Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Arab-Israeli Conflict
Maureen Murphy
20th Century Contemporary History
Time Frame:
One week: Three block classes or five non-block classes
Middle East

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:


  • Students will review the background of the history of the conflict.
  • Students will read and evaluate primary sources.
  • Students will make predictions on the recognition of Israel by President Truman and compare it to what actually occurred.
  • Students will research the views of the Israelis and Palestinians on five different issues with a partner and each student will present information on the assigned viewpoint to the class.
  • Students will then be assigned in groups of five (one person per issue) to create a peace proposal to for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  • The Arab Israeli Crisis is part of Unit 5 Conflict - specifically the genocides in the 20th century and crisis including India-Pakistan, Arab Israeli, and North and South Korea.
  • Students in International Baccalaureate schools are asked to think globally at the big picture. The learner profile attributes includes principled, inquirer, thinker, communicator, open-minded, caring, risk-taker, balanced, and reflective.  In this unit the students will be asked to look at use their attributes as principled, thinker, open-minded, risk-taker, inquirer, and reflective by people in history.
  • Viewing both points of view in the controversy of recognizing Israel as well as the Israeli and Palestinians views today will give them an opportunity to see there are many ideas that are available and have merit. Each decision and view can have expected and unexpected consequences.
  • Creating a peace proposal will allow the students to evaluate both points of view.

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

National performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:



Reading Standards for Reading In History

National Common Core


9th – 10th Grade





11-12th Grade


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information. (RH.9-10.1.)

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. (RH.11-12.1.)


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text. (RH.9-10.2.)

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. (RH.11-12.2.)


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them. (RH.9-10.3.)

Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain. (RH.11-12.3.)



Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts. (RH.9-10.6.)

Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence. (RH.11-12.6.)


Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources. (RH.9-10.9.)

Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources. (RH.11-12.9.)


Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. (WHST.9-10.7.)

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. (WHST.11-12.7.)









Writing Standards for History- National Common Core




9 – 10th Grade

11- 12th Grade


Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. (WHST.9-10.9.)

Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. (WHST.11-12.9.)


Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • text book
  • The Middle East in Transition – The Questions for U.S. Policy. Watson Institute for International Studies. Brown University. 2011. http://www.choices.edu Downloadable e book available that gives teachers permission to use this in their own classes (not share with other teachers) and make copies for students. Downloads include a teacher’s edition and a student edition. Price – About $25.00
  • Harry S. Truman and the Recognition of Israel. Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs (Publication created to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the United States Recognition of Israel). 1998.



  • Database:  EBSCO Host – Points of View – Topic: Arab Israeli Conflict
  • Database:   SIRS Researcher – Arab Israeli Conflict


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

Suggested materials – teachers should probably excerpt for younger students.  In three days, you will not have time for all of the sources. Make excerpts from a variety of sources or choose a few that appeal to you.


  • Clifford, Clark with Richard Holbrooke. President Truman’s Decision to Recognize Israel.1991.Think  

Israel. May June 2011. http://www.think-israel.org/clifford.trumanrecognizesisrael.html










Israeli – Palestinian Conflict - Background – Primary and Secondary Sources


Excerpt from “The Jewish State and Jewish Problem”


In the West, in lands of emancipation, their material condition is not particularly bad, but the moral trouble is serious: They want to take full advantage of their rights, and cannot; they long to become attached to the people of the country, and to take part in its social life, and they are kept at arm's length; they strive after love and brotherhood, and are met by looks of hatred and contempt on all sides; conscious that they are not inferior to their neighbors in any kind of ability or virtue, they have it continually thrown in their teeth that they are an inferior type, and are not fit to rise to the same level as the Aryans. …   In order to escape from all these troubles it is necessary to establish a Jewish State.


1897 – Ahad Ha’am


Ha’am, A. “The Jewish State and the Jewish Problem.” Jewish Virtual Library. The American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. 2013. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/haam2.html


How does the quote above show a motivation for many Jews to want a Jewish State?




The 1937 summary report of the Palestine Royal Commission (aka the Peel Commission) conducted at the request of the British Government, contained the following:


"Under the stress of the [First] World War the British Government made promises to Arabs and Jews in order to obtain their support. On the strength of those promises both parties formed certain expectations... An irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country. There is no common ground between them. Their national aspirations are incompatible. The Arabs desire to revive the traditions of the Arab golden age. The Jews desire to show what they can achieve when restored to the land in which the Jewish nation was born. Neither of the two national ideals permits of combination in the service of a single State.


