November/December 2023Vol. XXXVI No. 2

Engaging Constructively with Israel/Palestine

Daniel Jackson, David Dolev

In response to: “Gaza: What Have We Learned from the bin Salman Scandal?”

Sally Haslanger, Jonathan A. King, Ceasar McDowell, Nasser Rabbat and Balakrishnan Rajagopal note that the war in the Middle East is forcing us to confront the “often-silenced dialogue around Israel and Palestine” and propose a “thorough audit of all MIT engagements with human rights abuses and the war machinery of both sides.”

Strangely, they assert that “the word peace does not appear in any program, unit, or other entity’s mission at MIT” and on this basis press for their preferred intervention.

And yet there are multiple “peace” projects at MIT. Considering only those programs focused on Israel and Palestine, there is Tech2Peace, a joint Israeli-Palestinian NGO that hosts two-week-long intensive seminars for young Palestinians and Israelis, whose founder was hosted by CIS as a visiting fellow and to which multiple MIT students have been sent as interns; a summer venture development program with workshops facilitated by MITdesignX and MIT Game Lab with Our Generation Speaks, an entrepreneurial community of leaders committed to shaping a peaceful Israeli-Palestinian future, and with whom our MISTI students work as interns over the summer at MIT and over IAP in Israel; and Digital Tent, a teen program for Bedouin students (a collaboration between MIT, Ben Gurion University, and Siraj, a non-profit dedicated to integrating members of the Bedouin community into Israel’s high-tech sector) to which MISTI sends MIT undergraduates as mentors.

Most notably, MEET (Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow), which was founded at MIT 17 years ago, brings Israeli and Palestinian teenagers together to learn programming and social entrepreneurship. MEET has over 700 alumni of its three-year program, and is one of MISTI’s most popular programs with over 150 MIT students having spent a summer in Jerusalem as instructors. Thirteen MEET alumni have been admitted to MIT as undergraduates. Since the start of the war in the Middle East, MISTI-MEET has received a surge of donations from faculty members looking to contribute positively in the face of so much understandable despair.

Haslanger, et. al note correctly that our students “look up to us for guidance” and that we must show by example how to navigate our complex world. These programs do exactly that. They offer a constructive and empathetic way to engage with the region, and a genuine opportunity to improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians without demonizing either side.