Friday, September 12, 2014

College Student? Visit

My new page for assisting students with college, career, and various life issues is here. If you are a college student or have friends who are (or you are a professor), please visit While you are there, don't forget to "like" the page on Facebook. I'm trying to grow this new service and any help would be much appreciated. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Semester is now over!

Please feel free to browse our discussions below or the resources to your left. 
Due to my leaving OU to teach at Emory University beginning fall 2011, this blog will probably not resume operation in the near future. 

Thank you very much for your interest in my course and teaching. You may follow me on my personal website or on facebook.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Last Question of the Week: Cast Lead and War Crimes

The Goldstone Report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council determines that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza during operation Cast Lead in late 2008/early 2009. Based on what you have read so far, and your understanding of what war crimes are, do you agree with that statement? Is there more than one way to view Israel's operation in the Gaza Strip?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Question of the week: the failure of the peace process

The 1990s brought with them much hope for a new order in the Middle East that would be achieved through peace between Israel and its neighbors. But in the second half of the decade the peace process slowed down (under Netanyahu's government), and then was reignited during the short tenure of Ehud Barak as prime minister, only to collapse into another violent struggle between Israel and the Palestinians, known as the second intifada. Our question this week is therefore:

Did Arafat make a good or poor decision in launching the second intifada in the second half of 2000? Could there have been a better outcome for the Palestinians had he not done so?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Question of the week: the first intifada and its long term achievements

We have already begun to discuss the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-1992) in class. Our question this week is therefore:

Did the first Palestinian Intifada succeed in achieving its goals? If so, why hasn't an independent Palestinian state emerged so far?

note: if you are a registered student in this course, your answer must somehow reflect the weekly readings to get credit.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Question of the week: Hizballah - a success story?

This week we read portions of statements by/interviews with Hasan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hizballah. We also discussed in class how from a paramilitary group, Hizballah has emerged as a popular political movement (that still maintains a military wing). One has to ask, then:

Is Hizballah a success story in Lebanon? And if so, how can its success by explained?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Question of the week: Fatah and the use of violence

Yassir Arafat founded Fatah in 1959. From the end of 1964, Fatah engaged itself in attacks against Israeli, Jewish, and later (in the 1970s) western targets. There is no doubt that Palestinian attacks helped attract international attention to the Palestinian problem. But, after all those years as a Palestinian state has yet to emerge, one has to wonder:

Did the new (post-1948) Palestinian leadership made a right choice to resort to violence? Could they have gotten Israel to negotiate with them, or perhaps even reach statehood, had they turned to diplomatic efforts only?

This is a hypothetical question (a "what if" question that historians usually don't like to answer), of course, so there is no right or wrong answer here. You may also choose to answer this question from a philosophical perspective: is it wise to use violence, or extreme measures in general, to achieve a certain goal. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Question of the week: the failure to reconcile after 1948

The war of 1948 ended with a clear Israeli victory. Historically, military conflicts have many times ended not only with a ceasefire, but actually with a peace treaty. The Israelis expected that this would happen after 1948, yet despite various attempts to negotiate in the late 1940s and early 1950s, no Arab state made peace with Israel. Our question is therefore: 

Why didn't Israel sign a peace treaty with its Arab neighbors in the aftermath of the 1948 war?

If you are taking this course for credit, please consult D2L before answering this week's question.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Question of the week: the War of 1948

Our question this week is one of the most controversial ones in the history of the conflict, so feel free to debate it as much and as long as you wish:

Why did the Yishuv/Israel win and the Palestinians/Israel's Arab neighbors lose in the war of 1948? 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Question of the week: the Arab revolt of 1936-39

The Arab revolt of 1936-39 was perhaps the most concentrated attempt to halt Jewish expansion and persuade the British to limit Jewish immigration into Palestine. Our question this week is therefore:

Was the Arab revolt of 1936-39 a success?

