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In Palestine and Israel: Writers and Activists Light the Way to Peace

Author: Barbara McDowell Dowdall


A. Philip Randolph Career and Technical High School

Year: 2010

Seminar: History of the Modern Middle East

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: Arabs, Israel, Jews, Middle East History, Palestine, religion

School Subject(s): Social Studies

Although separated by both religion and language, Palestinians and Israelis have in common an appreciation for and devotion to literary expression as essential to life and as a powerful means of making their case to the world. A shared poetic heritage can contribute to eventual understanding and acceptance. Many Arabs and Jews around the world are profoundly involved in the work toward that goal. In this unit, high school students will use a range of resources – print, electronic, and personal – to acquaint themselves with the broad scope of historical, geo-political and religious forces that have brought Palestinians and Israelis to the brink of either destruction or reconciliation. Students will discover the interplay between historical events and literary expression, and both the uniqueness and universality of Palestinian and Israeli biographies, fiction, and poetry. They will discover the already-existing ties between Jews and Arabs in and through literature and will develop a familiarity with a fascinating variety of individual and organizational efforts to forge mutuality in action.

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Full Unit Text
Content Objectives


Without question, the modern Middle East carries profound significance for high school students in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as it does for all people young and old across America. Thousands of American lives, billions of American dollars, and countless hours of worry and fear have been directed to that region — most dramatically since September 11, 2001– but indeed for decades before that. Yet for all the angst and resources, both human and financial, for the family members shipped to the region and a national debt exceeding all comprehension, and despite the daily stream of headlines — student awareness of, and acquaintance with, the nations located there, their peoples, their histories, their geography, their languages and their artistic expression is seriously close to nil. Although my students’ adult counterparts closely parallel this lack of knowledge, our youngsters’ current involvement in a formal education environment both obviates any valid excuse for maintaining ignorance and offers an immediate opportunity to irrigate this informational desert.
In particular, the crucible of the more than half century Israeli/Palestinian conflict yields a seemingly endless lack of resolution, a conflicted role for the United States and a perpetual rationale for animus against the United States and its citizens. Two peoples, very near cousins in origin, lay claim to the same patch of ground, the same coastline and the same capital city –with both rationalization and evidence going back thousands of years and with mutual assurance in the imprimatur of the deity both, as exponents of monotheism, see as one and the same. Perhaps no two peoples anywhere have a keener sense of justice and its inverse than these, or as Palestinian Fawaz Turki observes in his 1972 book, The Disinherited, “…two peoples that are more alike in their fixations than any others…”. (140) Empire, colonialism, imperialism, socialism (one more shared value), two world wars and multi-national jockeying for economic and geopolitical advantage have contributed mightily to the conundrum.
Although separated by both religion and language, Palestinians and Israelis have in common an appreciation for and devotion to literary expression as essential to life and as a powerful means of making their case to the world. A shared poetic heritage, ancient and general (Robert Alter cites the ‘explicitly codified conventions’ of “Arabic and Hebrew poetry of the Andalusian Golden Age” ) and specifically thematic (both, for example, find particular power in the gazelle as an image and exile as a metaphor), can contribute to eventual understanding and acceptance, now and in the yearned-for peaceful future. Many Arabs and Jews around the world, and particularly in the United States, along with Palestinians and Israelis in Galilee, are profoundly involved in the work toward that goal.
In this unit, high school students will use a range of resources – print, electronic, and personal – to acquaint themselves with the broad scope of historical, geo-political and religious forces that have brought Palestinians and Israelis to the brink of either destruction or reconciliation – depending based on the key literary and human communications concept: point of view. Tenth graders, having absorbed a year’s study of world history as freshmen, will have some basis already for contextualizing the divergence of perception and for formulating their own viewpoints. Undergirded by the English curriculum that emphasizes world literature in both 10th and 12th grade, students will discover the interplay between historical events and literary expression, and both the uniqueness and universality of Palestinian and Israeli biographies, fiction, and poetry. They will discover the already-existing ties between Jews and Arabs in and through literature and will develop a familiarity with a fascinating variety of individual and organizational efforts to forge mutuality in action.
At first blush, one might cast doubt on the importance of a concentration, even for a time-limited curriculum unit, on Palestine and Israel for the majority African American students attending a career technical high school in Philadelphia in 2010. Their own local, state, national and international politics, except for the recent election of President Barack Obama, hold minimal interest for them. A challenging economy, sports, entertainment, social life, acquiring a driver’s license, Facebook and Twitter leave little time for extraneous issues. A small number of our students contemplate military service, but the primary destinations for Marine and Army recruits would be Iraq and Afghanistan, not Israel or Palestine. Students who attend Christian churches, however, would know the stories of ancient Palestine and some may have family or friends who have traveled to the Middle East, to Israel or Egypt. A small number of our students do profess Islam or may be acquainted with Islamic beliefs, divisions and history. Except for the occasional teacher or late-night comedian, our students’ exposure to Judaism is quite limited. It might be possible to credit the latter limitation for an apparent lack of anti-Semitism among our youngsters. The commonest verbalization of negative bias on a daily basis is reserved for gays and lesbians.
Nevertheless, the Israeli/Palestinian divide – and the wealth of literature available for contemplation and analysis – has unique features that can attract, inform and enrich our students. On a practical level, there is the financial and political reality of the support the United States has provided Israel from its inception. In 1948, the year President Harry S Truman ordered integration of the U.S. military, he enthusiastically welcomed the new state of Israel. Students can note the link between the Black and Jewish communities in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Prominent Jewish Americans like Joel and Arthur Spingarn who supported the NAACP from its beginnings and the newly-formed organization voted an early resolution “condemning the violent pogroms against Jews in Russia. Rabbi Abraham Heschel’s worked in close comradeship with Rev. Martin Luther King , and our school’s namesake, A. Philip Randolph, maintained solidarity with both American and Soviet Jewry and with Israel, and signed on as one of the founders of the America–Israel Friendship League in 1971. As the Black Power Movement evolved, concern for Palestine came to the fore, placing a strain on Black-Jewish relations. Early in his first year in office, President Barack Obama addressed the issue in a speech in Cairo and in the days during which this draft was being written, the president has had conversations with the prime minister of Israel. Even as some Israeli citizens and their leaders have expressed doubt regarding our chief executive’s support, the president relies on Jewish Americans as key advisors and hosts a new White House tradition: a Passover seder. President Obama, a United Church of Christ congregant in his Chicago days, has also brought observance of Ramadan to the Executive Mansion.
For both 10th and 12th graders, an expansion of their acquaintance with poets from abroad can only enhance their understanding of differences and commonalities among peoples around the world. When they witness writers and activists from parties in conflict reaching out to one another seeking understanding, our own students may see a way to appreciate the humanity of an annoying classmate, a rival from another neighborhood, or a person of a different sexual orientation. In the words of the American-Palestinian poet Naomi Nye Shihab, “Poetry is a conversation with the world.” Interfaith activists in America may serve as role models for our students to get involved in social causes.
Our current core curriculum does offer world history in the ninth grade. Areas covered include Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, and a survey of world religions, including Islam. The three subsequent social studies courses focus exclusively on the United States. World language study at our school, and at most others save, perhaps large academic programs or specialty institutions like Bodine High School for International Affairs, is limited to Spanish and French.
In the world of literature, through one poem, author interview and suggested reading (a novel by Naomi Shibab Nye), tenth graders may become aware of Palestine and Palestinian Americans, while an auxiliary text with World Literature as its title offers no selections from the Middle East.
Our senior English anthology, subtitled “British and World Literature”, includes a two-paragraph excerpt from the “Koran,” a selection of sayings by the Persian Saadi, and the short story, “A Half Day,” from the Nobel Prize winner Egyptian novelist, Naguib Mahfouz. Sixteen pages explore the Holocaust through memoir and poetry. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian writers are represented. Our education resource book for 12th grade includes a page listing Islamic literary resources for elementary, middle and high school. The major required novel for English 2 is To Kill a Mockingbird; for English 4, 1984 holds that place.
Within these constraints, however, there is can be space for acquainting our students with an area of the world so crucial to their own and their country’s future. Certainly, academic standards affirm an approach that can be inclusive of an expanded world lens. Prominent in virtually every set of objectives in language arts is the requirement that students become familiar with a variety of literary genres. A key emphasis of late is a focus on comprehension of informational texts. Authentic research and I-Search projects are mandated for all grades in senior high as well as for the senior project required for graduation. Attention to the writing process is woven into all of these endeavors (writing to learn). Finally, a renewed determination to achieve clear mastery learning is currently a goal across the West Region.
The power of literature to create a bridge of understanding between different and differing peoples or persons can be illustrated through two anecdotes. Francenia Emery, retired principal of Pickett Middle School and founder of The Multicultural Resource Center (built upon her own extensive book collection and currently housed at Rosemont College) recalls how she, a gangly African American youngster growing up in New York City was transported through her avid reading to the Swiss Alps where, she said. “I truly believed I was Heidi, gold curls, dirndl and all.”
Chaim Potok, author of The Chosen, a powerful novel chronicling the devoted but deteriorating friendship of two Jewish boys as the differences within their faith (Orthodox and Conservative) drive a wedge between them, shared an incident from his own youth with a radio interviewer. One afternoon, Potok’s Orthodox rabbi father encountered him reading Darwin’s Origin of Species. Infuriated (and possibly frightened), the father forbade further reading of the tome. What should have concerned his father more (had he been aware), Potok noted lo those many years hence, was the son’s reading Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. It was there, Chaim revealed, where he discovered that a person his age could have grown up in an entirely different culture, yet still share similar interests, challenges and yearnings. Through the power of fiction, a door was open to a wider world – a world of common humanity and universal striving, a world of understanding how alike we may be to the ‘other.’

