BA Arabic and a Modern European Language / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Historical Controversies in the Study of Israel/Palestine

Unit code MEST30722
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


During the last four decades liberal democracies worldwide have grappled with questions relating to citizenship, immigration, multi-culturalism, gender gaps, collective rights, and the civil status of ethnic or indigenous minorities. The Brexit process can also be seen as part of this overall process. In Israel/Palestine these issues came to the very fore in the 1990s, manifesting themselves in debates between the “old” and “new” historians; disputes between the “critical” and “establishment” sociologists; questions of memory and collective identity; new forms of political organisation by Israel’s Palestinian-Arab citizens, Sephardic-Mizrahi Jews, and women. Discussions often revolved around the question whether Israeli society embodies persistent inequalities between European Jews, Middle Eastern Jews, women, Palestinian Arabs, and Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, or whether modern Israel is a place of (comparatively) well-functioning co-existence. In the last decde the Palestine/Israel question has ‘spilled’ particularly vigorously into British politics as expressed in passionate debates about antisemitism and its competing definitions including that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This course unit critically surveys the themes detailed above while allowing students to tailor their interest into a well-defined research question that corresponds best to their own intellectual interests and curiosity.  


On completion of this unit, successful participants should have reached an advanced level of foundational knowledge in the study of post-1948 contemporary Israel/Palestine; be able to discuss and analyse competing schools of scholarly thought studying the Palestine/Israel question; be able to comment in an informed manner on a range of profound controversies surrounding the study of post-1948 Israel/Palestine. 

Teaching and learning methods

Some of the lectures for this unit will be delivered online.

Knowledge and understanding

On successful completion of the course students should have developed skills for critical analysis of the debates surveyed and the scholarly and sociopolitical controversies surrounding them; understand of critical issues pertaining to the modern study – and predicaments – of contemporary Israel/Palestine; be able to develop a productive PPP to support their essays.

Intellectual skills

Ability to comment in an informed manner on a range of controversies surrounding the study of contemporary Israel/Palestine.

Practical skills

The foundational knowledge acquired is essential for any position in the private or public sector that  deals with Israel/Palestine; the creation of oral presentations to support one’s projects/case.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Time Management and punctuality; Ability to differentiate between scholarship and motivational speaking and/or advocacy; comprehension of the importance of being able to argue contrasting theses; oral presentations and PPP. 

Assessment methods

Oral presentation - 25%

Note: students whose attendance is less than 75% with no mitigating circumstances will not be allowed to present before their peers in class and may be permitted to present before the lecturer alone.

Essay - 75%

Feedback methods

  • oral feedback
  • written feedback on essay
  • additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour)

Recommended reading

  • Ram, Uri, The Changing Agenda of Israeli Sociology: Theory, Ideology and Identity (New York: State University of New York Press, 1995);
  • Lissak, Moshe, “‘Critical’ Sociology and ‘Establishment’ Sociology in the Israeli Academic Community: Ideological Struggles or Academic Discourse?” Israel Studies, 1.1 (1996), pp. 247-294;
  • Shapira, Anita, “Politics and Collective Memory: the Debate Over the ‘New Historians’ in Israel” History and Memory, 7 (1) (Spring 1995), pp. 9-40;
  • Pappe, Ilan, “Humanizing the Text: Israeli ‘New History’ and the Trajectory of the 1948 Historiography” Radical History Review (Spring 2003), pp. 102-22;
  • Smooha, Sammy, “The model of ethnic democracy: Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State” Nations and Nationalism, 8 (4) (2002), pp. 475-503;
  • Ghanem, A., Rouhana, N. and Yiftachel, O., “Questioning ‘Ethnic Democracy’: A Response to Sammy Smooha” Israel Studies, 3(2) (1998), pp. 253-67;
  • Gavison, Ruth, “The Jews’ Right to Statehood: A Defense” Azure (Summer 5763/2003), No. 15;
  • Bligh, A., Karsh, E. and Karsh, I., “Special Issue ‘The Israeli Palestinians: An Arab Minority in the Jewish State’” Israel Affairs, 9(1-2) (2003). 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Moshe Behar Unit coordinator

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