The Middle East Seminar celebrates Professor Herbert Kelman

On March 28, 2013 Professor Herbert Kelman, co-chair of the CMES/WCFIA Middle East Seminar, gave a lecture for the seminar titled “Is a Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Still Possible? The Perspective of a Strategic Optimist.” The seminar also coincided with Professor Kelman’s birthday, an occasion celebrated by co-chairs Lenore Martin and Sara Roy, and the seminar participants, with surprise kosher for Passover angel food cakes and candles. Seminar co-chair Lenore Martin introduced Professor Kelman; the text of that introduction follows. Visit our Facebook page for more photos.


Herbert C. Kelman speaks to the Middle East Seminar on March 28, 2013. Seminar co-chair Lenore Martin introduced Professor Kelman.
It is an honor to introduce Professor Herbert Kelman, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, Emeritus, dear friend and colleague and one of the most respected figures in the fields of Social Psychology and Conflict Resolution. In fact, he was a pioneer in both fields. Using the interactive problem solving system which he developed to work towards the resolution of international and intercommunal conflict, Professor Kelman has devoted more than forty years to help solve the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. He has brought together Palestinians and Israelis who are influential in their society and with the government but are not members of the government itself.  He did this when both Israelis and Palestinians did not recognize the “other,” and when it was considered subversive to meet each other by both sides. A number of the participants of the dozens of workshops he organized and led are today in important official positions trying to actualize the movement towards peace.  Professor Kelman is truly a scholar practitioner with students who emulate his work in many parts of the world.

It is a tradition in this seminar to share with you the awards that our speakers have received. In this case, I will choose only a few since we do want to leave some time for Professor Kelman to speak! He has received four University honorary degrees as well as the Socio-Psychological Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1956), the Kurt Lewin Memorial Award (1973), the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order (1997), the American Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest (1981), the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award from the American Psychological Society in recognition of distinguished achievements in psychological science (2000), the Ben-Gurion Medal, “with gratitude for your work towards peace,” Ben-Gurion Univ. of the Negev (2001), the Post 50th Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award, Brooklyn College (2002), the Morton Deutsch Conflict Resolution Award, Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence (2006), the Socrates Prize for Mediation from the Center for Mediation in Germany (2009), the Cranbrook Global Peacemaker Award, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Wayne State University (2011), and the Gold Medal of Honor of the Federal Capital of Vienna (2012).

At my last count he had received twenty-nine awards for his groundbreaking work in psychology and peace and conflict resolution. He serves or has served on, or been a consultant for, twenty-three editorial boards.

Professor Kelman received a B.A. from Brooklyn College and his Ph.D. from Yale. He was one of the founders of the peace research movement in the 1950s and of the first journal in that field, Journal of Conflict Resolution. His book International Behavior: A Social-Psychological Analysis (editor and co-author, 1965) is generally regarded as the definitive text on the social psychology of international relations. His major publications include A Time to Speak: On Human Values and Social Research (1968), and Crimes of Obedience: Toward a Social Psychology of Authority and Responsibility (with V. Lee Hamilton, 1989).

He has written over three hundred articles. His most recent “Social Psychology and the Study of Peace, Personal Reflections,” was published in 2012 in the Oxford Handbook of Intergroup Conflict. He has two more pieces awaiting publication.

Professor Kelman has co-chaired the Middle East Seminar since 1976, one year after it began, and became its chair in 1977. In 1996 he decided to share the fun with Dr. Sara Roy and me. I think it is very fair to say that he has influenced in a very positive way every institution, group, and academic field in which he has been a part.  For those of us who are his friends and colleagues and have the privilege of sitting in a seminar with him we benefit from his knowledge, creativity, and insights. He has taught us all mutual respect and tolerance. We bask in his considerateness, and enjoy his wit and humor.

Today, Professor Kelman will discuss the topic: “Is a Two State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Still Possible? The Perspective of a Strategic Optimist.”  His optimism has clearly rubbed off on the White House and the State Department. I just hope they are listening so they will learn how to do it right!