The conflict has grown steadily more bitter since 1920 and the process will continue. Conditions inside Palestine especially the systems of education, are strengthening the national sentiment of the two peoples. The bigger and more prosperous they grow the greater will be their political ambitions, and the conflict is aggravated by the uncertainty of the future. Who in the end will govern Palestine?"


1937 Peel Commission Report















Don Peretz, PhD, Professor Emeritus Political Science at the State University of New York at Binghamton, in his 1996 book The Arab-Israel Dispute, wrote:


"Tensions began after the first Zionist settlers arrived in the 1880s. Quarrels broke out between the new settlers and neighboring villages over grazing, crop and other land issues. Disputes also arose when Jewish settlers purchased land from absentee Arab owners, leading to dispossession of the peasants who cultivated it. As the number of Jewish settlements increased and as Arabs became aware of the Zionist intention to establish a Jewish homeland, opposition to the movement spread among the fellahin [peasants], urban notables, intellectuals and the merchant class. The lack of familiarity of the European settlers with traditional Arab customs often stirred conflict. At times, there were armed altercations between Jewish farmers and Arab herdsmen when the former interfered with cattle or flocks that strayed onto Jewish cultivated areas. One of the first clashes occurred at Peta Tikva, the oldest Jewish colony, established in 1878. When the settlers denied grazing rights to the neighboring Arab village, its inhabitants attacked the colony. The fear of peasant dispossession became a central issue in Arab nationalism."


1996 - Don Peretz, Ph.D.




Samih K. Farsoun, PhD, Professor of Sociology at American University, in his 1997 book Palestine and Palestinians, wrote the following:


"Palestinian discontent with the new British order [mandate] arose in April 1920 on the occasion of the Nabi Musa festival. A minor incident led to an assault by Palestinians on a procession of Jews. Although it was investigated by a British-appointed commission, the commission's recommendations were not published. Riots also occurred on May Day 1921 in a charged Palestinian and regional political climate: Arab discontentment with the results of the San Remo (Allied) conference, which awarded the eastern Arab mandates to Britain and France, led to political tension in Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon and a revolt in Iraq.


In Palestine mass Jewish immigration commenced in accordance with the British policy of establishing a Jewish national home. Palestinians perceived the arrival of 10,000 Jewish immigrants between December 1920 and April 1921 as a harbinger of the future. A riot that started in Jaffa between radical leftist and centrist Zionist groups quickly involved the Palestinians, who also attacked the immigration hostel, a symbolic target of their hostility. Forty-eight Palestinians and forty-seven Jews were killed and 219 people wounded. From Jaffa, Palestinian rioting spread to rural areas, fueled by wild rumors of Jews killing Arabs. Several Palestinians were killed by British soldiers in an effort to defend Jewish settlement.”


“Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”  ProCon.org. 2013. http://israelipalestinian.procon.org/



Full description of activity or assignment.

Block Day 1:  Background information on the crisis in the Middle East and President Truman’s decision to recognize the state of Israel.



1.  Activate prior learning – Think, pair, share

            a.  Imperialism – colonies in North Africa and Asia

            b. Treaty of Versailles – Mandates in the Middle East

            c.  Holocaust – from this unit, reaction of the world

            d.  Vocabulary:  Sikes- Picot Agreement, Balfour Declaration, Zionism, immigration in 1930s

            e. Short readings on early immigrations and problems with Jewish and Arab groups from

                        late 19th through 1920’s – jigsaw readings, pairs share

f.  Reading on background information – teacher created graphic organizer based on the reading you have chosen. Stand up and share with a group of three. Review – add any additional notes to organizer – review as a class.


2.  You are President Truman – what should you do?

a.   Review – World and Domestic Problems Facing President Harry Truman after World War II 

– What problems must President Truman deal with from the end of World War II until May 1948? How do you think the knowledge of the Holocaust atrocities would affect the American public? What kind of problems might a country fact after being at war for four years?


b.  With younger students/less time – Teacher will prepare a summary of the two sides on the recognition of Israel a short packet of materials to read. Do not include the President recognizing Israel. Include these with a document packet including graphic organizers, questions, or a document analysis sheet (National Archives, Simple 5 W’s, AAPARTS) to help analyze the sources more easily. If time is short, edit the length of sources or have the students jigsaw the information but make sure every student has an opportunity to read a primary and a secondary source.

