Peace in the eyes of Israeli and Palestinian youths: Effects of collective narratives and peace education program
The authors studied the extent to which the collective narrative of a group in conflict and participation in a peace education program affects youngsters’ perceptions of peace. Participants in the study were 565 Jewish Israeli and Palestinian adolescents, about half of whom participated in a year-long school-based program; the other half served as a control group. Pre- and post-program questionnaires measured youngsters’ free associations to the concept of peace, their explanations of it, and its perceived utility, and suggested strategies to attain it. Initially, Israeli students stressed the negative aspects of peace (absence of violence) and Palestinians stressed its structural aspects (independence, equality). Unlike the controls, both Israeli and Palestinian program participants came to stress more the positive aspects of peace (cooperation, harmony) following participation in the program. Also, whereas the controls came to increasingly suggest war as a means to attain peace, possibly as a function of the ongoing mutual hostilities (intifada), no such change took place among program participants. Palestinian controls also manifested greater hatred towards Jews, but no change took place among program participants. That is, peace education can serve as a barrier against the deterioration of perceptions and feelings. It became evident that individuals’ perceptions of peace are differentially colored by their group’s collective narratives and more immediate experiences of current events but are significantly altered by participation in a peace education program.