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Hijacked
Teacher's Guide: Suggestions for Active Learning

President Nixon meets with King Hussien of Jordan, 1969 Hijacked provides insights into American history topics including the U.S. role in the Middle East conflict, government responses to terrorist acts, Cold War geopolitical strategy, the history of terrorist tactics including the seizing of American aircraft and the taking of hostages, the role of the media in hostage negotiations, and more. You can use part or all of the film, or delve into the rich resources available on this Web site to learn more, either in a classroom or on your own.

The following activities are grouped into four categories: history, civics, geography, and economics. You can also read a few helpful hints for completing the activities.


History | Civics | Geography | Economics

  1. The hijackings' many possible outcomes.
    If any of the events that occurred between September 6 and September 28, 1970 had turned out differently, the fate of the hostages -- and maybe many other people as well -- might have been quite different. Consider what could have happened during those days by dividing the class into groups and assigning each group an equal part of the three-week period. Each group should examine the interactive map showing the chronology of the hijackings and think of how the events that took place during its assigned portion of the hijacking could have turned out differently.

    Then reassemble as a class and review the chronology of the hijackings as a whole, discussing the groups' "alternative scenarios" as the crisis progressed. Which of these scenarios does the class think are most believable? Which scenarios would have produced a better outcome than what actually happened? Which scenarios would have produced a worse outcome?

  2. Two peoples, two histories.
    Divide the class into teams of two or three students each and have each team imagine that they are one of the following: Palestinians who believe that Israel and countries such as the United States have oppressed the Palestinian people and prevented them from governing themselves, or Israelis who believe that violence and hostility from the Arab countries and the Palestinians has prevented Israel from living in peace. Each team should prepare a timeline of events that supports its beliefs, using selected events from the timeline of the Middle Eastern conflict.

    When groups are done, examine all of the "Palestinian" timelines together. What similarities and differences do you see? Then do the same with all of the "Israeli" timelines.

    Finally, compare the "Palestinian" and "Israeli" timelines to one another. Do the two sets of timelines generally include different events, or do they include the same events but interpret them in different ways? Working as a class, see if you can create a single timeline that both sides could agree on.


History | Civics | Geography | Economics

  1. Bargaining with terrorists?
    Should the United States have responded to the hijackings with military force rather than negotiation? Take the online poll on this question. Then investigate one of the following hostage situations faced by the U.S. government to find out how it responded: the 1968 capture of the U.S. Navy ship Pueblo by North Korea, the 1975 capture of the civilian U.S. ship Mayaguez by the Cambodian government, the 1979 seizing of the U.S. embassy in Iran, the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, and the seizing of American hostages in Lebanon by Iranian-backed militants during the 1980s. Compare your findings with the findings of classmates who investigated the other hostage situations. Then decide whether this information changes your vote on the poll.

  2. The impact of oil.
    One of the United States' main goals in responding to the hijackings was to make sure they did not upset the Cold War balance of power in the strategically important Middle East. One of the main reasons why the Middle East was -- and still is -- so strategically important is its oil.

    Working with a partner, think of a topic related to Middle Eastern oil and the United States to research. For example: When and how did Middle Eastern countries become major oil producers? How did the 1973 war between Israel and several Arab countries lead to an oil boycott against the United States? Which Middle Eastern countries have the most oil today, and which of them are the largest oil exporters? How dependent was the United States on Middle Eastern oil in 1970, and how dependent is it today? How has oil affected U.S. policy toward the Middle East in recent decades -- for example, what role did it play in the wars the United States has fought against Iraq? What steps is the president proposing to reduce the United States' dependence on Middle Eastern oil?

    Present your topic to your teacher for approval before beginning your research, and present the results of your research to the class in an oral report.


History | Civics | Geography | Economics

  1. The changing map of the Middle East.
    Test students' knowledge of Middle Eastern geography by handing out outline maps of the region and asking students to label the following areas: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Sinai Peninsula, Syria, Turkey, West Bank. Then point out each area on a wall map so students can check their answers.

    Next, to understand how the region's boundaries have changed over time, divide the class into four groups and assign each group one of the following events: the Sèvres Treaty of 1920, Great Britain's 1947 decision to give up control over Palestine, the Six Day War of 1967, and the Camp David Peace Accords of 1978. Each group should research its assigned event and prepare a map showing how that event affected the borders of the Middle East. After each group has presented its map to the class, display the maps in chronological order to show the evolution of today's Middle East.

    Finally, research as a class the developments in the search for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians since the Oslo Accord of 1993, when Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized one another. How might a future peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians affect the map of the Middle East?

  2. Small area, large tensions.
    Even after doubling its size by winning the Six Day War of 1967, Israel remained a very small country. To see how small, work as a class to prepare a wall-size map that superimposes Israel on your state or region, with Jerusalem superimposed on your community. Now, use this map to examine Israel's size in terms of distances in your area. For example, how wide is Israel at its narrowest point? How large are the West Bank and the Gaza Strip? How long would it take you to drive the equivalent of the full length or width of Israel? Put this information on the board.

    Now, consider how this information affects your understanding of the Middle East's conflicts. How might Israel's small size affect the country's military and foreign policies? How might Israel's small size complicate the challenge of finding a way for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace?


History | Civics | Geography | Economics

  1. Defining - and judging - terrorism.
    The questions of what terrorism is and how best to understand and defeat it are even more important today than in 1970. Begin to explore these questions by having each student write his or her definition of terrorism on a sheet of paper, without consulting any outside sources. Compare the definitions to each other. Then compare them to definitions from outside sources such as dictionaries, the U.S. government, and international organizations. See if the class can agree on a single, simple definition of terrorism.

    Next, examine the question of whether some forms of terrorism are more (or less) wrong than others. For example, the members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who carried out the 1970 hijackings believed that they had legitimate reasons for their actions, though that gave little comfort to the hostages whose lives they threatened. Were the hijackers' actions any different in moral terms than the actions committed by the September 11 terrorists? Why or why not? Write a 500-word essay presenting your view of this issue.

  2. Terrorism and the press.
    The P.F.L.P. hijackers, like many other terrorists, sought to use the news media to spread their message. Should the media have refused to attend the terrorists' press conference in the Jordanian desert? Answer that question from two of the following perspectives: a television executive, a relative of one of the hostages, a relative of one of the terrorists, the U.S. government, the Israeli government, the Jordanian government. Provide your answers in the form of telegrams to a television producer advising him or her on whether to cover the press conference.

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