As in the opening pages of To Kill a Mockingbird, when Jem and Scout try to establish when exactly the events leading up to a particular crisis began, in their case possibly as early as 1066, today’s conflicted world of Palestine and Israel could reasonably be ascribed to a variety of eras. Max Dimont, in Jews, God and History, cites the 17th century under Turkish rule and 1880 – 90 as two significant time periods a renewal of Jewish interest in and movement toward Palestine. William Cleveland notes that an Arab majority had been present in Palestine for “some 1,200 years.” After centuries of dispersal and wandering for the Jewish Diaspora, a confluence of events in 19th and 20th centuries in Russia, Eastern Europe and Germany lead to a determination to re-establish a homeland in “Zion” as they believed God had promised. For the “solidly established indigenous Arab inhabitants,” in the words of William Cleveland, the growing immigration of Jews from many directions, the loss of their land through various means of acquisition, the role of Great Britain in determining their fate, and their eventual displacement, both geographical and political, sparked anger, sorrow for themselves and in others on their behalf.
The dream of a return to a Jewish homeland, which began coalescing following the writings and agitation of Leo Pinsker and Theodore Herzl before World War I and which responded to what might now seem an almost benign European anti-Semitism and the more deadly Russian pogroms, gained strength with British strategic support and rushed ahead in a wave of revulsion and horror following the Holocaust. The inaccurate mantra of Palestine being “a land without people for a people without a land,” seemed oblivious to the existence of the Palestinians. Numerous documents evidenced in the Zionist movement seemed stunningly blithe in their assumption that residents in target areas, when acknowledged, would simply be transported elsewhere, thus setting the stage for the expulsion of thousands of long-established residents. Hostilities that had begun with earlier Jewish settlements were magnified and broadened following the birth of the nation of Israel in 1948. The unintended consequence of Israel’s establishment, the creation of mini-nation camps of Palestinian refugees within and around the newly-minted country, sparked acceleration in the sense of a Palestinian national identity. In the intervening years, many have died, many have sought resolution, and as of this very week, a way forward is in doubt.
Nevertheless, parties on both sides, some of them individuals who have suffered personal loss of family members to the violence have argued for, traveled for and united for a way to peace. Organizations on the Israeli side like Peace Now and bi-party groups like Parents Circle – Families Forum persist in the belief that there will be two nations living in harmony, cheek by jowl, hand to hand. Novelist Amos Oz and essayist Elias Khoury appeared jointly on CNN recently, Oz slightly more hopeful, but both willing to forego revenge for past injustices in the effort to learn about and live with ‘the other.’
Although hostilities raging through the decades on the far side of the Mediterranean Sea might seem geographically and emotionally remote for the average local teenager, the heartbreak of violence is not at all unknown to students in Philadelphia. Many of those attending A. Philip Randolph have lost friends or family members to street killings. Just as in Israel and Palestine, there are in our own communities myriad organizations making efforts to bring peace. Perhaps our young people can find inspiration and hope in the efforts of those thousands of miles away who are reaching out across a chasm of hurt.
The objectives for this unit, as for all elements of the core curriculum, are to take the students from where they are in terms of knowledge and understanding – in this case regarding Israel and Palestine – to a more widely informed outlook and enhanced academic skill level. The process should leave them with increased confidence in their ability to access and evaluate complex (and sometimes contradictory) sources of information, a greater ease and fluidity of written and spoken expression, and perhaps most important, a desire to learn more.
The very obstacles to a satisfactory outcome in the anguished conundrum in Palestine/Israel resemble two especially, among many, obstacles to every learner’s move forward to enlightenment: limited point of view and language barriers.
The Beatles once offered this lyric: “Try to see it my way.” This seemingly simple request identifies what seem to be key elements in our human psyche. Whether through an inability, reluctance, or an instinct to survive, we do – all of us – create our narratives, plan our actions and ground our rationalizations in the way we are raised and in our experiences. Thus Max Dimont, writing in 1962, could describe the Palestine of 1900 as “…a barren, stony, cactus-infested patch of desert.” (391) By contrast, Susan Abulhawa, through her protagonist Amal Abulheja in the 2010 novel Mornings in Jennin, describes a converted residential school building in Jerusalem: “…a five-story limestone beauty with the ornate arched doorways typical of Palestinian architecture.” (142) Adina Hoffman, in her Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali biography, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness, notes a letter from an Arab village official in Saffuriya to a British high commissioner in 1935 details “…how large is our village with its numerous inhabitants, large areas of lands [sic] sufficient water and vast gardens.” (17) Amos Oz, son of Holocaust survivors and Israeli peace activist, in his essay “The Meaning of Homeland,” sees the country in metaphorical terms as “the only plank” that can save a drowning man. Our objective here will be to apply effective reading strategies to comprehend, organize, analyze, synthesize and evaluate texts to construct meaning—that is – to identify the unique world outlook of each point of view and to see whether students can construct or weave together a comprehensible whole.
Going backward or forward in time, the old labor song demand, “Which Side Are You On,” becomes ever-more difficult to answer. Zionism itself, ancient and persisting throughout the ages, was not a predictable universal among Jews. Bavarian rabbi (and eventually American abolitionist) David Einhorn, born the same year as Abraham Lincoln, “…eliminated prayers that referred to a return to a Jewish state.” (Finkelstein, 37) In the East Side of New York in the 19th century, Socialism was a significantly stronger force than Zionism, with even sympathizers for the Holy Land pioneers seeing the effort as a mitzvah on behalf of “other Jews.” (Howe, 204-5) Fawaz Turki, a Palestinian whose family became refugees in Lebanon, invites a Jewish friend he sees at the beach to join his other Lebanese peers. The group begins to berate the Jewish teen for the actions of Israel and Fawaz, taken aback, expresses the insight provided to him by the situation: “…I became a Jew, the Jew became a Palestinian, bound into a commonwealth of peoples heavily laden, heavily oppressed.” (53) The objective will be to read a variety of materials including fiction and non-fiction, classic and contemporary texts from a diversity of cultures (Israeli, Palestinian, European, Arabic), communications systems, and functional texts. These may include biography, short stories, ancient and modern poetry, websites and diplomatic documents.
To parse right and wrong in modern times may result in a kaleidoscopic rather than a single lens view. Peter J. Haas, in his essay contained in the 2008 collection of Holocaust scholars’ views of the Palestine and Israel situation, notes the …’plethora of mutually exclusive narratives, often about the same event…:’ including, but not limited to a point of view that could be liberal Jewish, right-wing Israeli, liberal Israeli , Muslim, Islamic Jihad/Hamas, family, Christian, secular, American, British, French, Israeli ‘settler’, “Fox News” narrative, victim, soldier, [or] terrorist. (18) The student’s challenge is first to learn that all these perspectives exist, then to develop a strategy for identifying which is represented in a particular literary or nonfiction work and ultimately to come away with an insight that will be of use in her or his life within and beyond school. In terms of objectives, students will read for a variety of purposes: to seek knowledge; to engage in inquiry and research; to expand world views; to understand individuality, shared humanity, and the heritage of the people in our city (and nation) as well as the contributions of a diversity of groups to American culture and other cultures throughout the world.
Amos Oz, in his speech accepting the 2005 Goethe Prize, pays tribute to any effort to move beyond one’s own point of view, that “… imagining the other is a powerful antidote to fanaticism and hatred….a major moral imperative [and] a deep and very subtle human pleasure.” (Amos Oz Reader, 386) Ghassan Kanafani succeeds, in the view of Claudia Roth Pierpont in her New Yorker article, “Found in Translation,” in presenting a Jewish woman as “anything but a stereotype…[as] a complex and poignant figure, whose moral politics turn out to be not far from those of her visitors.” (77) Students can listen and read actively for a variety of purposes including comprehending, interpreting, analyzing, evaluating, responding effectively, and then move on to create their own oral presentations based on the information they have gained.
The issue of translation has two facets. The first, reluctance to make the effort of translation — from Arabic to Hebrew, Hebrew to Arabic or either into English amplifies and perpetuates lack of understanding, whether between exclusive language , writer Elias Khoury, was criticized in Egypt for the fact that his 1998 novel, Gate of the Sun, detailing life in the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon, was published in Hebrew in Israel (2002) and in Israel for the depiction of Israeli wrongdoing. The value, however, for the reader, is gaining understanding that is not available in any other way: “…how people live in Cairo or Beirut or Riyadh….The ways that people think and work and suffer and fall in love and make enemies…” suggests Claudia Roth Pierpont, comprehensively covering modern Arabic novels, which are now becoming more available translated into English. (“Found in Translation,” 74) Students will enter another culture through the window of literature and be able to make comparisons with their own.
A second difficulty with translation is the potential for confusion in or loss of meaning and form, especially in the realm of poetry. Errors can be longstanding and deleterious. One choice in the translation of a phrase describing the face of Moses as he returned from Mount Sinai, ki karan or panav, was ’that it had sprouted horns,’ rather than it ‘shone.’ (Frank, lix) Contemporary Jewish persons in the United States are actually still asked on occasion to display their horns! In translating Arabic poetry to English, the scholar will encounter challenges in more traditional poetry where rhyme is prevalent and in modern free verse offerings where the conversational tone in the language of origin will not convert easily to a matching tone in the target language. Students will need to be reminded that a translated poem is in many ways distinct from its original version. Here is where students will be listening to (via reading poetry aloud), reading, recognizing, and responding to literature as a record of human experience that provides unique individual perspectives, promotes understanding of multi-cultural perspectives, and reflects the importance of cultural influences.

