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Understanding war through primary sources: the Arab-Israeli conflict


Admission requirements

This course is only open to students from the tracks Modern Middle East and Israel Studies. A limited number of places is available for premaster students MA Middle Eastern Studies


In this course, we will study the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the moments of violence that have defined it, not as abstract events but as lived experiences. To do so, we will focus on reading primary sources and texts. These include written sources, such as fiction, poems, memoirs, as well as pamphlets, manifestos, and legal texts. We will also listen to speeches and interviews, watch short films, and analyze visual images, such as photographs. The course begins in 1936 Arab Revolt and continues until the present day. In addition to exploring moments of violence that constituted a rupture, the course will also discuss everyday and mundane forms of violence. We will look at the Arab-Israeli conflict as a regional issue, not only contained within the borders of Israel/Palestine.
The course is interdisciplinary, advancing intersectional approaches to violence, war, and insecurity. It treats war not only as a top-down state-led policy but also as part of a dynamic relationship between transnational political ideologies, movements, institutions, and their cultural assemblages.

Course objectives

In this course students will learn to:

  • Read different genres of primary sources critically and analytically

  • Review, summarize, and synthesize academic sources

  • Engage theoretical and conceptual perspectives about experiences of war, violence, and insecurity

  • Carry out research combining primary and secondary sources and and form original arguments Dicuss the Arab-Israeli conflict empirically and become familiar with the key events until the present day

  • Historicize debates on the creation of Israel and how these intellectual debates have changed over time


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method


Attendance (10%)
Five responses to readings (50%, 10% each)
Final Paper (40%)


The final mark is determined by the weighted average. However, students must pass their Final Paper assignment to pass the course.


Students can re-submit the final paper if their grade was insufficient (5.49 or lower). The precise due date for the re-sit will be specified on the syllabus.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

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


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.


Dr. H.H.M. Taha