4.2. Examples of Practice: What are the chances of a lasting peace in the Middle East between Israel and the surrounding Arab states?

This resource presents some ideas about how to approach teaching the Arab-Israeli conflict. The materials themselves could be used in their entirety in the classroom, however they are probably best used to promote professional discussion about how to approach teaching controversial topics like this, drawing upon the ideas in the summary section. To facilitate this, there are questions to promote debate with each section. 

What are the chances of a lasting peace in the Middle East between Israel and the surrounding Arab states?


This sequence of lessons is based around a big enquiry question, which is broken up in smaller enquires. The lessons are designed to establish the currency of the topic, provide a deep context, explore pre/misconceptions and examine multiple perspectives. This will provide a deeper understanding of a complex situation that can arouse entrenched and antagonistic views. The sequence starts with an investigation into the recent situation and how a dispute between Israel and the Palestinians has wider repercussions. This is then placed into a broader historical context, after which existing preconceptions and stereotypes are examined before exploring how and why alternative perspectives can be held. These are then used to examine attempts at peace making and the difficulties that these encounter.

Learning Aims

Pupils will:

  • Make connections between past and present events;
  • Develop contextual knowledge that will provoke an historical context for the enquiry question;
  • Identify key issues that divide people in the region;
  • Identify their preconceptions;
  • Examine people/events from alternative perspectives and to provide an historical context to explain why alternative perspectives exist;
  • Construct a reasoned explanation that evaluates the prospects for peace, drawing upon their knowledge of the historical events and perspectives of those involved.

Discussion points

How clear is the rationale for this sequence of lessons, and how appropriate are the specified aims?

Are there are particular issues that you may face within your own teaching context that you would need to address within the rationale and/or aims?

Teaching and learning activities/resources  

Why does the Middle East matter now?

Present pupils with a range of images see PowerPoint attached below (these include a picture of Mike's Place in Tel Aviv, which was suicide bombed by two British Muslims in 2003, the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon which saw fighting between Lebanese soldiers and Fatah loyalists, a Palestinian girl eats in front of the destroyed buildings of the camp, the effect of an Israeli attack during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, the wall being built between Israeli and Palestinian settlements in the West Bank with graffiti by Banksy , and a cartoon showing the links between Hezbollah and Iran - see PowerPoint images 1-6)


Ask the pupils to discuss what they think connects these images. Gather their ideas and have a class discussion; where necessary the teacher provides additional context or explanation. Ask the pupils to identify any issues or questions that the images provoke, and if need be direct them towards the key areas of controversy. Spend some time ensuring pupils are aware of the different groups involved in the tensions in the region and their links to each other.

Rationale - this activity is designed to engage pupils partly through the puzzle of connecting the images, but also showing that the events that are depicted are contemporary and potentially affect people outside of the immediate Middle East, thereby adopting a ‘present to past' approach.


Discussion points

How much contextual knowledge would pupils need to make sense of this activity? Does it matter if pupils lack contextual knowledge at this point?

How successfully do you think this activity would a) engage pupils' interest b) establish the relevance of this topic c) generate appropriate questions from pupils? How might you possibly adapt this activity to achieve these?

Would you wish to use all these images, some or none? Why?

Do you feel this is the best way to introduce the topic? Why?


Have things always been this bad in the Middle East?

Using a living graph, create an overview of key events in the Middle East during the C20th (include the growth of Zionism, the Balfour Declaration, the Mandate, the White Paper of 1939, the Holocaust, The Deir Yassin massacre of 1948, the Partition, the war of 1948 and subsequent Armistice, the Law of Return, the Suez Crisis, the 6 Day War, the establishment of the PLO, the Yom Kippur War, the Camp David Accords, the assassination of Sadat, the Oslo Accords and the assassination of Rabin). Get pupils to organise events by time and the extent to which they represent instability in the region. Discuss with the class what incidents may indicate instability before embarking on the exercise. Using the living graph ask pupils to explain when they think the region was most unstable and why. Following class discussion, ask pupils to introduce more detail onto the living graph (either new events or additional information to those already included - Israel/Palestine Info provides a reasonable succinct but detailed account of the conflict). Use maps to show the changing situation during the C20th (BBC Maps)

Rationale - the aim of this activity is to create a broad context, so that pupils have a firm grasp of key events during the C20th. The focus of this mini-enquiry is to get pupils to explore when periods of tension have previously existed, why they occurred and therefore to provide a context for the current situation, which will enable them to answer the bigger enquiry question about the prospects of a lasting peace.