Teaching Strategies

The texts and other materials brought into the classroom to strengthen and amplify the core curriculum through a focus on literature from Israel and Palestine can be presented in a format that would prepare the ground for comprehensive understanding. A starting point might be a mini history made visual and sequential through maps and timelines. Major developments from the beginnings of settlements in the region would be presented to parallel events in African American history for sophomores and for British literary history for seniors. Both chronology and theme can serve to establish connections.

Three overarching approaches or themes will be comparison/contrast, the effect of limited point of view, and language as a barrier to communication. Students will be asked to consider how the Palestine/Israel conflict is similar to or different from a variety of historical and contemporary events and issues playing out around the world, within our own country or even city. Comparisons can also be made, with the aid of Venn diagrams among the stances toward the Palestinians and the Jews and diplomatic strategies of key nations like Britain, the United States and entities like the United Nations. Investigating point of view both between and among opposing sides can lead to skill building in critical thinking: how do the views differ, what is the basis for the difference, where do opposing voices within each side find expression. Research assignments will require students to identify bias and evaluate accuracy in the multiplicity of web sites devoted to the subject.

Two particular poets, one Israeli and one Palestinian may be contrasted biographically, politically and poetically. The Elder, Abraham Sutzkever, was a Holocaust survivor who died this January; the younger, Mahmoud Darwish, a paradigm of Palestinian identity, died in 2008. Both men wrote eloquently of the profound and the every day. Taking on his mother’s voice following her brutal murder at the hands of the Nazis, Sutzkever ascribed these words to her: “If you remain/I will still be alive/as the pit of the plum/contains in itself the tree/the nest and the bird/and all else besides.” Darwish brings essential considerations to a journey:”If I were another/on the road, I would not have looked/back, I would have said what one traveler said/to another: Stranger! Awaken/the guitar more! Delay our tomorrow so our road/may extend and space may widen for us, and we may get rescued/from our story together: you are so much yourself … and I am/so much other than myself right here before you!” Additional voices in poetry, especially modern poets and particularly those of girls and women, both Arab and Israeli will supplement the poetry study.[i]

The fiction by and for and about adolescents can provide a powerful path to  reconciliation and a window for students on the other side of the world. Here, we will seek the assistance of both school librarians and young adult librarians in the Free Library for guidance in identifying titles and acquiring copies. This can also be the beginning of a research topic with individual students focusing on different writers. These names, when identified by genre and biography, will be placed on our already posted or created maps. Adult authors will supplement these readings including writers Amos Oz and Elias Khoury. Oz’s Panther in the Basement may expand our sophomores’ literary horizons beyond the current street lit rage and Elias Khoury’s The Kingdom of Strangers will provide echoes of the seniors’ required Albert Camus novel, The Stranger. Students have the option of proposing these and other works as replacements or supplements for current district requirements.

