History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Thinking Historically & Speech-Intensive ge course

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History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Thinking Historically & Speech-Intensive GE course
Dr. Heather Keaney Office Hours: Monday 1:00-3:30

hkeaney@westmont.edu Wednesday 2:00-4:30

Deane Hall 214 Ext. 7148 or by appointment

This is a course on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We shall cover together the beginnings of the conflict in the competing nationalist movements of the 19th century through to the current stalemate. In addition to this overview students will experience the core and enduring tensions in the conflict through an extended role play set during the “The Great Revolt” of 1936 and subsequent British royal commission. The purpose of this is to have students live in the tensions. It is an opportunity to explore the meeting place between forces seemingly beyond one’s control and personal choices – a cornerstone of historical enquiry – as well as opportunity to consider in depth how much and how little the causes of the conflict have evolved over time. Finally, it provides opportunity to develop skills in persuasive and extemporaneous public speaking.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is a topic that can easily raise tensions and voices and often people are not even conscious of why they respond as they do. We all have an opinion about the conflict, some may hold theirs more passionately or purposefully than others, but we all have one just the same. This makes things tricky. Without belittling the suffering experienced by others, we must aspire to listen carefully and openly. Our goal is understanding not neutrality. But for most of us it is not our struggle so let’s be wary of a cheap self-righteousness or a smug sense of superior insight. We all see through a glass dimly. We acknowledge our partial and limited understanding while striving to understand more clearly and deeply. It is natural and commendable to have a point of view on the conflict. I merely ask that it be a point of view that has passed through a mind and through a heart. Any idiot can have an opinion, we want to have informed and well supported opinions. It is ok to have a particular point of view at the end of this class, whether it be the same or different than the one you came in with. But each of you should understand more why you hold the position you do, be able to explain your position to others, and be able to explain with respect why someone would hold a different view. You will have many more questions at the end of this course than you do now. But they will be higher order questions.

Students will be able to

  1. Read primary sources historically –

  • through the role play game students will use primary sources from the time to support their own character’s position and critique the positions of others

  • The main text for the course includes relevant primary sources at the end of each chapter. Students will compare the author’s interpretation with the primary sources and be able to discuss the historical context that produced the documents as well as how documents have produced the ongoing context of the conflict

  1. Appreciate the contextuality of historical narrative and interpretation –

  • In the role play game students must consider the point of view of their own character as well as that of others in the game and be able to appeal to that in persuading allies and discrediting opponents.

  • The competing narratives of the conflict based on differing selection and interpretation of key historical moments will be a recurring theme through the course

3. Articulate with less naiveté how the past is relevant for the present –

by engaging with what has endured and changed in the conflict – in terms of metanarrative, diplomatic sticking points, and forms of resistance and coercion -- students will be able to place the current state of the conflict within its broader historical context.

  1. Make persuasive oral presentations

As a part of the role play game students will have to make three set speeches:

  • introducing their character

  • Presenting in a persuasive form their position in the conflict at the beginning of the game

  • Final persuasive argument before the Peel Commission Representative towards the end of the game

  • In addition occasions will arise during the game when students will need to spontaneously make an appeal or challenge another ‘player’ in the game and thus must be prepared to give an extemporaneous speech.


Students will be evaluated on the content and form of their presentations.

In terms of content: They need to a) use sources responsibly and effectively to convince and persuade and b) use historically appropriate language and references and ways of thinking, avoiding anachronisms and presentism

In terms of form: students need to follow basic conventions of good public speaking such as: keeping to time, making eye contact, speaking directly to an audience rather than reading an essay, easy to follow structure that clearly states at the beginning and end the major assertions of the presentation, use of logic and emotion to persuade others.


  • Recognize the complexity of the issues and their human cost

  • Develop greater appreciation for the interaction of choices and circumstances

  • If entering the class more sympathetic towards one party in the conflict, to leave the class with greater empathy for the other side.


