Dov Waxman, the new director of the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA, didn’t start out to study Israel. As an undergraduate at Oxford University, he studied philosophy, politics and economics.
His interest in studying Israel was first sparked when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli Jewish extremist who opposed the Oslo Accords, which Rabin had signed with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
“Other than feeling absolute shock at the fact that Rabin’s assassin was an Israeli Jew,” Waxman said, “I was struck by the realization that what I had naively assumed was an inevitable journey towards a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians was not inevitable, and that there were real opponents of peace within the Israeli Jewish population.
“In retrospect,” he adds, “it was the beginning of the end of the Oslo peace process and the closing of a particular historical window of opportunity for peace.”
Since joining UCLA in early January as professor and holder of the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair in Israel Studies, Waxman has given two public talks and participated in a Burkle Center panel discussion on U.S.-Iranian relations.
At all of those venues, he has spoken of his vision for the center he directs. “Not only should the Nazarian Center for Israel Studies be a world-class center of excellence for scholarship on Israel, but also one known for its ability to bring different sides together,” Waxman said. “A center that fosters discussions that people are often wary of having.”
“We need to not shy away from addressing difficult, contentious issues, but we need to address them in a scholarly, not polemical, manner, and in conversations that are civil,” he insists. He also seeks to widen his center’s public outreach, with plans to convene events not only at UCLA, but at locations throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area.