The informational aspects of these poetic and fictional works will be joined with works of biography and newspaper accounts of events, both U.S. and world press, accessible on the web.  Gaining familiarity with public documents, in particular the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration, will enable students to analyze content and witness consequences of seemingly benign diplomatic minutiae. We can, as a culminating activity, investigate the possibility of internet conversations with peers across the water.

To reify the learning, both within the students’ individual understanding and as both a visual reminder of the accretion of knowledge and a means of conveying their discoveries to a wider audience, our young “research associates will create a classroom wall exhibit including an enhanced and annotated map of the Middle East, a timeline of Israeli/Palestinian shared history and posters elucidating the lives of key figures in literary and political activist history from both traditions.

A key pedagogical strategy in any discipline is modeling. I speak here of the modeling that seeks both to guide and inspire students: the model of their teacher as co-learner. I can share with my students the reality of the world view and feelings for Israel prevalent among U.S. baby boomers raised with the Holocaust powerfully fresh in awareness, strengthened by exposure to literature like The Diary of Anne Frank and films like Exodus. I can investigate with my students as we learn together of the complexities of history, the impossibility of right being unalterably on one side alone, and most important, from an English teacher’s point of view, that powerful truths are there to be found in poetry, fiction and biography – and that even in arenas of the greatest conflict — common ground, shared experiences, and understanding can emerge.

Classroom Activities

All activities incorporate the KWL model: assessing what students, individually and as a group, already know about aspects of the Middle East, encouraging them to think about what they want or need to know, and to both record and present what they have learned.

Lesson One: Geography


First, using Think/Pair/Share, ask students to describe specifically where they think Israel and Palestine are located. Record each pair’s responses at the front of the classroom on chalkboard, white board or on chart paper. Then provide a blank outline map of the Middle East and the opportunity to fill in countries from a list: Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine . [If the class has access to computers, an internet quiz is available at]

Finally, with either electronic maps from the web or print maps from paper atlases, students will fill in another outline map. Comparing their original and final versions, they will be asked to reflect through the Values Clarification statements: “I was interested to learn,” and “I was surprised to learn”. An extension question might be: Why is Palestine frequently omitted from lists of Middle Eastern countries? An extension activity can focus on Palestine before 1948 and after 1948. For a display option, students could either print out copies of maps representing different eras or create large wall map on chart or butcher block paper.


Lesson Two: History — Events, Issues, Fishbone Map and Timeline


First, divide class into three groups.  Provide each group with one of the “promise” documents from the ‘great’ powers during and after World War I. [See Appendix B] Students will record a paraphrase of the content.  Students then present their conclusions in a panel format. Follow the presentations with opportunities for accessing at least two websites referencing the group’s document. Students will take notes on the account for their respective website and assess the bias, if any, evident at the location, recording specific connotative words and phrases that would indicate a leaning on the part of the writers or contrarily, words indicating an effort for fairness.


Choose one or more graphic organizers for recording events and results (Fishbone Map Appendix E) or a chronology of events using a timeline. The timeline maybe contained in student notebooks or rendered large on the classroom wall, allowing for addition of activist, writer and published works dates as they are acquired through continuing research.


For an extension activity, establish a new set of “reconciling” groups. Assign members of the original document groups to create an imaginary Declaration that would specifically meet the needs and wants of all parties residing in Palestine in the 1920’s.

  1. The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence…/HusaynMcMahoncorrespondence

  1. The Balfour Declaration…/The%20Balfour%20Declaration

  1. The Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916

This activity can be amplified to gather references to Palestine + one or more of the following : the Ottoman Empire, 19th century Zionism, World War I, World II, the Holocaust, the United Nations, Israel’s declaration of independence, and conflicts following 1948.


Utilizing electronic resources listed above or garnered from a teacher’s preferred search engine, students may analyze one article or a pair for point of view. Isolate vocabulary indicating bias, evaluate opinion statements for plausibility, and write recommendations for encouraging objectivity or bringing conflicting sides together.



Lesson Three: Poetry — Two Sides and Common Ground


Documenting connection between lives of poets and their poetry; common themes (e.g. exile), and literary devices. Select one poem each from the Palestine and Israeli canons. Summarize the “message” or “story” in prose. Identify elements that correspond to features representative of each tradition. Connect poem’s message with the life of the poet (or note lack of apparent connection). Place the poem chronologically within the timeline of Lesson Two. Write a letter from each poet to the other poet, conveying what thoughts and feelings you think each would want to share with the ‘other side.’ Write a poem of your own based on an experience of your own that evokes strong memory and think of your reader as someone who would not normally understand your particular outlook or experiences.  Accessed 2/26/10

If I Were Another     by Mahmoud Darwish

If I were another on the road, I would not have looked

back, I would have said what one traveler said

to another: Stranger! awaken

the guitar more! Delay our tomorrow so our road

may extend and space may widen for us, and we may get rescued

from our story together: you are so much yourself … and I am

so much other than myself right here before you!


If I were another I would have belonged to the road,

neither you nor I would return. Awaken the guitar

and we might sense the unknown and the route that tempts

the traveler to test gravity. I am only

my steps, and you are both my compass and my chasm.

If I were another on the road, I would have

hidden my emotions in the suitcase, so my poem

would be of water, diaphanous, white,

abstract, and lightweight … stronger than memory,

and weaker than dewdrops, and I would have said:

My identity is this expanse!


If I were another on the road, I would have said

to the guitar: Teach me an extra string!

Because the house is farther, and the road to it prettier—

that’s what my new song would say. Whenever

the road lengthens the meaning renews, and I become two

on this road: I … and another!        Translated by Fady Joudah

Reprinted from The Butterfly’s Burden (2007) by Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Fady Joudah. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press,
Source: The Butterfly’s Burden (Copper Canyon Press, 2007)

More Poems To Our Land  /The Horse Fell Off the Poem / The Cypress Broke /In Jerusalem/Your Night Is of Lilac

How?   By Abraham Sutzkever

How will you fill your goblet
On the day of liberation? And with what?
Are you prepared, in your joy, to endure
The dark keening you have heard
Where skulls of days glitter
In a bottomless pit?

You will search for a key to fit
You jammed locks. You will bite
The sidewalks like bread,
Thinking: It used to be better.
And time will gnaw at you like a cricket
Caught in a fist.

Then your memory will resemble
An ancient buried town
And your estranged eyes will burrow down
Like a mole, a mole….

