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War, Peace, and Mass Media: The Arab-Israeli Conflict in the Public Sphere


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or MA International Relations programme.

Students are expected to have read one of the following books before the first class:
Gelvin, James L. The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Available as eBook
Caplan, Neil. The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Contested Histories. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Available as eBook
Peters, Joel, and David Newman. Routledge Handbook on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. London: Routledge, 2012. Available as eBook
Shlaim, Avi. The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. London: Penguin Books, 2014.

The number of places available in this course are limited. Therefore, read the information below under registration carefully.

Students who are not admitted to one of the abovementioned programmes can only be admitted to the course, if there are places left. Interested students may mail the Student advisor mentioning the course title, their name and their student ID number in the subject line. If they are admitted, they will be enrolled for the course by September 6 at the latest.


The course offers insight into the Arab-Israeli conflict through the lens of mass media. The course focuses on news media as the principal conveyor of conflict information, images, and discourses to the public sphere. It builds on the premise that media of mass communications do not merely reflect conflicts by reporting and representing them “as they are”; they also constitute conflicts by enacting and performing them.

In seminars we will critically and comparatively examine journalistic representations of the Arab-Israeli conflict, published across diverse socio-political contexts: in democratic and authoritarian states, direct and indirect parties to the conflict, or interested observers. We investigate how key themes and milestone events in the history of this seven-decade long conflict have been covered by different news media: in print (newspapers, magazines), broadcast (radio, television, newsreels), and digital (online news-sites and -blogs) forms. In the process we seek to understand how journalism as "the first rough draft of history” comes to establish societies’ common-knowledge of the conflict, and shapes the public sphere within which political discourse and action take form.

The course offers neither a comprehensive history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, nor an examination of the prospects for its resolution. Rather, it gives students the opportunity to explore the meaning imbued in evolving representations of select aspects of this protracted conflict. We set out to understand the complex ways in which news media is implicated in conflicts, and the roles that it plays across socio-political contexts (from agenda setting to propaganda, forging consensus or sowing dissent). We investigate processes of production, transmission, and consumption of news about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and identify patterns of reporting on its key themes and milestone events.

The seminar functions as a research group through which students collaborate in the process of developing and writing their individual (or possibly joint) research projects. In early sessions we will map out and critically review relevant fields of literature (historical, conceptual, theoretical, and methodological). Later we turn to developing students’ research projects, presenting work-in-progress, and brainstorming research directions.

Course objectives

  • To familiarize students with concepts and theories developed to investigate the socio-political practice of news media, and their application to the study of conflict in general, and Arab-Israeli conflict in particular (the nexus of media/communication studies, conflict studies, and Arab-Israeli history)

  • To acquaint students with the societal roles of mass media across time and political context (spanning the democratic—authoritarian spectrum)

  • To promote cooperative learning and enhance students’ critical and analytical skills through group exercises of scholarly and primary sources review.

  • To guide students through the process of developing a research project (collecting and selecting specialist literature using traditional and electronic methods and techniques; critically analyzing and evaluating the literature in terms of quality and reliability; formulating a well-defined research problem based on this literature field; setting up a study of a limited size taking into consideration the methods and methodologies relevant to the humanities and social sciences disciplines; formulating a reasoned conclusion on the basis of this research) drawing on instructor and peer feedback.

  • To provide students with hands-on practice in archival research, primarily using online news databases, in different research languages as far as students’ prior training allows.

  • To experience carrying out a project of media content- or practice-analysis, as well as reporting findings orally and in writing, in accordance with the standards of humanities scholarship.

  • To develop students’ capacity for analytical thinking by writing a primary-source based research paper that demonstrates reasoned argumentation that is empirically founded



Mode of instruction

Seminars: the course format is a combination of group discussions based on weekly reading assignments, and student presentations of research work-in-progress.

Attendance in seminars is obligatory. Students are required to attend all sessions. They are expected to arrive in class ready to discuss the weekly readings.

The lecturer should be informed in writing without delay of class to be missed for a valid reason, i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances that are beyond the student’s control (such as documented illness, family bereavement, issues with residence permits, victim of crime, the railways in winter, etc.). The course is offered as part of a full-time programme of studies, and therefore work commitments, holidays, or overseas travel do not constitute valid reasons for absence. In case of a justified absence it is at the discretion of the course convener to decide whether the missed class should be made up with an extra assignment. Please note that you are required to provide documentation that supports your case for absence where possible. Absence without notification and approval could result in a grade deduction, or in work not being marked and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hours 280 hours
Attendance and participation in seminars: 2 contact hours/week x 13 weeks 26 hours
Preparing for seminars: 10 hours/week x 12 weeks 120 hours
Preparing mid-term presentation (based on 1,500-word research proposal and literature review) 50 hours
Researching and writing final assignment (4,000-word research paper, including notes, appendixes, and bibliography) 84 hours

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to the blackboard through turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
In-class engagement (active participation in seminar discussions, weekly reading notes, mid-term presentations of research proposal and literature review) 50%
Final written assignment: research paper (4,000-words, including notes, appendixes, and bibliography) 50%

The final mark for this course is determined by the weighted average. An additional requirement is that students must pass their final Research Paper assignment. In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

Late submissions will result in a deduction of paper marks as follows: 1-24 hs late = -0.5; 24-48 hs late = -1.0; 48-72 hs late = -1.5; 72-96 hs late = -2.0. Late submissions will not be accepted more than four days after the deadline, including weekends and will be graded with 1.0.


The re-sit (a resubmission of the original research paper) is available only to students whose mark on the final research paper assignment was insufficient (5.49 or lower). The re-sit date will be set in the syllabus (at least five working days after the delivery of the original grades).

Exam review

How and when an exam review takes place will be determined by the examiner. This review will be within 30 days after official publication of exam results.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Posting course materials (syllabus, assignment guidelines)

  • All assignments must be submitted through Blackboard.

Reading list

The syllabus will be posted on Blackboard before the start of the course.


Students MA Middle Eastern Studies

  • Students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies who have been enrolled in the MA programme in the academic year 2018-2019 can register through uSis starting from 1 July. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.

  • A number of places has been reserved for students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies who will start in September 2019, including those coming from a Leiden BA programme. They are kindly requested to fill out the from on the right side of the MA MES page and send it in as soon as possible and Friday, August 30 at the latest to the study coordinator. Make sure you mention in the subject line “MA MES, [your name, student ID number]”.

Students MA Middle Eastern Studies (research)

  • Students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) are strongly advised to opt for the Research MA version of the course. For those opting for the regular MA version the principles mentioned above for students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies apply.

Students MA International Relations

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the webpage on course and exam enrolment for registration deadlines and more information on uSis in Dutch and English.

To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. You can also have a look at the FAQ. (Tip: use the search term “uSis”.)

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. N. Schonmann


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.