History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict


The aim of the course is to provide the student with an overview of the political, military and diplomatic history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and ongoing issues of regional security in the Middle East. The course will proceed chronologically, and cover the following topics: the end of the Ottoman Empire; the emergence of Zionism in late-19th-Century Europe; early Jewish settlement in Palestine; Palestinian society at the beginning of the 20th Century; WW1 and British rule; the 1936-39 Arab Revolt and Jewish responses; the 1948 Arab-Israeli War; the young State of Israel; Israeli-Arab relations in the 1950s; Nasser and the Suez War; the 1967 War; Israel and the West Bank and Gaza; the 1973 War and Camp David I; Israel in Lebanon and the rise of Hezbollah; the first Intifada and the rise of Hamas; the Madrid and Oslo peace processes; and the second Intifada and the conflict today. 

We will also focus on a number of historiographical debates over specific issues such as the causes and consequences of the 1948 and 1967 Wars as well as the failures of the various peace initiatives. In this way students will be exposed to the competing historical narratives that dominate the writing of this conflict’s past.

Requirements and Evaluation

The grade will be calculated according to the following criteria: attendance and participation in conferences (20%); midterm exam (25%); final exam (40%); and four pop quizzes (15%). These short pop quizzes will be given at random points during the course of the semester and are designed to test whether or not the student has done the reading. Only the top 3 pop quizzes will count towards the final grade.  


•    Mark Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict 2nd Edition (Indiana University Press, 2009) 
•    Coursepack available.
•    A few additional readings (on the syllabus but not in the coursepack) will be available online.


Week 1: Thinking about history and historiography 

Week 2: 19th century Europe and the emergence of Zionism

Week 3: Ottoman Palestine

Week 4: Arab nationalism and WWI

Week 5: The British Mandate for Palestine 1917-1948

Week 6: Debates: The historiography of the 1948 War

Week 7: Midterm Exam

Week 8: Debates: What caused the 1967 War?

Week 9: The 1973 War and its aftermath

Week 10: The first Lebanon War and the rise of Hezbollah

Week 11: The Occupation, the First Intifada, and Hamas

Week 12: Debates: The 1990s and the failure of the Peace Process

Week 13: The al-Aqsa Intifada and beyond


I first taught this course in 2011 at McGill, where it is usually taught by Professor Laila Parsons, and from whose work much of this material was derived.