Vilna Ghetto, February 14, 1943
Translated by Chana Bloch


  Lesson Four: Fiction — Short story and novel


 Focus on Amos Oz, Elias Khoury and Ghassan Kafani and how their fiction shows each other and us the intimate lives of both Israelis and Palestinians. Suggested titles for tenth grade are Panther in the Basement by Oz and Palestine’s Children by Kafani. Seniors may read Khoury’s Gate of the Sun and Oz’ Don’t Call It Night. Standard notes on characters, setting and plot, writing style including tone, and themes. Literary circles may be utilized as a way of organizing the classes in to small groups for focused reading. As an addition and departure from standard analysis, however, students will be asked to keep readers’ journals on how the ‘other’ – Palestinians in the Israeli novels and Israelis in Palestinian novels. Are the characters round or flat, simple or complex, threatening or sympathetic? Do they have names, personalities, families, jobs, humanity? How does each author portray the culture, society and conversation of the other side? As an extension, students would select one character whose portrayal is limited or negative and compose a letter from that character to either the author or to another character requesting a revamping of that portrayal. The character writing might offer a sample portion of text as an addition or substitute for the original. As a follow-up, that student or another student could compose the author’s reply to the complaint.


Extension activity: for a brief research assignment, students could create a chart indicating the original language of the novel or short story read and any languages into which the writing has been translated.


Lesson Five: Research — Organizations and other resources devoted to peace


 Many Jews worldwide (and, of course, in America) and in Israel, as well as Palestinians and other Arabs are reaching out, finding common ground with the ‘Other,’ navigating the way forward and building hope for the future. As individuals or small groups, students may select one or more active peace groups, research the group’s history and current activities, using the school’s guidelines for gathering information, making notes and avoiding plagiarism. The class can decide, based on available media and technology how the information can be recorded and presented in both narrative and graphic form. A gallery walk, a whole school display or an assembly are possibilities. Among the groups students might consider are: Peace Now, Women in Black and B’Tselem (Israel); Americans for Peace Now (U.S.); or see the listing of groups at


The subject of a recent New York Times obituary (August 9, 2010, A17) Rabbi Bruce M. Cohen, founded an organization, Interns for Peace, which brings together young Israeli Jews and Arabs to work on a variety of programs. Acknowledging in 1983 that the activities were “only building relationships,” Rabbi Cohen went on to say, “Yet personal relationships have been the cutting edge of history in the Middle East. We, Jews and Arabs, are all of a Bedouin culture where hospitality and welcoming one into one’s tent meant the creation of a life-time friendship and alliance in a hostile and forbidding desert.”


As a concluding activity, students might identify any area or issue of conflict in today’s world, research the points of conflict, and posit a point of view or set of actions that could lead to its amelioration. A journal entry on what they have learned in the process of becoming acquainted with one of the world’s toughest problems can also be written and shared.


Abulahawa, Susan. Mornings in Jenin. New York: Bloomsbury, 2010. A powerfully affecting novel tracing the experiences of a Palestinian family from 1941 to 2002. Includes sympathetic portrayals of some Israelis. Inside view of Palestine villages, refugee camps and Jerusalem. Philadelphia PA scenes as well.

Allen, Roger. The Arabic Novel: An Historical and Critical Introduction, 2nd Edition. Syracuse: University Press, 1995. Allen identifies themes in both poetry and fiction from a variety of countries across the Middle East and literary and political history.

Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Narrative. U.S.: Basic Books, 1981. A book that makes the case for literary appreciation of the myriad stories in the Bible which laid the groundwork for much of what has followed.

—. Modern Hebrew Literature. West Orange: Behrman, 1975. Short pieces written in Hebrew from the time of Tsarist Russia to modern Israel.

Arberry, A.J. Aspects of Islamic Civilization: The Moslem world depicted through its literature. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1967.

Cleveland, James and Martin Bunton. A History of the Modern Middle East, 4th Edition. Boulder CO: Westview Press, 2009. A renowned scholar’s comprehensive history of the Middle East with several chapters devoted to the history of Israel and Palestine as well as the background of European and American involvement with the region.

Darwish, Mahmoud. Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems. Trans. Munir Akash and Carolyn Forche. Berkley: University of California, 2003. Poems depicting the beauty of Palestinian lands and their loss written by “one of the most important poets in the Arabic language.”

—. Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? Trans. Jeffrey Sacks. Brooklyn: Archipelago, 2006. Images of nature, family life, rich in imagery.

Dimont, Max I. Jews, God and History. New York: Signet, 1962. Here is an accounting of the tragedies and triumphs of a people responding to adversity with persistence and creativity across the centuries.

Finkelstein, Norman H. Heeding the Call: Jewish Voices in America’s Civil Rights Struggle. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1997. Immigrant and native-born American Jews demonstrate solidarity with the African American struggle for dignity and human rights.

Frank, Bernhard, Translator. Modern Hebrew Poetry.  City: University of Iowa Press, 1980. Frank provides a detailed description of the translator’s challenge and art along with salient examples of poets coming to Israel from many times and places.

Hoffman, Adina. My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century. New Haven: Yale, 2009. An American Jewish writer chronicles the life of a Palestinian who stayed in Israel after 1948, wrote poetry and operated a gift shop.

Howe, Irving. World of Our Fathers.: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1976. Driven from lands where life and property were in constant jeopardy of attack, to new challenges in the New World.

Hurwitz, Deena, ed. Walking the Red Line: Israelis in Search of Justice for Palestine. Philadelphia: New Society, 1992. Israelis of a wide variety of backgrounds give detailed accounts of a multi-layered society and the issues needing to be addressed by a country built on an ideal.

Khoury, Mounah A. and Hamid Algar, Editors and Translators. An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry. Berkley: University of California Press, 1974. With an introduction that traces the development from religious to personal and formal to free verse poetry over the years, with the original Arabic in facing text.

Khoury, Elias. The Kingdom of Strangers. Trans. Paula Haydar. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, 1996. A novel set in Lebanon, Jerusalem and New York City at Columbia University. It may be paired with Camus’ The Stranger for elements of colonialism, point of view, setting, imagery and characterization.

Levin, Gabriel. Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Jerusalem: Ibis, 1997. This little book offers a prose and poetic reflection on the history and modern tribulations of the region where Suleiman the Magnificent once ruled, including the derivation and application of the Arabic “ghazal.”

Moyers, Bill. “Interview with Naomi Shihab Nye.” Elements of Literature, 4th Course. Austin: Holt, 2005. Evidence that Palestinian lives, culture and writers are available to Americans.

Nir, Adam and Dan Inbar. “Israel: From Egalitarianism to Competition.” Balancing Change and Tradition in Global Education Reform. Edited by Iris C. Rotberg. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow: 2004.  Details of the separate and unequal school systems for Arab and Jewish Israelis, citing both continuing disparity and improvement.

Oz, Amos. The Amos Oz Reader. Boston: Houghton, 2009. Fiction and essays. Contains a poignant account of the last days of the author’s mother, a Holocaust survivor, who committed suicide when Oz was twelve years old.

Shepherd, Naomi. A Price Below Rubies: Jewish Women as Rebels & Radicals. Cambridge: Harvard, 1993. Jewish women in Europe and Russia, the role they played in the development and implementation of Zionism. Details value of Palestinian craftsmen in the building of Israel.

