Duke announces Provost’s Initiative on the Middle East to foster conversation on Israel-Hamas war

Provost Alec D. Gallimore announced the Provost's Initiative on the Middle East, which seeks to foster constructive conversations on campus about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, in a Monday email to the Duke community. 

The initiative will include speaker events, small group forums, workshops and engagement opportunities that “strive to model thoughtful and civil engagement, provide a forum for different perspectives on the conflict and enhance understanding based on expertise and evidence-based scholarship,” Gallimore wrote. 

Gallimore appointed Bruce W. Jentleson, William Preston Few distinguished professor of public policy and former State Department advisor on Middle East issues, to lead the initiative. 

“The Israel-Hamas war has surfaced key challenges for how universities learn about and engage with events in the Middle East, including questions about maintaining a safe learning environment while promoting free expression,” Jentleson wrote in a Tuesday statement to The Chronicle.

Gallimore notified faculty in a Nov. 6 email that his office was working to create new resources for students to learn about and engage with Middle East issues. The Provost’s Initiative grew out of ensuing discussions with faculty and students, Jentleson wrote. 

Jentleson will collaborate with Vice Provost Abbas Benmamoun and Associate Provost Noah Pickus. Their team will seek input from a faculty working group and various members of the campus community, including experts from academic programs specializing in the Middle East and representatives from the Center for Muslim Life and Jewish Life at Duke.

Faculty with expertise in the Middle East were invited to join the working group. Members will be listed on the initiative’s website once the group is finalized. 

Gallimore highlighted four upcoming events in his email. A Tuesday discussion called “Israel, Hamas, and the Day After” featured Daniel Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt. On Feb. 19, faculty at the Sanford School of Public Policy will discuss the dehumanizing effects of the war in Israel and Gaza. An Israeli and a Palestinian who both live in the West Bank will talk about their joint experiences in an event Feb. 20. On March 26, the Nicholas School of the Environment will host a discussion about climate change in the Middle East. 

Additional events are set to continue throughout the calendar year and will be listed on the initiative’s website.

“[The initiative] is a year-long effort that is based on Duke’s identity as an educational institution that thrives on deep engagement with the challenges of our time and the conviction that we all learn better when we learn together in an environment that is welcoming and respectful for all members of our community,” Jentleson wrote.

Mia Penner | Editor-At-Large

Mia Penner is a Trinity sophomore and an editor-at-large of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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