3. Secondary Sources:

  • Truman Library – Background Material (Do not include information after Israel proclaimed their new country is born). 
  • Truman Library Chronology (Up to but not including President Truman recognizing the state of Israel.)- Have students note what the State Department says and what President Truman does/says.
  • State Department – Article on creation of Israel – leave out the last part – Truman’s decision (show that later)

4. Primary Sources

  • Memo supporting a Statement by Truman recognizing Israel, May 9, 1948 (8 pages).  Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
  • Memo of conversation with Dean Rusk. May 8, 1948. Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Showing the State Departments Point of View. 2 pages
  • Department of State to Harry S. Truman. May 11, 1948. Summary of their position on trusteeship. Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
  • An excerpt from Holbrooke’s description of the “Shakedown at the Oval Office.”

5. Do you think the President will recognize Israel as he promised Dr. Weismann or agree with the State Department’s idea for trusteeship?  Have students find evidence from their readings that might help them predict what will happen.

6. Teacher provides the “rest of the story” from the Holbrooke article. 

7.  What International Baccalaureate learning profile attributes did President Truman show in making his decision to recognize Israel?


8. Diversification:

  1. For advanced students – additional readings
    1.                                                   i.    Letter from Eddie Jacobson to Josef Cohen.  Provide background information on Eddie Jacobson (check the information on his oral history page in the Truman Library and Museum), friend and former business partner of President Truman.  Ask the students if they think a friend could have a big influence on a President Truman.  They can hear President Truman talk Eddie Jacobsen by listening to the audio file (above) from the library. Have them share their ideas with the class.  The copy of the letter, probably a carbon copy, is hard to read – you might want to retype it or enlarge it.
    2.                                                 ii.    Clark Clifford’s account of the “Showdown at the Oval Office.”


  1. For students with reading difficulties –
    1.                                                   i.    Create shorter versions of the readings in larger print.
    2.                                                 ii.    Create roles of reader, speaker, leader/taskmaster so one person reads the selection out loud and everyone can read along. Make sure you have one strong reader per group.


9. Have the students write a paragraph or writing frame explaining why they agree or disagree with President Truman’s decision.  Student’s opinions need to be supported with three or four reasons, based on facts as known in 1948, explaining why their decision is the right one.


Block Days 2 and 3: Past Conflicts and Present Day Problems and Issues


1A.  Reading – Using your textbook, Choices, or reading materials that summarize the wars between the Arabs and Israel and the attempts for peace between the Arab worlds and Israel and the Palestinians and Israel.


1 B. – Create a power point but do not give a lecture. Make a paper copy of your slide show - large slides- and put two or three slides (putting them in plastic page savers is a great idea) at each station, covering for the war of 1948-49, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, Camp David Accords, Oslo Accords, etc. students complete a graphic organizer, take notes in notebooks, fill in the blanks to notes, or answer questions.  Try to have them move every 5 – six minutes.


2.  Using the Arab Israeli Conflict Pro Con site or Points of View sites from a database from an area education agency or public library – identify five issues the students can view from present day Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints. Create two person teams to study both sides of one issue.  Have each team member help one another define both side’s views on the issue. Then have each team decide who will present the Israeli and who will present the Palestinian point of view to the class. Have each team create an 8.5 x 11 inch mini poster representing the two views.


a. Gallery Walk: Have each team put their points of view mini-posters on an issue poster (there may be more than one team who has the same issue). Have the students walk around the room – taking notes on a graphic organizer listing the issues (2 columns).

b.  Have students give oral presentations of mini posers n front of the class

c.  Have students move to share information from experts on different issues until their graphic organizers are completed.  (Rotate students five times for 5 issues).  Each student would have a two-column sheet with their issue viewed from both perspectives to share.


3.  Create a peace proposal for the Middle East.

            a.  Arrange groups of five with one expert from each issue in each group.

b.  Have students assume that both sides would like to have peace for their families after over sixty years of conflict.

c.  Using the notes from their issue and their notes on all of the issues have students discuss each issues to see if there is a possibility of any compromises that would be possible on that particular issue.

d.  Create a peace proposal by working out the compromises.

e.  Create a group poster of your peace proposal.

f.  Have a gallery walk to share ideas.


4.  Reflection:  Have students write a paragraph that gives their opinion on what would be the best idea for a peace proposal for the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.  Include possible agreements least three of the five issues and give reasons, with evidence of why you feel this agreement could bring peace.