Stephens, Elaine C. and Jean E. Brown. A Handbook of Content Literacy Strategies: 75 Practical Reading and Writing Ideas. Norwood MA: Christopher-Gordon, 2000. Strategies divided into Initiating, Constructing and Utilizing stages of learning. Useful and fun.

Sutzkever, Abraham. The Fiddle Rose: Poems 1970-1972. Trans. Ruth R. Wisse. Detroit: Wayne    State, 1990. Includes drawings by Marc Chagall. Verbal and visual images that bring home both the joys of life in Vilna before the Holocaust, the horror of the war, and the strength needed to carry on in the face of profound loss.

Turki, Fawaz. The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile. New York: Monthly Review, 1972. First-person account of lives disrupted by the birth of Israel, yet replete with both human portrayals of Israelis and disappointment at the treatment by Arabs.


Berger, Joseph. “Abraham Sutzkever, 96, Jewish Poet and Partisan, Dies.”  New York Times 24 Jan 2010, 24.

Bronner, Ethan. “Palestinians Try Less Violent Path to Resistance.” New York Times 7    April 2010, A1, A10. [Letters to the Editor: 10 April 2010, A16.]  

Eizikovitz, Bonnie, Ken Galal, Robert Haufrecht Nathan Diament and Jeremy Ben-Ami. “A Few Wishes on Israel’s Birthday. Letters to the Editor. New York Times. 21 April, 2010.

Foxman, Abraham H., Jeff Warner, Francyne Teisch, Pat Murphy and Renana Kadden. “Who Froze the Mideast Peace Process?” Letters to the Editor. New York Times. 2 Apr. 2010, A20.

Heller, Aron. “Israelis concerned over world standing: Passover poll indicates citizens’ own dismal assessment.” Philadelphia Tribune 30 March 2010: 6-A.

Horowitz, Tony. “A Land and a People.” Rev. of Israel is Real: An Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish Nation and Its History by Rich Cohen. New York Times Book Review. 26 July 2009.

Judt, Tony. Israel: The Alternative. The New York Review of Books. Volume 50, Number 16, Octobe 23, 2003. Accessed 29 March 2010.

Kershner, Isabel. “Israeli Rights Groups View Themselves as Under Siege.” New York Times: 6 Apr 2010, A6.

— .“Netanyahu and Obama Will Talk On Tuesday.” New York Times: 22 Mar 2010, A10.

—. “Pace of Planning for East Jerusalem Projects Slows.” New York Times: 28 April 2010, A12.

Landler, Mark and Helene Cooper. “Obama Phrase Highlights Shift On Middle East.” New York Times: 15 April 2010, A1.

Loder, Doris. “Help Bring Clean Water to Gaza’s Children.” Letter to the Editor.  The Germantown Chronicle 3/25/2010: 5. Here is confirmation that issues in Palestine and Israel are of concern to communities right in our students’ back yard.

“Obama and Israel.” Editorial. New York Times. 27 Mar 2010 [Letters to the Editor: 2 Apr 2010]

Pierpont, Claudia Roth. “Books: Found in Translation: The contemporary Arabic novel.” New Yorker: 18 Jan. 2010: 74-80.

Remnick, David. “Profiles: The Spirit Level: Amos Oz writes the story of Israel.” New Yorker: 8 Nov. 2004, 1-13.

—. “The Talk of the Town. Comment: Special Relationships.” New Yorker: 29 Mar. 2010: 41-42.

Simon, Stephanie. “The Six-Day War & The Rebirth of Jewish-American Identity.” Kedma: Penn’s Journal on Jewish Thought, Jewish Culture, and Israel. Issue 7 Fall 2008/5769, 18-30.

Slackman, Michael. “Policy Contortions Conceal a Shared Religious Heritage Behind a Curtain.” New York Times: 3/22/2010, A10.

Strenger, Carlo. “Talking-Cure Diplomacy.” New York Times: 26 Feb 2010, ___.

Tartanella, Emily. “Singing for Peace: Israeli Jew and Arab sing together for peace.” Philadelphia Inquirer: 27 April 2010, E4.

Vitello, Paul. “The Urgency of Bearing Witness: Recounting Holocaust Even as Memory Fades.” New York Times: A14-A15.

Teacher Resources: Electronic

  1. IsraeliPalestinian conflict – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The IsraeliPalestinian conflict is the ongoing dispute between Israelis and Palestinians, an enduring and explosive conflict. The conflict is wide-ranging,

HistoryPeace processCurrent issues in disputeCasualties

  1. The IsraeliPalestinian Conflict – Issues in a Nutshell

The IsraeliPalestinian Conflict – Issues in a Nutshell – History, Security, Occupation, Refugees, checkpoints, terror, Jerusalem, Water, Disengagement with – CachedSimilar

  1. Brief History of IsraeliPalestinian Conflict

A Brief History of Israel, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Israeli-Palestinian Conflict) from ancient times to the current events of the peace – CachedSimilar

Show more results from

  1. News and opinion for palestinian israeli conflict
a.     Obama’s Misguided Approach to Peacemaking” by Matthew Brooks and Matthew R.J. Brodsky Conservative news blog

b.     “Non-violence needs women” by Asma Asfour.  06 May 2010  Common Ground News Service: Constructive articles that foster dialogue. Accessed August 15, 2010.


c.     “Going organic: The siege on Gaza” by Jon Elmer

d.     “IDF razes wall dividing Jewish and Arab areas east of Jerusalem”

by Nir Hasson  Accessed August 15, 2010.

e.     “From Mixed to Shared: Haifa as a Shared City: International Conference” July 29, 2010 U.S. based New Israel Fund, “…organization committed to democratic change within Israel.” Founded 1979.


  1. The PalestinianIsraeli Conflict

The struggle for a Jewish and Palestinian homeland is really an extension of a centuries-old religious conflict.…/palestinianisraeliconflict1.htm

  1. PalestinianIsraeli Conflict For Beginners

Right of Return 101, the key to ending the PalestineIsraeli conflict.…/Story725.html

  1. The Origin of the PalestineIsrael Conflict

Donald Neff, author of five books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

  1. Research Guide to the PalestinianIsraeli Conflict

A comprehensive listing of Web sites and individual Web documents relating to the PalestinianIsraeli conflict.

  1. IsraeliPalestinianorg

What are the solutions to the IsraeliPalestinian conflict? IsraeliPalestinian presents statistics, maps, timelines, historical documents

  1. The PalestinianIsraeli War: Where It Came From, and How to End It …

The following is an edited transcript of a speech given by Daniel Pipes at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, November 16, 2005, followed by an…/the-palestinianisraeli-war

  1. Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Primer – Table …

Primer on Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Palestinian Arab Refugees; Palestinians; Palestinian Arab Citizens of Israel…/toc-pal-isr-primer.html

  1. Books for palestinian israeli conflict (Sizable excerpts available on the web)

The stakes: America in the Middle East : the Consequences of Power and the Choice for Peace. – Shibley Telhami – Accessed 8/92010

Anguished hope: Holocaust scholars confront the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict – Leonard Grob, John K. Roth – 2008 Accessed 8/9/2010

European foreign policy-making and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. – David Allen, Alfred Pijpers – 1984  Accessed 8/9/2010

Student Resource: Books

Kanafani, Ghassan. Palestine’s Children: Returning to Haifa and Other Stories. Trans. Barbara Harlow and Karen E. Riley. London: Rienner, 2000. In a fictionalized account, Palestinians who left their homes in the conflict immediately following Israel’s declaration of independence describe their precipitous exit, life as refugees and efforts to return.

