Evaluating Peace Education in the Oslo-Intifada Generation: A Long-Term Impact Study of Seeds of Peace 1993-2010
Degree awarded: Ph.D. School of International Service. American University
Since 1993, several thousand Israeli and Palestinian youth have participated in 12 summer "coexistence" programs in North America. The programs espouse a common theory of change: that an experience of dialogue in an idyllic American setting will inspire youth to return to the Middle East as aspiring peacemakers. This dissertation provides the first large-scale, long-term empirical assessment of that theory, by tracking the peacebuilding activity of all 824 Israeli and Palestinian graduates of SOP's first decade of operation (1993-2003), and complementing this with qualitative research on more than 100 adult graduates (ages 21-30). The longitudinal framework assesses fluctuations in activity over time, highlighting the influence of changing personal, organizational, and political contexts. Key findings include that more than half of alumni engaged in peacebuilding during high school; that compulsory Israeli military service discouraged activity among both Israeli and Palestinian graduates; that nearly one-fifth of alumni engaged in peacebuilding as adults; and that extensive follow-up programming was essential for sustaining long-term commitments to peacebuilding. The study concludes that the international intervention structure embeds an effective educational model in a problematic organizational model. While providing an unprecedented evaluation of a popular peace education approach, this study tells the stories of a pivotal generation: Palestinians and Israelis who entered adolescence at the hopeful dawn of the Oslo peace process, to emerge as adults in an era of intifada and "separation."
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