Reading Response Papers (RRPs) – 10%

Presentations – 15%

Game Papers – 20%

Elias Chacour, Blood Brothers Response Paper – 10%

Comparative film review - 10%

Participation – 15%

Final exam – 20%


Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A history with documents, 7th

Elias Chacour, Blood Brothers

Natasha Gill and Neil Caplan, “The Struggle for Palestine 1936”

Supplemental primary and secondary source readings
Side note on integrity and plagiarism…

Plagiarism is claiming another’s work, ideas, or structure as your own. To avoid this you must cite (including page #) where you have acquired all of the above that is not genuinely your own. Putting everything in quotes is not a solution, but mere intellectual laziness. You can and should use the ideas of other people, but you need to acknowledge such usage in a footnote and ideally summarize the idea or information in your own words (rather than quote it) to indicate that you truly understand the point being made. Plagiarism is stealing intellectual property and is taken very seriously by the academy, this institution, and your professor. To avoid plagiarizing you should familiarize yourself with the Westmont policy statement on the issue http://www.westmont.edu/_offices/provost/plagiarism/plagiarism_policy.html.

To prevent plagiarizing, essays must be submitted to turnitin.com. (Information will be provided later on how to do this.)

Personal concerns such as stress, anxiety, relationship difficulties, depression, cross-cultural differences, lack of sleep, etc., can interfere with your ability to succeed and thrive in college. For helpful resources contact the counseling center or a member of the student life team (such as your RA or RD).

Academic Accommodations

Students who have been diagnosed with a disability (learning, physical/medical, or psychological) are strongly encouraged to contact the Disability Services office as early as possible to discuss appropriate accommodations for this course. Formal accommodations will only be granted for students whose disabilities have been verified by the Disability Services office. These accommodations may be necessary to ensure your full participation and the successful completion of this course. For more information, contact Sheri Noble, Director of Disability Services (565-6186, snoble@westmont.edu) or visit the website http://www.westmont.edu/_offices/disability

Writers’ Corner, the campus writing center, is an academic support service that is free for all students. Peer tutors are available for one-on-one tutorials in Voskuyl Library 215. Open hours are from 4-11 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and from 6-11 p.m. on Sunday. Drop-ins are welcome (first come, first served).  For more information on our policies and services, please visit the writing center website: http://www.westmont.edu/_academics/departments/english/writers-corner.html. 

August 28 -- Introductions

August 30 – Pre-modern Palestine

  • Smith 1-25

  • Doc 1.1, 1.2


Sept 4 -- Competing Nationalisms

  • Smith 26-40

  • Doc 1.3, 1.4, 1.5

  • Gelvin, “Nationalism”

Sept 6 – World War I

  • Smith 53-85

  • Doc 2.1, 2.2, 2.3


Sept 11 – The Mandate & Introduction to “the struggle for Palestine”

  • Smith 106-134

  • Doc 2.4, 2.5, 2.6


meet your factions

Sept 18 session 1 -- faction meetings

Sept 20 session 2 – oral presentations to journalists

Sept 25 session 3 – oral testimonies to British royal commission

Sept 27 session 4 – oral testimonies to British royal commission

Oct 2 session 5 – journalists present

Oct 4 FHC

Oct 9 Fall Holiday

Oct 11 session 6 – Peel Report Presentation

Oct 16 session 7 – Response to Peel Report Presentations

Oct 18 Session 8 – Final Peel Report

Oct 23 Post-Mortem

Oct 25 WWII and the State of Israel

Smith, chpt 4 & docs


Oct 30 Stalemate

Smith, chpt 5 & docs
Nov 1 Suez to 6 Day War

Smith, chpt 6 & docs


Nov 6 War & Peace

Smith, chpt 7 & docs
Nov 8 Camp David

Smith, chpt 8 & docs


Nov 13 Intifada

Smith, chpt 9 & docs
Nov 15 Oslo

Smith chpt 10 & docs


Nov 20 Narrating the Conflict

Film Review

Nov 27 Buffer Day

Nov 29 Christian Responses to the Conflict

Elias Chacour, Christians and Christian Zionism


Dec 4 2 steps forward, 3 steps back

Smith, chpt 11 & docs
Dec 6 Where from here?


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