolution in social science - the first wave being the rediscovery of meaning in the 1960s - which manifests in a focus on things such as vulnerability, suffering and reflexivity. These developments are not unrelated, for interest in the interiority of people's emotional life, including religious perspectives on these inner lives, is being extended and applied now to societies generally. Hard- nosed social scientists find this problematic. Even those with religious faith tend to keep personal belief separate from their professional practice as social scientists, and prefer mentions of love, compassion, healing and forgiveness to be reserved for the Sabbath.

These twin developments are particularly heightened in peace studies and conflict resolution research because the subject matter deals directly with emotional interiority. This is the case both with respect to people, through attention to their responses to mass atrocity, recovery from trauma, victimhood experiences and feelings of love and reconciliation toward former enemies, and by extension also to society, in topics such as healing between communities and nations, political forgiveness and the like. This trend is showing itself in an unusual shift - from understanding the structural dynamics of successful peacemaking toward the motivations, personalities and inner emotional and spiritual lives of peacemakers. Some well-known peace researchers, such as Jean Paul Lederach and David Little, exhibit this turn.

Marc Gopin is among them. He has a lifetime of service to peacebuilding in the Middle East and is well known for his pioneering writings on the potential of religion as a resource in peacemaking. …

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