In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine
Author(s): Gershon Baskin
Gershon Baskin's memoir of thirty-eight years of intensive pursuit of peace begins with a childhood on Long Island and a bar mitzvah trip to Israel with his family. Baskin joined Young Judaea back in the States, then later lived on a kibbutz in Israel, where he announced to his parents that he had decided to make aliya, emigrate to Israel. They persuaded him to return to study at NYU, after which he finally emigrated under the auspices of Interns for Peace. In Israel he spent a pivotal two years living with Arabs in the village of Kufr Qara.
Despite the atmosphere of fear, Baskin found he could talk with both Jews and Palestinians, and that very few others were engaged in efforts at mutual understanding. At his initiative, the Ministry of Education and the office of right-wing prime minister Menachem Begin created the Institute for Education for Jewish-Arab Coexistence with Baskin himself as director. Eight years later he founded and codirected the only joint Israeli-Palestinian public policy think-and-do tank in the world, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. For decades he continued to cross borders, often with a kaffiyeh (Arab headdress) on his dashboard to protect his car in Palestinian neighborhoods. Airport passport control became Kafkaesque as Israeli agents routinely identified him as a security threat.
During the many cycles of peace negotiations, Baskin has served both as an outside agitator for peace and as an advisor on the inside of secret talks—for example, during the prime ministership of Yitzhak Rabin and during the initiative led by Secretary of State John Kerry. Baskin ends the book with his own proposal, which includes establishing a peace education program and cabinet-level Ministries of Peace in both countries, in order to foster a culture of peace.
Biography of Author(s)Gershon Baskin is the founder and current cochairman of Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiatives (IPCRI, formerly Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information). He is a political and social entrepreneur focusing on renewable energy projects in the Middle East. He holds a PhD in international affairs from the University of Greenwich.
"Many are those who have tried to mediate between Israelis and Palestinians in their over 150-year-old conflict. Considerably fewer are those who can point to concrete achievements, in addition to being considered honest and fair by all sides. Gershon Baskin, a long-time Israeli peace activist, is one of those precious few, having successfully mediated the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in 2011 in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. . . . Baskin approaches the conflict and its two sides in a very humane way, showing great respect for the sensitivities of both societies. In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine projects hope on every page, but it is not a naive hope. . . . It is also one of those books on the conflict that both the engaged public, including young students, and specialists can read and find interesting."
--H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences
"Gershon Baskin is among Israel's most intrepid pursuers of peace. His book is not only a fascinating journey across the Jewish-Palestinian divide, it also provides that rarest commodity in these dark times: hope."
--Peter Beinart, author, The Crisis of Zionism
"Gershon Baskin, whom I have known for many years, is one of the outstanding originators of peace initiatives in our era. This is based on a deep belief in the qualities of human affinity, human dignity, and selflessness. He is a pluralist and recognizes that social behavior is essential to building peace through participation from the bottom up. Gershon promotes the art of conversation and listening, which in my mind is a major contribution to waging peace."
--His Royal Highness Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan
"I cross borders. I travel and meet people throughout Israel and throughout Palestine. With the exception of Gaza, which has been off-limits to Israelis since June 2007, I visit cities, towns, villages, and refugee camps throughout Palestine on a regular basis. Yes, I break the law in doing so. I am not afraid. I go and I listen and I talk, challenge, learn, and teach. I hear the same things from both sides: we want peace, but we have no partner on the other side."
--from Chapter One of In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine