Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

To Do or Not To Do: Truman's Recognition of Israel
Michael Young
US History
Time Frame:
Two 50 minute classroom meetings
Middle East
Recognition Of Israel

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • This lesson can be assigned to individual students and/or used as a cooperative learning endeavor. Students will utilize the Internet to access links a variety of primary and secondary documents.

  • To assist students in developing skills that will enable them to analyze primary documents and political cartoons which will help them develop an understanding of the different perspectives of Truman’s recognition of Israel
  • To introduce the Stanford  History Educational Group’s Reading Like A Historian teaching strategies to help students investigate historical questions by employing the following reading strategies

ü  Sourcing

ü  Contextualizing

ü  Corroborating

ü  Close reading

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

SS 12.4.2 (US) Students will analyze and evaluate the impact of people, events, ideas, and symbols upon

US history using multiple types of sources.

SS 12.4.2.c (US) Analyze and evaluate the appropriate uses of primary and secondary sources

SS 12.4.3 (US) Students will analyze and evaluate historical and current events from multiple perspectives

SS 12.4.4.a (US) Compare and evaluate contradictory historical narratives of Twentieth-Century U.S. History

through determination of credibility, contextualization, and corroboration

SS 12.4.5.b (US) Obtain, analyze, evaluate, and cite appropriate sources for research about Twentieth-Century

U.S. History, incorporating primary and secondary sources (e.g., Cite sources using a prescribed format)

SS 12.4.5.c (US) Gather historical information about the United States (e.g., document archives, artifacts,

newspapers, interviews)

SS 12.4.5.d (US) Present an evaluation of historical information about the United States (e.g., pictures, posters,

oral/written narratives and electronic presentations)


Common Core

Key Ideas and Details

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.3 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Craft and Structure

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.5 Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.8 Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Booth, Amber. Parkway South High School. Who decides a nation?  Student guide sheet.


Israel’s Legal Borders Under International Law


Library of Congress.  American Memory Collection. Teachers. Teacher’s Guides and Analysis Tool


Library of Congress.  American Memory Collections.  Teachers.  Using Primary Sources


Pro Con.org Israel   Israeli-Palestinian conflict


Samia Shoman, Ed.D. Teaching the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Through Dual Narratives


Stanford History Education Group.  Reading Like A Historian


The Middle East in Transition: Question for U.S. Policy.  December, 2011.  The Choices Program. Watson Institute for International Studies. Brown U.


Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

About.com Political Humor


Avalon Project.  Yale Law School.  19th and 20th Century Documents


Bing. Creation of Israel State Political Cartoons




Cartoons from the Arab World


Israel and Palestine Political Cartoons


Harry S. Truman Library. Documents. The Recognition of the State of Israel              


Harry S. Truman Library. Background. The Recognition of the State of Israel.


Harry S. Truman Library. Papers. Jewish Refugees, The Recognition of Israel and U.S.-Israel



Harry S. Truman Library. Other Sources. Audio. The Recognition of the State of Israel.          http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/israel/large/index.php?action=or

Harry S. Truman Library.  Recognition of Israel. Student Activity.  Mark Adams


Harry S. Truman Library.  Selected list of lesson plans related to the U.S. recognition of Israel


Harry S. Truman  Library. Index to all lesson plans—including lesson plans related to Truman

            and recognition of Israel


Modern History Internet Source Book. Fordham University.


            Mid East Since 1944


National Archives. Teaching with Documents. Lesson Plan: The U.S. Recognition of the State of



Punch Magazine. British.


United Nations Maps of Palestine 1947.


Full description of activity or assignment.

Background   (Excerpts from the National Archives. Teachers. Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan: The U.S. Recognition of the State of Israel) http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/us-israel/


In 1917 Chaim Weizmann, scientist, statesperson, and Zionist, persuaded the British government to issue a statement favoring the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The statement, which became known as the Balfour Declaration, was, in part, payment to the Jews for their support of the British against the Turks during World War I. After the war, the League of Nations ratified the declaration and in 1922 appointed Britain to rule Palestine.

This course of events caused Jews to be optimistic about the eventual establishment of a homeland. Their optimism inspired the immigration to Palestine of Jews from many countries, particularly from Germany when Nazi persecution of Jews began. The arrival of many Jewish immigrants in the 1930s awakened Arab fears that Palestine would become a national homeland for the Jews. By 1936 guerrilla fighting had broken out between the Jews and the Arabs. Unable to maintain peace, Britain issued a white paper in 1939 that restricted Jewish immigration into Palestine. The Jews, feeling betrayed, bitterly opposed the policy and looked to the United States for support.

When Harry S. Truman took office, he made clear that his sympathies were with the Jews and accepted the Balfour Declaration, explaining that it was in keeping with former President Woodrow Wilson's principle of "self-determination." Truman initiated several studies of the Palestine situation that supported his belief that, as a result of the Holocaust, Jews were oppressed and also in need of a homeland. Throughout the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, the Departments of War and State, recognizing the possibility of a Soviet-Arab connection and the potential Arab restriction on oil supplies to this country, advised against U.S. intervention on behalf of the Jews.

  • The British Jewish terrorism in Palestine antagonized the British. Britain, anxious to rid itself of the problem, set the United Nations in motion, formally requesting on April 2, 1947, that the U.N. General Assembly set up the Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). This committee recommended that the British mandate over Palestine be ended and that the territory be partitioned into two states. Jewish reaction was mixed--some wanted control of all of Palestine; others realized that partition spelled hope for their dream of a homeland. The Arabs were not at all agreeable to the UNSCOP plan. In October the Arab League Council directed the governments of its member states to move troops to the Palestine border. Meanwhile, President Truman instructed the State Department to support the U.N. plan, and, reluctantly it did so. On November 29, 1947, the partition plan was passed by the U.N. General Assembly.

At midnight on May 14, 1948, the Provisional Government of Israel proclaimed a new State of Israel. On that same date, the United States, in the person of President Truman, recognized the provisional Jewish government as de facto authority of the Jewish state (de jure recognition was extended on January 31, 1949). The U.S. delegates to the U.N. and top-ranking State Department officials were angered that Truman released his recognition statement to the press without notifying them first. On May 15, 1948, the first day of Israeli Independence and exactly one year after UNSCOP was established, Arab armies invaded Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war began.



    1. Provide students with copies of the following maps of Israel and its neighbors or have them access the maps at the following websites.

Israel and Its Mid East Neighbors



Detailed map of Israel



Instruct students (via cooperative learning or individual responses) to cite one or more challenges to creating a separate Palestinian state with reference to the following categories:

  • Economic issues
  • Political issues
  • Geographic issues
  • Cultural issues


    1. After students have read the pertinent chapter(s) in their textbook, the teacher can either print copies of the background information listed above or have students read the information online at  the National Archives website http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/us-israel/
    2. Engage the students in an oral discussion of the pertinent chapters in their textbooks and the background information. Include emphasis on the following:


Ottoman Empire, Versailles Peace Settlement (with reference to the Mid East territories), Zionism, Chaim Weizmann, League of Nations,  Palestine, Arabs, Balfour Declaration, mandate, United Nations, de facto, de jure, Suez Canal, refugee, Holocaust, etc.

    1. Discuss the Stanford History Educational Group’s Reading Like A Historian http://sheg.stanford.edu/rlh teaching strategies to help students investigate historical questions by employing the following reading strategies. 

ü  Sourcing

ü  Contextualizing

ü  Close reading

ü  Corroborating


Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

Provide students with a copy of  Handout A:  Thinking and Reading like a historian and discuss the information with students.

Handout A: Reading Like a Historian


1.      Assign students in groups of three or more  (via cooperative learning teaching strategies) to analyze Handouts  D, E and F.  There are a variety of ways the documents can be analyzed using the four components of the Reading Like a Historian i.e. each group could be assigned to only analyzed the documents using one of the components i.e. Sourcing, contextualizing, close reading or corroborating.  2.      Instruct students to analyze (individually or using cooperative learning teaching strategies) Handout B (Balfour Declaration) by answering the questions that are included with the document.