Explain your answer and, if you are taking this course for credit, reference the weekly reading in some way. You may read more about the Arab revolt in the following link:

And read the original text of the British White Paper of 1939, which followed the revolt, here:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Question of the week: the Husayn-McMahon correspondence

The Husayn-McMahon correspondence of 1915-16, at the time a secret correspondence between Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt, and Husayn ibn Ali of Mecca - the letters were made public years later, in 1938 - were one of the most controversial promises the British had ever made. In a sense, the letters provided the basis for what could have been fruitful relationship between the British (who wished to dominate the Middle East), the Arabs (who wanted to see the Ottomans go), and Husayn and his family (who had personal ambitions). As it turned out, the British never fulfilled their promise to establish an Arab state, but rather pursued a policy that would make the Balfour Declaration a reality. So our question is:

What did the British in fact offer Husayn, why were their promises problematic, and who should be blamed for the eventual result of affairs at the end of the World War I? Did the Jews play any role in shifting British policy? If so, why weren't the Arabs successful in doing the same?

A big and long question - does anyone care to answer?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Question of the Week: Purchasing Land

This week we've read about Jews purchasing lands from Arabs in Palestine. Now let's discuss the moral implications of such acts, when there's a clear long-term goal of changing political realities - indeed what the early Zionists had done in Palestine from the 1880s.

Below you'll find links to a few stories (most from last year, some more recent) about purchasing property to affect demography. Nowadays, most Israelis reject the purchasing of land or real estate in Palestinian-dominated areas or neighborhoods, whether they are in Arab cities within Israel's borders, the West Bank, or East Jerusalem. However, a small group of ultra-right wing (and usually religious) Israelis who believe the entire country (Eretz Yisrael) belongs to the Jews, has been for quite some time intentionally looking for and buying property within Palestinian/Arab/Muslim areas.

Recently, the main area of dispute has been East Jerusalem, whether within the old city walls, or in the Arab parts of the city. In a few incidents, religious extremists have infiltrated Palestinian property, arguing that they have documents from the Ottoman period that prove their ownership of the land or houses. In some cases, they even forcefully evacuated the current residents of these houses. The police cannot intervene in most cases, because of a court order that permits the settlers to take possession of their property (Israeli law recognizes legal contracts from the Ottoman period).

Such stories have been in the news quite a lot recently, and engendered a lot of opposition from the sane parts of Israeli society. Leaders of the Israeli left even organized demonstrations in East Jerusalem in support of the Palestinians. Among the demonstrators were the famous Israeli authors Amos Oz and David Grossman, as well as Israel's former minister of education, Yossi Sarid.

These last developments bring us back to the historical question:

Was the Jewish practice of purchasing lands in Palestine from Arab landlords and driving away the farmers who used to work those lands for decades morally problematic? And, did the Jews have another way of achieving their goals of establishing a state in Eretz Yisrael? 

Note: if you are taking this course for credit, your response must relate to the weekly assigned readings in some way. 

More recent news items:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Question of the Week: Recognizing the Narrative of the Other

During the first two weeks of the semester, we have discussed in class the background to the conflict and the centrality of the land of Palestine/Eretz Yisrael in the Muslim and Jewish traditions. We have learned that more often than not, the Jewish/Israeli and Arab/Palestinian narratives contradict each other.

The question we will discuss online this week is:

When thinking about the conflict between Israel and its neighbors, should one understand and recognize the historical narrative of the other even without agreeing with it? If so, why?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Guardian exposes secret papers from Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

The Guardian, a British newspaper, published yesterday (1/23) 1600 documents leaked to the Qatar-based news network al-Jazeera about Israeli-Palestinian negotiations from the last decade. The documents are available on their website, and although their content is not too surprising, they are very interesting to read.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tentative list of speakers and dates: Arab-Israeli Conflict Presidential Dream Course

This post was last updated 2/23/2011. 

Lecture titles have been added for some of the speakers, and will be updated for the others once the information becomes available. 

Here is the list of speakers as of 1/12/2011. This list is subject to change. Please check back often.

