The Compassionate Listening Project: A case study in citizen diplomacy and peacemaking

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Sari Knopp Biklen


Compassionate Listening Project, Citizen diplomacy, Peacemaking, Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Subject Categories

Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


This dissertation is a qualitative study investigating how a North American based citizen diplomacy effort--the Compassionate Listening Project--is working to promote peace and reconciliation between Arabs and Jews in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. This study is placed in the context of examining citizens' emerging role as peacebuilders in divided societies. Using participant observations and in-depth interviews, this study looks at how citizens involved with this project construct and reconstruct the meaning of conflict, peace and peacebuilding through their words, behaviors and interactions. This approach allows for an exploration of the full dynamics of the project, taking into account social, political and historical dimensions. Examining the project from multiple standpoints, this research further reveals the resonance, convergencies, dissonance and disjunctures in individual and organizational beliefs and goals with regards to peacebuilding strategies and goals. These findings further illuminate how ordinary citizens grapple with the complex matters that arise in ethnic and identity-based conflict. In particular, they reveal the ways that citizens aim at pursuing social justice agendas (which often aggravate social tensions) and agendas of reconciliation (which seek to heal those same tensions) at the same time. Illuminated through this project's experiences are valuable clues about how citizens are attempting to negotiate what John Paul Lederach has described as the tension between revolutionary and resolutionary approaches to peacebuilding. This work contributes to the literature of peacebuilding and Palestinian-Israeli peace and conflict resolution. In particular, it contributes to the neglected area of Americans involvement in citizen based peace processes.


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