On Tuesday, Oct. 26, Assistant Professor of Political Science Fevzi Bilgin held an in-class simulation of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Professor Bilgin’s class, titled “Politics of the Middle East” had students role-play different ordinary citizens of Israel and Palestine. Some examples were Israeli professors, impoverished civilians, and religious figures. While role-playing, the students were given a set of beliefs and ideals to hold as close to as possible.
Sophomore Jonathan Weber said, “I was excited. So many times in the classroom you just talk about [the issues]…it added a personal side.”
Students discussed issues of bombings, refugee rights, co-existence of the two states, and the future of Jerusalem. The simulation highlighted the emotional difficulties of the Palestinian and Israeli citizens.
Senior Amir Reda said “It took a completely different view from what I held…I found myself agreeing to some of the principles [Palestinians] held.”
A common solution discussed in the simulation was fusing Palestine into Israel-proper to create one state. However, the simulation highlighted that ideologies held by some Israelis and Palestinians made compromise difficult. Reda said “both sides feel they have a claim to this land.”
While most of the students role-played different citizens, four students acted as official peace negotiators and created a settlement to present to all.
On the issues of Jerusalem, territory boundaries of Palestine and Israel, settlement by Israelites, autonomy of Palestine, and the right of Palestinian refugees, neither the simulated Israelis nor simulated Palestinians collectively approved any of these measures offered by the official peace negotiators.
Weber and Reda both said “there is no easy answer” when trying to create solutions for the conflict.
Bilgin thought the simulation “went well” and that “students were well-prepared.” He said students “learn about the conflict…that’s the number one issue… [and] they learn how complicated the issue really is.”
Bilgin said one of the lessons of the simulation is to teach the value of conversation and deliberation. He said the simulated voting highlighted “the inner-conflict on the Israelis’ side” between more extreme and more moderate Israelis.
Although Bilgin characterized the peace settlement proposed by the group of four as “pretty reasonable,” he said it wasn’t unreasonable in the simulation or the actual situation that the solutions were not supported by both groups.