Discussion points

How appropriate is it to introduce contextual information at this point?

How extensive a ‘list of events' do you feel you need to include?

How appropriate is a ‘living graph' activity at establishing the historical context?

What would be your main concerns at this point when introducing the historical context?


What is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli dispute?

Look at the picture from Jerusalem showing the Al Aqsa mosque and the Wailing Wall (see PowerPoint image 7).


Adopt a ‘layers of inference' approach and discuss what pupils can see, what they can infer and ask them how they think this might help to explain the present dispute. From this the teacher can draw out issues relating to religion and territory. Alison Stephen, in Teaching History 120, identifies ways to allow pupils to understand the difficulties associated with the question of land, by getting pupils to take on the role of the UN in partitioning Palestine and also be helping them to understand the importance of place to the different peoples in the region.

It is also important that pupils understand how strongly rooted perceptions of the ‘other' are and how these contribute to the continuing tensions. Introduce the picture of a Hamas fighter (see PowerPoint image 8) and get pupils to write down any words that they associate with the picture. Do the same with the picture of Israeli soldiers (see PowerPoint image 9). Compare pupil reactions to the pictures and discuss why they responded as they did. Discuss what this tells us about their preconceptions. Discuss how Palestinians and Israelis may describe the people in each picture and try to emphasise how preconceptions shape how people and/or events are perceived. Following this discussion, get pupils to look at news stories as presented by Israeli and Palestinian websites Arab Israeli news stories see Resource 4.3 and Resource 4.4. Ask pupils to focus on the language used; how is the ‘other' side described, what words are used to describe the actions of each side, what details are included and what is the effect of including them, what is the overall tone of the different news stories?

Now it is possible to return to the living graph exercise done previously. Examine key events from alternative perspectives; how would the different groups respond to these events and how might this explain their reactions to subsequent events.

Alternatively the teacher could introduce a website, such as Israel Science & Technology/The Arab-Israeli Conflict that presents an extremely one-sided perspective and ask pupils to write a counter-website that presents an alternative view.

Rationale - this activity is designed to build on the previous work which focused on building a strong contextual knowledge by examining the perspectives of those involved. The image of two holy shrines from both religions is there to show that each ‘side' has historic ‘claims' to the region and their close coexistence can partly explain the regional tensions. However the way that mistrust has grown between the two sides needs to be explored. The exercise looking at the Hamas and Israeli fighters is designed to highlight what preconceptions already exist and how alternative perspectives may be held. This is reinforced through looking at the news websites, and is further developed by looking at the events of the C20th from alternative perspectives.


Discussion points

This section is probably crucial in helping pupils understand the issues and perceptions that affect both sides. How well do you feel these activities would allow pupils to understand the stance of both sides? How well would the activity allow pupils to appreciate their own perspective (and potentially challenge them)?

The choice of images and news stories could be seen as provocative. How appropriate do you feel these images and stories are? How comfortable would you feel using these?

Do you feel there are more appropriate ways to help pupils understand the stance of the two sides?



What are the prospects for a lasting peace between Israel and the Arab states?

The culmination of this sequence of work is an extended piece of writing, where pupils have to draw upon their knowledge of events, the divisions caused by alternative perspectives and the current situation in the region to reach a judgement about the prospects for peace in the Middle East. The teacher and pupils review the previous work and discuss what ought to be included and how the work should be organised.

Rationale - the process allows pupils to reflect upon their new knowledge and understanding and apply it to answer an important contemporary concern. They should be able to appreciate the complexity of the situation, its historic roots and the alternative perspectives of those involved.


Discussion points

How well prepared do you feel the pupils would be to answer this question following this sequence of work?

What support might pupils need to construct their explanation?

How well would this sequence of work allow pupils to engage with and understand the controversies in the Middle East and their wider impact?

What additional materials/activities could you introduce to develop/clarify pupils' understanding further?


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