World and Domestic Problems Facing President Harry Truman after World War II




May 8, 1945

Germany surrenders officially to Allies – VE Day


Ho Chi Minh, Communist and US Ally in WWII, declared independence of Vietnam from France – beginning of a war with France that continues to 1954.  USA backs France with financial and military aid.

Sept 5 1945

Japanese officially surrender – World War II is over


USSR helps North Korea establish a communist government




Egypt and Syria declare the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine will result in war


U.N. Chartered




U.S. helps South Korea establish a democratic government


Stalin gives a speech after victorious one candidate elections that praise the communist ideology and economy for giving them victory in WWII, saying it is superior to capitalism, and capitalism was the underlying cause of World Wars I and II


The Long Telegram – George Kennan – Soviet Union’s views and way of life were not compatible with the USA. The USA cannot trust the USSR. This leads to the USA’s containment policy leading to the Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, NATO, and working to undermine Soviet influence in the world during the entire cold war (almost 60 years).


Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech


Civil War in Greece – Great Britain backs Greece government who are fighting Communist rebels




USA and Great Britain combine their German two military occupation zones into one zone


President Truman establishes the Truman Doctrine of aiding any country fighting communism – asks Congress for money to aid Greece and Turkey


U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall announces the Marshall Plan to help rebuild Europe economy


United Nations creates a resolution to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab zones


London Conference:  USA, Great Britain and France plus Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg hold a series of meetings discussing the future of western Germany separate from the Soviet zone




Soviet backed Communists take over Czechoslovakia


Great Britain, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands sign the Treaty of Brussels – a military defense pact (due to Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe)


USSR begins to blockade military supplies to Western Berlin by requesting permits, inspections, etc. of all goods and people entering East Germany heading toward Berlin



Berlin temporary airlift of supplies by Great Britain and USA begins in reaction to land transportation of some supplies being prevented by the USSR –the USSR begins its full blockade of supplies to West Berlin in June


British date to leave Palestine end their mandate after fighting between Arab and Jewish populations increases after World War II including terrorist acts by both groups against the British forces in Palestine at 6pm in Washington D.C. – Midnight in Palestine (5-15-1948)

May 14, 1948


Israel declares its independence as a sovereign state at 6PM in Washington D.C. (Midnight in Israel – 5-15-1948)

May 14,1948

6:11 PM

USA recognizes the interim government of Israel 11 minutes after it comes into existence (de facto – by fact – recognizes the fact that they exist as a country) at 6:11PM in Washington D.C. (12:11 AM in Israel 5-15-1948)



Post War

Ongoing Civil Wars and Communist Expansion in the World

Prior to and During Arab Israeli Crisis 1945-1948


USSR did not take their troops out of Eastern Europe after World War II, did not allow free elections in Eastern Europe, and insures heads of government agree with the Soviet leadership

1945 - 1954

French battle to keep control of Indochina as Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh Communists fight against their imperial rule

1945 - 1949

Civil War in China – U. S. backs Chinese Nationalists against Chinese Communists – Communist win the war in 1949




Political Pressures for Harry Truman, Democratic Party Candidate


Presidential election year


Congress  - Republican majority pass Republican bills and override vetoes by President Truman


Republicans sympathize with those who favor a Jewish State in Palestine


Democrats – Southern Democrats form a separate Dixiecrat party in response to President Truman’s request for civil rights legislation and have a presidential candidate in the 1948 election, Senator Strom Thurmond


President Truman creates integration in the U.S. military and civil service by executive order








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

Rubric for Paragraphs






A clear logical statement that takes a stand on the topic, gives wells supported reasons why statement is true, and provides a logical conclusion from the evidence given in the paragraph.

Shows detailed knowledge and understanding of content through developed and accurate descriptions and explanations. Use at least 3 examples of evidence to thoroughly support your argument.  


Takes a stand and gives mostly clear reasons why this statement is true, and provides a conclusion from the evidence given.

Shows good knowledge and understanding of content through accurate descriptions and explanations. Use at least 2 examples of evidence, most of which supports your argument.  


No formal statement of a stand on a topic but lists reasons for feeling one way or another on a general topic.

Shows knowledge and understanding of content through adequate descriptions and explanations. Use at least one example of evidence which somewhat supports your argument.  


Makes a limited attempt to give a statement taking a stand on the topic not supported by good reasoning.

Shows basic knowledge and understanding of content through simple descriptions and examples. Your attempt at using examples of evidence does not support your argument.