Discuss with students how primary sources may be viewed differently by different ethnic/cultural groups i.e. Jewish, Arabs, Palestinians

    1. Provide students with Handout I (Map Analysis Guide).  Instruct students, in a cooperative learning endeavor, to use the guide to analyze Handout C (The 1922 League of Nations sub-division. Image courtesy Eli E. Hertz) and Handout G (Mid East Maps Map of UN Partition Plan for Palestine – 1947).  Also have students orally discuss the differences and similarities of the two maps. 

4.    Instruct students to do an analysis of Handout H: Punch. Political Cartoon.  The Adopted Child using Handout J (National Archives Cartoon Analysis Worksheet)  

Handout B : Balfour Declaration 1917



Handout  C   :The 1922 League of Nations sub-division (Image courtesy Eli E. Hertz)



Handout D  : State Department Telegram to Diplomats and Consulates (de facto recognition of Israel).  May 14, 1948  

Record Group 59
Records of the Department of State
National Archives and Records Administration




Handout E  : Press Release about Recognition of Israel (de facto). May 14, 1948. http://www.archives.gov/global-pages/larger-image.html?i=/education/lessons/us-israel/images/recognition-press-release-l.jpg&c=/education/lessons/us-israel/images/recognition-press-release.caption.html


Handout  F: U.S. Recognition of Israel (de jure). 1.31.1949


Harry S. Truman Library. Documents.




Handout G: Mid East Maps Map of UN Partition Plan for Palestine - 1947



Handout   H  : Punch. Political Cartoon.  The Adopted Child




Handout I  : Map Analysis Worksheet.  National Archives http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/worksheets/map_analysis_worksheet.pdf   Handout  J:  Truman Library/National Archives CartoonAnalysis Worksheet  http://www.trumanlibrary.org/educ/cartoon.pdf


Option 1

  Instruct student to read the background information concerning Truman’s recognition of the state of Israel located at http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/israel/large/index.php


Instruct student via a cooperative learning endeavor or individually to select one document related to Truman’s recognition of the state of Israel between May 1947 and  March 194  located at

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/israel/large/index.php?action=docs Indicate to students they are to do analysis using the National Archives Written Document Analysis Worksheet located at  



Rubric Standards: Interpreting Political Cartoons Assessment

Option 2


Instruct students to create a political cartoon that addresses President Truman’s decision to formally (de jure) recognize the creation of the state of Israel .  Provide each student with a copy of the following rubric to review prior to his/her creation of a political cartoon.





Needs improvement


Above average



Follows few if any directions

Follows directions with some accuracy

Follows directions with few exceptions

Follows all directions


Persuasive techniques used by the cartoonist i.e. symbolism, exaggeration, labeling, analogy, and irony

Identifies 0-1 persuasive techniques with no analysis

Identifies a minimum of two persuasive techniques, but little analysis

Identifies two or more persuasive techniques with some analysis

Identifies three or more persuasive techniques with excellent analysis


Identification of the historical issue and/or personalities

Identifies the personalities and/or events pictured with limited accuracy

Identifies the personalities and events pictured with some accuracy

Identifies the personalities and events pictured with accuracy

Identifies the personalities and events pictured with a high degree of accuracy


Interprets cartoonist’s message (viewpoint)

Illustrates very limited critical analysis and insight in interpreting the message

Illustrates some critical analysis and insight in interpreting the message

Illustrates critical analysis and insight in interpreting the message

Illustrates a high degree of critical analysis and insight in interpreting the message


Expresses ideas clearly

Ideas are expressed with limited clarity

Ideas are express with some clarity

Ideas are expressed clearly

Ideas are expressed with very clearly


Evaluates the effectiveness of the cartoonist conveying the intended message


Conclusions about the effectiveness of the cartoonist show limited logic

Conclusions about the effectiveness of the cartoon show some logic

Conclusions about the effectiveness of the cartoon are logical

Conclusions about the effectiveness of the cartoon are highly logical