Sunday, May 10, 2015

Primary Sources for High Schoolers Studying the Middle East Conflict: A Start

So, yes, it's been a while since I posted here (but check out my sick new page!) A teacher friend of mine from college, who now teaches at a classical school, asked me if I could put together any primary sources her high school students could use in studying conflict in the Middle East in the post-Gulf War era. I thought it sounded like a fun project, and might make for a good blog post as well.

Here goes nothing!


1974: Yasser Arafat's 1974 UN General Assembly speech

1988: The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas)

For decades, Yasser Arafat was the leader of the Palestinian war against Israel. Today, he is dead, and the main group fighting Israel is Hamas. How do Arafat and Hamas view the conflict? What unites them? What separates them?

1993: Address by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin upon signing the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles

2015: Netanyahu: No Palestinian State on My Watch.

In 1993, peace between Israel and Palestine seemed almost at hand. What changed? Why did the "peace process" fail?


In 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood - a forerunner of Hamas - rose up in rebellion against the secular dictatorship of Hafiz al-Asad in Syria. Asad crushed the rebellion, destroyed the city of Hama, and killed tens of thousands of people. This is the speech he gave after the massacre.

How does Asad describe the Muslim Brotherhood? Who does he say supports it? What does he say about Islam?

In 2011, a new rebellion broke out in Syria against President Bashar al-Asad, Hafiz al-Asad's son. This is the speech he gave at the beginning of the rebellion, on March 30, 2011. What is similar between Bashar's speech and his father's speech? What is different? How do they describe the rebels? How do they describe America?

September 2013: "'No One's Left': Summary Executions by Syrian Forces in al-Bayda and Baniyas." (Human Rights Watch.)

How do the Syrian government's methods differ from President Asad's rhetoric? Why is the government so vicious?

January 2013: Moaz al-Khatib, leader of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces: "Letter to the Christians of Syria."

November 2013: "Syria: Human Rights Abuses During Opposition Offensive." (Human Rights Watch.)

10% of Syrians are Christian. How do the Syrian rebels' words differ from their actions towards Christians? Why do the rebels want to reassure the Christians? Are there any "good guys" in this war?

March 2013: "Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With U.S. Aid" (New York Times)

April 2013: "U.S. Policy Towards Syria" (Elizabeth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary of State)

What is the U.S. doing in Syria? What does Jones say the U.S. is doing? How does that compare with what the New York Times says?


January 2003: Denis Halliday, 2003 Peace Award Acceptance Speech

How did the first President Bush see the U.S.' role in the world, and in Iraq? How did Halliday? Why did Halliday resign from the United Nations? Was he right?

March 2004: Iraq Interim Constitution

2014: Speech by Iraqi parliament member Vian Dakhil:

2014: CNN video of rescue of Yazidi refugees in northern Iraq:

What were the hopes of Iraq's leaders after the U.S. invasion in 2003? What strikes you about the constitution? How did things go so wrong in the ten years after the constitution was drafted?

Al Qaeda

1998: Osama bin Laden, "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders"

What are bin Laden and al Qaeda's reasons for going to war against the United States? How is it connected to Iraq? What does it have to do with "the Jews"? Who are "the Crusaders"?

The Gulf States

January 2015: "Statement by the President on the Death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz"

December 2009: "Action Request for Senior Level Engagement on Terrorism Finance" (Secret U.S. State Department cable)

August 2014, "U.S. Relations With Qatar" (U.S. State Department Factsheet)

March 2014: Undersecretary of the Treasury David Cohen, "Confronting New Threats in Terrorist Financing"

What do President Obama and the State Department say about Saudi Arabia and Qatar in public? How do the secret U.S. State Department cable and the speech by David Cohen differ? Why are they so different? What is the role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the "war on terrorism"?

Christians in the Middle East

1982: Bashir Gemayel, president-elect of Lebanon, "The Last Speech"

1949-1958: Michel Alfaq, founder of the Ba'ath Party, "On Heritage"

Bashir Gemayel led a group of Christian fighting forces in the Lebanese civil war, from 1975 until his assassination in 1982. He fought to keep Lebanon as an independent "homeland for Christians" that would not be absorbed by other Arab countries. Michel Aflaq was from Syria. The political party he founded, the Ba'ath, would go on to seize power in Syria and Iraq. He believed in the absolute unity of all Arabs, whether Christians or Muslims, with no national boundaries in between them.

How do each of these Christian leaders see the history of Christians in the Middle East? How did each feel towards Islam? Why did they have such greatly differing views?

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