Game on! Can Sports Make a Difference in the Israel-Palestine Conflict?

von der Schulenburg, Jeffrey, Global Studies-Security & Justice, University of Virginia
Safdar, Muhammad Tayyab, AS-Global Studies (GLBS), University of Virginia

Israelis and Palestinians have been feuding for nearly 80 years, and neither warfare nor diplomacy has resulted in a resolution of the conflict. This paper explores whether sports can positively impact the enmity between the two peoples and contribute to peacebuilding. Specifically, through primary and secondary sources, I researched whether the attitudes of young Israeli and Arab athletes towards each other differ from those of their non-athlete peers, and whether international and grassroots sports diplomacy can have a meaningful impact on bringing about peace. I reviewed studies that have been conducted to determine the impact of the conflict on young people and the differences in attitude between those youths that participated in cultural exchange programs with the other side (including sports and education) and those that did not. I conducted interviews with seven Israeli and Arab athletes to find out what impact sports have had on their attitudes toward the other side and elicit their suggestions on how sports can be employed to contribute to peace. My conclusion is that while involvement in sports moderates hatred of the other side through increased understanding and empathy, sports cannot contribute significantly to a resolution of the conflict.

BA (Bachelor of Arts)
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