REL-256: Israel and Palestine, J-term 2003

This course syllabus is a proposed outline only and is subject to change based on the interests of students and the unfolding current events.

Course description

Why can't Arabs and Israelis reach a compromise for peace in the Middle East? We will investigate the roots of the current conflict through the history of the region. How do Jewish Israelis, Palestinians, and other Arabs from Israel and neighboring nations differ on just what happened from 1946 to present? Our focus will be on how that history impacts the current situation. The course will include videos, slide presentations, and student explorations and presentations on the Middle East conflict. Grading Option: Pass/Fail. Students who took ``Jerusalem Past and Present'' in J-term of 2002 may not enroll.

Students will be actively engaged in classroom debates, investigations, and presentations. Students will also arrange activities for the campus community.

Reason for pass/fail grading and general course expectations

The course is more experimental in nature than a regular semester religion course. Although the professors may require a few papers (or tests) in order to insure that the students gain a basic level of understanding of the history of Palestine and Israel, the focus will be on discussing the issues. The goal is for the students to experiment with new ideas and think creatively. The professors encourage students to explore ideas and solutions that are difficult to prove, and realize that this type of creative thinking often happens best when the student is not worrying about saying the right thing to get a certain grade.

It should be emphasized that there are high expectations for the entire class in terms of participation and class preparation. It is assumed that everyone will complete all of the assignments on time and participate in class on a regular basis. The student will be in danger of failing if she or he has more than 2 unexcused absences, 3 absences for any reason, or any tardy assignments. If a student fails to complete an assignment, it is expected that he or she will not pass the course.

General course outline

We will study the history of Palestine and the birth of Israel, with primary focus on the late 19th and 20th century. In particular, we will undertake each of the following topics through assigned readings from the Bible, history books, and newspapers; videos; and in-class discussions.

The following textbooks are required reading. We'll list other references in the course web page.

Final Project: students will be divided into groups with the goal of coming up with a tentative proposal for how to move forward in the peace process in present-day Israel. The project will be called the ``Minnesota River Principles for Mideast Peace.'' The rationale for this section of the course is drawn Former President Jimmy Carter's premise that the most promising means of developing a working peace process is for a ``think tank'' of scholars to come up with a proposal that is fair and equitable, and then to let the Israelis and Palestinians work out the details from this starting point. This is basically the method used by a team of scholars and diplomats who came up with the Oslo Accords. The goal will be to have the students negotiate a set of principles in order to understand the possibilities of peace and the problems of achieving it. See below for details for the requirements of this project.

Course Requirements

Attendance and participation: The class will be based on discussions and common exploration, so attendance and active participation is very important. The class will meet 3 hours per day for 5 days per week. In addition, the following are required: