The state of Palestine was divided in 1947 to establish the nation of Israel, resulting in two separate homelands for the Arab and Jewish people. This land division has polarized Arabs and Israelis for over 50 years, resulting in ongoing violent conflicts. In this lesson, students examine the root causes of the crisis and analyze past and present attempts at peace.
Before beginning the lesson, students should understand the history and current status of the Middle East conflict. You can have them read these backgrounders for homework or the beginning of class. NewsHour Extra.
If you would like students to read the most recent news, please use an update from the Online NewsHour.
1) Have students consider the typical causes of disputes, who is involved with them, what prolongs them and how they are resolved. Ask: What seem to be the key ingredients in resolving disputes? What has to occur between/among the involved parties in order for a dispute to end?
2) Explain that the ongoing conflict between Arabs and Israelis is based on a land dispute that began after the birth of Israel, the nation that evolved out of the division of Palestine in 1947. (Indicate on a map of Israel and the Palestinian territories the lands in dispute, noting boundaries prior to the land division.)
3) Review with students--or have students conduct research on--the history and current status of the Arab-Israeli crisis. Pose the following discussion questions or print out this worksheet:
When did the Arab-Israeli crisis begin?
What is at the core of the ongoing conflict between the Arabs and Israelis?
Which areas of land are in dispute? Based on your research, whom do you view as the rightful owners of the land in question? Explain.
What are the basic arguments each group has regarding resolving the conflict? What concessions does each side expect of the other?
Why have efforts to resolve the conflict and establish peace failed?
In your opinion, particularly based on recent acts of violence in the Middle East, do you feel the conflict can be resolved? Discuss.
4) Explain that during the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict, peace-making efforts have been undertaken, but have typically lasted a very short period of time or have not taken at all. Have the students research and identify some of the past agreements. Why have they failed?
6) Divide students into small groups. Have students review and discuss the pros and cons of the many different peace plans, taking into consideration Arab and Israeli perspectives. What do the plans all share? What are the main differences? Invite each group to report its points of view to the class.