Khoury, Elias. Gate of the Sun (Bab al-Shams). Trans. Humphrey Davies. Brooklyn: Archipelago, 2005. Here is a novel by a Lebanese author, multiple voices recounting life in and around Palestinian refugee camps after 1948.

Oz, Amos. Don’t Call It Night. Trans. Nicholas de Lange. London: Chatto & Windus, 1995. Middle years Israeli lovers, a teacher and a planner, live everyday lives tinged with tragedy in the historical and current background of the Jewish nation.

—. Panther in the Basement. Trans. Nicholas de Lange. Orlando: Harcourt, 1995. Through the eyes of a 12-year-old Jewish boy, a fictional and autobiographical son of Holocaust survivors, we learn of the danger, expectation and hope surrounding the beginnings of the state of Israel.

Student Resources: Electronic

  1. Mahmoud Darwish. Accessed 2/26/10
  2. Lesson Plan on Point of View. Includes 15-minute video of crane operator’s magnificent but limited point of view.  Accessed 2/25/2010
  3. Interactive video game. Available in English, Arabic and Hebrew, players (PG-13) assume roles as political leaders seeking solutions within strict guidelines. Accessed 5/3/2010
  4. a. Accessed 2/26/2010
  5. Accessed 2/26/10
  6. Review of Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury. Accessed 8/1/2010.
  7. Amos Oz. Accessed 2/28/10
  8. Accessed 3/26/2010
  9. An Israeli mother, Robi Damelin, and a Palestinian brother, Ali Abu Awwad, who each lost a family member to the violence of the other side, work together for peace in an organization called Parents Circle – Families Forum.

“Son of Hamas founder says he served Israel as an informant”



  1. August 2009 An Interview with Adina Hoffman
  2. Source: University of Michigan Accessed 5/31/10

Multiple factors predict teens’ negative stereotypes of other groups. Researchers gathered responses from 229 9th and 12th grade Arab-American and Jewish-American high school students.

  1. accessed July 22, 2010 Young Israelis and Palestinians Commit to Peace “Many people from both sides are basically on the same side, the side that wants peace,” said Liel Maghen, an Israeli student who moderated the event.
  1.  In 1999, Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian scholar brought together young musicians from Israel and a variety of Arab countries, including Palestine. Through rehearsal and tours, the young people demonstrate real-life peacemaking through music. Accessed August 13, 2010


Pennsylvania Standards for English and Language Arts

Academic Standards for Writing, Speaking and Listening Appendix 1:

Pennsylvania’s Department of Education Academic Standards

Standard: Reading #1

Apply effective reading strategies to comprehend, organize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate texts to construct meaning.

Standard: Reading #2

Read a variety of materials including fiction and non-fiction, classic and contemporary texts from a diversity of cultures (especially African, Asian/Pacific, European, Latino, and Native American cultures), communication systems, and functional texts.

Standard: Reading #3

Read for a variety of purposes: to seek information; to apply knowledge; to enhance enjoyment; to engage in inquiry and research; to expand world views; to understand individuality, shared humanity, and the heritage of the people in our city as well as the contributions of a diversity of groups to American culture and other cultures throughout the world.

Standard: Literature

Listen to, read, recognize, and respond to literature as a record of human experience that provides individual perspective, promotes understanding of multiple perspectives, and reflects the importance of cultural influences.

Standard: Writing #1 –

Plan, draft, revise, and publish writing using correct grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, spelling, and effective vocabulary, appropriate to the purpose, context, and audience.

Standard: Writing #2

Write for academic, personal, social, civic, and school-to-career purposes.

Standard: Writing #3

Write in a variety of forms including journals, essays, stories, letters, plays, poems, and reports using figurative, descriptive, literary, and technical language.

Standard: Writing #4

Conduct and document inquiry-based research using oral, print, and communications systems.

Standard: Speaking #1

Speak for a variety of purposes including informing, persuading, questioning, problem solving, sharing ideas and stories, reaching consensus, and responding sensitively and respectfully using language appropriate to the context, audience, and purpose.

Standard: Speaking #2

Speak using effective communication skills including enunciation, inflection, volume, fluency, and non-verbal gestures.

Standard: Listening #1  – Listen actively for a variety of purposes including comprehending, interpreting, analyzing, evaluating, responding effectively, and for enjoyment

Standard: Listening #2 – Recognize the diversity of oral English language use, patterns, and dialects, and understand its implications across social contexts, cultures, ethnic groups, and geography.

Standard: Viewing

View media, technology, and live performances for a variety of purposes including gathering information, making informed judgments, processing information, and for


Appendix B

McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, 1915-1916


At the commencement of hostilities in World War I, both Britain and Germany attempted to gain the sympathies of the Arabs with promises of national independence, and to enlist the sympathies of the Zionists as well. The Germans were the first to make such proposals and proposed quite detailed plans for subverting British influence in Egypt and subverting Russian influence in Persia. These plans were subsequently frustrated because their Ottoman allies were reluctant to support Arab nationalism, fearing that the ideology would spread to their own empire as well. The quasi-independent Sherifian monarchy of the Hijaz in Saudi Arabia was a target initially of German favors, and later got the attention of the British led by Colonel T.E. Lawrence. The Germans wanted Husayn to subvert British and Russian interests in Persia and Iraq, while the British sought to persuade him to mobilize the Arabs for an attack against the Turks.

By 1915, the British had become increasingly interested in Arabia.  Acting on behalf of the British Government, Sir Henry McMahon promised Sherif Husayn (Hussein) of Mecca, Arab control over the whole of areas to be liberated from Turkey, except an area to the West of Syria defined as follows:

“The two districts of Mersina and Alexandretta and portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo cannot be said to be purely Arab, and should be excluded from the limits demanded.”

and some other minor concessions. The area was only defined approximately.

No authoritative maps based on this promise were ever published. The origins of the boundary suggested are obscure, and may have had their origin in the instructions of Sir Edward Grey  that Damascus, Homs, Hama and Allepo should be under Arab control. (see discussion by Elie Kedourie, Islam and the Modern World, Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1980, pp 297 ff).

Either interpretation could be supported by the vague boundary description in the letter, and partisans of the Zionists and Palestinians  have produced maps that support their contentions. The Arab claim that Palestine was definitely part of the land assigned to the Arabs is not wholly consistent with the phrase in the letter, which says of the excluded areas “cannot be said to be purely Arab, and should be excluded from the limits demanded. Palestine “could not be said to be purely Arab” in the same sense as the area of modern Lebanon certainly, because, especially in Jerusalem, the Turkish government had given a great many “concessions” to both foreign governments and to church groups. Moreover, there is a British undertaking to safeguard the holy places, which would hardly have been necessary if Palestine was not part of the area. The British later claimed that the Balfour declaration was consistent with the McMahon correspondence and the Sykes-Picot agreement, but the three documents seem to contradict each other

The entire correspondence was published in English first by George Antonius, The Arab Awakening (London, 1938), and next in a British white paper, Cmd. 5957, March 1939.