Note: students taking this course for credit need to make themselves available on the dates of the lectures (even if they don't fall on Mondays or Wednesdays), at the very least from 5 to 8pm. This is one of the course's requirements. See more about this in the previous post

Currently, all lectures are scheduled for 6pm on the dates listed below. They are free and open to the public. No need to RSVP.

Event Posponed, new date TBA. Wednesday, 2/9  - Ambassador Michael Oren, Ambassador of the State of Israel to the United States. 
Note: This event will be a President's Associates Dinner and seating will be available by invitation only. More details will be provided in class. Location TBA.

Monday, 2/28 - Professor Kenneth Stein, William E. Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History and Israeli Studies at Emory University, and the director of the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel, also at Emory.

Lecture title: American Foreign Policy: Adjusting to a Shifting Middle East Landscape

Location: Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, 2401 Chautauqua Ave, Norman, in the Kerr Auditorium.

Thursday, 3/3 - Ophir Pines-Paz, former Israeli Minister of Interior and Minister of Science, Culture, and Sport, and former Member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) from the Labor Party.

Lecture title: The Peace Process: is the Age of Bilateral Talks Over?

Location: Associates Room, Oklahoma Memorial Union, 3rd floor. Fred Jones Jr Museum of Art, 555 Elm Ave, Norman. 
note: venue has changed!

Wednesday, 3/9 - Professor Ussama Makdisi, Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair in Arabic Studies and Professor of History at Rice University

Lecture title: Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations

Location: Fred Jones Jr Museum of Art, 555 Elm Ave, Norman. 
Talk will start at 5pm.

Monday, 4/4 - Elias Muhanna, author of the blog about Lebanon, and a PhD candidate at Harvard University.

Lecture title: Adventures in Demography/Democracy: Prospects for Electoral Reform in Lebanon

Location: Associates Room, Oklahoma Memorial Union, 3rd floor.

Monday, 4/11 Monday 4/18 Wednesday 4/20 - Ambassador Maen Areikat, Chief PLO Representative to the United States
note: date has changed twice!
Location: Fred Jones Jr Museum of Art, 555 Elm Ave, Norman. 

Monday, 5/2 - Dr. Martin Kramer, senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, President-designate of Shalem College (in formation), and the Wexler-Fromer Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Location: Scholars Room, Oklahoma Memorial Union, 3rd floor.

Note: the last lecture takes place on "dead week." According to university policy, events may be scheduled for dead week 30 days or more in advance. Students taking the course will be expected to attend this lecture. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Presidential Dream Course - Spring 2011

Update: the schedule of speakers for "The Arab-Israeli Conflict" Presidential Dream Course will be posted here by mid-December. The Syllabus for the course should be available on this website by New Year's.

The course "The Arab-Israeli Conflict" will be taught as a Presidential Dream Course in the spring semester of 2011. This means a number of speakers will be coming to campus throughout the semester. Each speaker will give a public lecture, and those taking the course will also get to meet with him/her during class time.

Important information for those considering to take the course - read this before enrolling:

The University and I are investing time and resources in inviting guest speakers and making this course a memorable learning experience about the Conflict. Public lectures will be an inseparable part of this course, and will take place in the afternoons/evenings. If you choose to register for this class, please make sure your schedule allows you to attend the lectures. Attendance will be taken at all lectures, and will be an integral part of the final grade. Missing more than one public lecture will not allow you to earn a passing grade for the course. 

The class will meet twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:30-2:45. Public lectures, as much as possible, will be scheduled on one of these two days. The schedule of speakers will be posted on this website sometime in November. If registering for this class before the schedule of public lectures is available, please check back to make sure you can make it to lectures. If your schedule cannot in any way fit into the program, you may want to consider taking this course sometime in the future, or come see me and we'll talk about it. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Old Posts Removed

Thank you for your interest in our course's website. The old posts from this past semester have been removed for now. New content will be up in January, 2011, in preparation for the spring semester.

In 2011, the "Arab-Israeli Conflict" course will be taught as a Presidential Dream Course. More info about it, including schedules for guest speakers, will be made available here sometime around December, 2010.

Until then, please feel free to browse the links to your left.