Rosemary Hollis has just completed Surviving the Story, a book on the role of group or national narratives in driving conflict – with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a case study. She reflects that, whereas in her 20s and 30s she was most fascinated by big ideas and strategic developments, over time she has come increasingly to the view that the explanations for war lie in human psychology.
Rosemary Hollis has travelled widely in the Middle East ever since a doctoral fellowship took her to Israel and Palestine during the first intifada in the late 1980s. Returning to work in London in 1989 she gained a position at the defence ‘think tank’ RUSI as head of their Middle East Programme. She was on a research trip to Jordan in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and thus began 18 years of work in the ‘think tank’ world researching the role of the UK, US and the EU in successive conflicts in the region. She became Head of the Middle East Programme at Chatham House in 1995, followed by three years as Director of Research there from 2005-08.
Undertaking many projects in partnership with colleagues from think tanks in the US, Europe, Iran, the UAE, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Syria and Egypt, she also participated in or facilitated a number of cross-conflict dialogue exercises, including between Israelis and Palestinians; Jordanians and Palestinians; Iranians and Americans; Libyans, Europeans and Americans. She made frequent trips to different parts of the Middle East every year from 1989 to 2008, when she left Chatham House to become Director of a scholarship programme for Israelis and Palestinians at London University. That meant ten years during which she concentrated on better understanding the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.