Notice – Copyright

This introduction is Copyright 2001-2004 by MidEastWeb and the author. Please tell your friends about MidEastWeb and link to this page. Please do not copy this page to your Web site. You may print this page out for classroom use provided that this notice is appended, and you may cite this material in the usual way. Other uses are by permission only.  The source material below is placed in the public domain and is free of copy restrictions.

MidEastWeb is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting peace and coexistence in the Middle East. We provide balanced and complete information, news and views to promote understanding and dialog.   Accessed July 15, 2010


Appendix C


Sykes-Picot Agreement

From World War I Document Archive

WWI Document Archive > Official Papers > Sykes-Picot Agreement

15 & 16 May, 1916:

  1. Sir Edward Grey to Paul Cambon, 15 May 1916

I shall have the honour to reply fully in a further note to your Excellency’s note of the 9th instant, relative to the creation of an Arab State, but I should meanwhile be grateful if your Excellency could assure me that in those regions which, under the conditions recorded in that communication, become entirely French, or in which French interests are recognised as predominant, any existing British concessions, rights of navigation or development, and the rights and privileges of any British religious, scholastic, or medical institutions will be maintained.

His Majesty’s Government are, of course, ready to give a reciprocal assurance in regard to the British area.

  1. Sir Edward Grey to Paul Cambon, 16 May 1916

I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Excellency’s note of the 9th instant, stating that the French Government accept the limits of a future Arab State, or Confederation of States, and of those parts of Syria where French interests predominate, together with certain conditions attached thereto, such as they result from recent discussions in London and Petrograd on the subject.

I have the honour to inform your Excellency in reply that the acceptance of the whole project, as it now stands, will involve the abdication of considerable British interests, but, since His Majesty’s Government recognise the advantage to the general cause of the Allies entailed in producing a more favourable internal political situation in Turkey, they are ready to accept the arrangement now arrived at, provided that the co-operation of the Arabs is secured, and that the Arabs fulfil the conditions and obtain the towns of Homs, Hama, Damascus, and Aleppo.

It is accordingly understood between the French and British Governments—

  1. That France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and protect an independent Arab State or a Confederation of Arab States in the areas (A) and (B) marked on the annexed map, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief. That in area (A) France, and in area (B) Great Britain, shall have priority of right of enterprise and local loans. That in area (A) France, and in area (B) Great Britain, shall alone supply advisers or foreign functionaries at the request of the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States.
  2. That in the blue area France, and in the red area Great Britain, shall be allowed to establish such direct or indirect administration or control as they desire and as they may think fit to arrange with the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States.
  3. That in the brown area there shall be established an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other Allies, and the representatives of the Shereef of Mecca.


  1. That Great Britain be accorded (1) the ports of Haifa and Acre, (2) guarantee of a given supply of water from the Tigris and Euphrates in area (A) for area (B). His Majesty’s Government, on their part, undertake that they will at no time enter into negotiations for the cession of Cyprus to any third Power without the previous consent of the French Government.
  2. That Alexandretta shall be a free port as regards the trade of the British Empire, and that there shall be no discrimination in port charges or facilities as regards British shipping and British goods; that there shall be freedom of transit for British goods through Alexandretta and by railway through the blue area, whether those goods are intended for or originate in the red area, or (B) area, or area (A); and there shall be no discrimination, direct or indirect against British goods on any railway or against British goods or ships at any port serving the areas mentioned.

That Haifa shall be a free port as regards the trade of France, her dominions and protectorates, and there shall be no discrimination in port charges or facilities as regards French shipping and French goods. There shall be freedom of transit for French goods through Haifa and by the British railway through the brown area, whether those goods are intended for or originate in the blue area, area (A), or area (B), and there shall be no discrimination, direct or indirect, against French goods on any railway, or against French goods or ships at any port serving the areas mentioned.

  1. That in area (A) the Baghdad Railway shall not be extended southwards beyond Mosul, and in area (B) northwards beyond Samarra, until a railway connecting Baghdad with Aleppo via the Euphrates Valley has been completed, and then only with the concurrence of the two Governments.


  1. That Great Britain has the right to build, administer, and be sole owner of a railway connecting Haifa with area (B), and shall have a perpetual right to transport troops along such a line at all times.

It is to be understood by both Governments that this railway is to facilitate the connexion of Baghdad with Haifa by rail, and it is further understood that, if the engineering difficulties and expense entailed by keeping this connecting line in the brown area only make the project unfeasible, that the French Government shall be prepared to consider that the line in question may also traverse the polygon Banias-Keis Marib-Salkhab Tell Otsda-Mesmie before reaching area (B).

  1. For a period of twenty years the existing Turkish customs tariff shall remain in force throughout the whole of the blue and red areas, as well as in areas (A) and (B), and no increase in the rates of duty or conversion from ad valorem to specific rates shall be made except by agreement between the two Powers.

There shall be no interior customs barriers between any of the above-mentioned areas. The customs duties leviable on goods destined for the interior shall be collected at the port of entry and handed over to the administration of the area of destination.

  1. It shall be agreed that the French Government will at no time enter into any negotiations for the cession of their rights and will not cede such rights in the blue area to any third Power, except the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States without the previous agreement of His Majesty’s Government, who, on their part, will give a similar undertaking to the French Government regarding the red area.
  2. The British and French Governments, as the protectors of the Arab State, shall agree that they will not themselves acquire and will not consent to a third Power acquiring territorial possessions in the Arabian peninsula, nor consent to a third Power installing a naval base either on the east coast, or on the islands, of the Red Sea. This, however, shall not prevent such adjustment of the Aden frontier as may be necessary in consequence of recent Turkish aggression.
  3. The negotiations with the Arabs as to the boundaries of the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States shall be continued through the same channel as heretofore on behalf of the two Powers.
  4. It is agreed that measures to control the importation of arms into the Arab territories will be considered by the two Governments.

I have further the honour to state that, in order to make the agreement complete, His Majesty’s Government are proposing to the Russian Government to exchange notes analogous to those exchanged by the latter and your Excellency’s Government on the 26th April last. Copies of these notes will be communicated to your Excellency as soon as exchanged.

I would also venture to remind your Excellency that the conclusion of the present agreement raises, for practical consideration, the question of the claims of Italy to a share in any partition or rearrangement of Turkey in Asia, as formulated in article 9 of the agreement of the 26th April, 1915, between Italy and the Allies.

His Majesty’s Government further consider that the Japanese Government should be informed of the arrangement now concluded.

Appendix D


The Balfour Declaration
November 2, 1917


During the First World War, British policy became gradually committed to the idea of establishing a Jewish home in Palestine (Eretz Yisrael). After discussions in the British Cabinet, and consultation with Zionist leaders, the decision was made known in the form of a letter by Arthur James Lord Balfour to Lord Rothschild. The letter represents the first political recognition of Zionist aims by a Great Power.

Foreign Office
November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely,
Arthur James Balfour

Accessed July 1, 2010


Appendix E  Graphic Organizer: Fishbone Map (Causes and Effect)