I have been co-teaching a course on The Politics of Israel and Palestine at Dartmouth College for the past two years, along with Ezzedine Fishere, a former Egyptian diplomat. Our class work centered on an exploratory, civil dialogue lasting eighteen sessions, which led to a series of public forums at the college following the events of October 7, 2021. These forums drew in several hundred students and faculty in person, and about two thousand more online. The success of these forums in alleviating polarization issues at Ivy League campuses attracted national media attention. Spending half of the year in Israel, the recent return to a country at war has led to more reflection on the university’s peace process and its role in handling difficult subjects.
Ezzedine and I began teaching separate versions of the course before eventually teaming up. The decision stemmed from concerns over a statement of solidarity for Gazans released by faculty members involved in the Consortium of Studies in Race, Migration, and Sexuality (R.M.S). The statement seemed hypothetical and infused with viscous rhetoric, raising fears of potential polarization. Ezzedine was particularly concerned, given his close work with Jewish and Arab studies program heads to align and cross-list courses in a collaborative effort. With support from the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, we decided to combine our respective classes into a joint teaching effort, which proved to be a relief for both of us.
Ezzedine spoke of sharing criticism related to our own communities, encouraging students to adopt a more critical view of their community. For me, the joint teaching work also offered the chance to teach Zionist origins to students who might otherwise not have been reached, presenting a viewpoint that Arab-studies scholars might not have due to the Hebrew language barrier.
Furthermore, it allowed Ezzedine and me to complement and challenge each other’s teachings based on our expertise. For example, I could present the displacement of Palestinian farmers as an inevitable price for modernization, while Ezzedine could provide nuances and affections in presenting the evolution of Palestinian national consciousness with his knowledge of Arabic.