To read the original letter, click here.

In response to “Peace activists are sick of talking about soccer,” April 25

The article presents a creative but misleading interpretation of coexistence events between Israelis and Palestinians. Such well-intentioned activities have been taking place for decades, funded generously by government and foundation officials who believe that they are contributing to mutual understanding, and movement toward peace. However, after examining the evidence in detail, my research shows that most such programs here and in other areas of intense identity conflicts around the world have very little impact, often because participants on one or both sides use such events as another front in the ongoing conflict.

The Bereaved Families Forum, ‏(also known as the Parents Circle-Families Forum‏), a group cited in the article, is another example of the contrast between hope and reality. This group’s events consistently reflect the Palestinian victimization narrative, and the Israeli participants provoke angry reactions from bereaved families who do not share this ideology. The Palestinians involved in these activities are aware of this division, and seek to expand their gains in the political conflict, as shown in their statements quoted in this article. To have positive and lasting impacts, people-to-people interactions require entirely different frameworks.

Prof. Gerald Steinberg
Bar Ilan University & President, NGO Monitor