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


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies. Please, contact the student advisor or the instructor Dr. N. Schonmann prior to registration for permission if you are interested in taking this course but NOT a student of the above-mentioned MA programme. Non MA Middle Eastern Studies' students will hear at the latest on September 8 whether or not they will be able to take the course and should think of an alternative in time.

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.

  • Caplan, Neil. The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Contested Histories. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

  • Shlaim, Avi. The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. London: Penguin Books, 2014.


The course offers insight into the Arab-Israeli conflict through the lens of mass media. 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. The course focuses on news media as the principal conveyor of conflict information, images, and discourses to the public sphere.

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 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 (from research question, through literature review, to abstract) 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


Mondays 11:15 — 13:00
First session: 5 February 2018
Final session: 7 May 2018
No seminar on 19 March 2018, 2 April 2018


Mode of instruction

Seminars: the course format will be 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 convenor 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 full-time programmes 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

  • Attendance and participation in seminars: 2 hours/week x 12 weeks = 24 contact hours

  • Preparing for seminars: 10 hours/week x 12 weeks = 120 hours

  • Writing mid-term assignment (1,500-word literature review, including notes and bibliography): 30 hours

  • Preparing presentation (research paper abstract): 30 hours

  • Researching and writing final assignment (4,000-word research paper, including notes, appendixes, and bibliography): 76 hours

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours.

Assessment method


  • Attendance and active participation in seminar discussions

  • Mid-term written assignment: literature review (1,500 words)

  • In-class oral presentation of research paper abstract

  • Final written assignment: research paper (4,000-words, including notes, appendixes, and bibliography)


  • Attendance and active participation in seminar discussions: 20%

  • Mid-term written assignment: literature review (1,500 words): 15%

  • In-class oral presentation of research paper abstract: 15%

  • Final written assignment: research paper (4,000-words, including notes, appendixes, and bibliography): 50%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.
To pass the course, the final research paper mark must be sufficient (5.50 or higher).


The re-sit is available only to students whose mark on the final research paper assignment was insufficient (5.49 or lower), and whose original submission constituted a serious attempt.

The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

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 assignment must be submitted through Blackboard.

Reading list

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

Sample readings:

  • Bazzi, Samia. Arab News and Conflict: A Multidisciplinary Discourse Study. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co, 2009.

  • Caplan, Neil. The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Contested Histories. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

  • Cottle, Simon. Mediatized Conflict: Developments in Media and Conflict Studies. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006.

  • Dor, Danny. Intifada Hits the Headlines. Bloomington: Indiana University, 2004.

  • Dunsky, Marda. Pens and Swords: How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

  • Gelvin, James L. The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

  • Liebes, Tamar. Reporting the Arab-Israeli Conflict: How Hegemony Works. London: Routledge, 1997.

  • Marmura, Stephen. Hegemony in the Digital Age: The Arab/Israeli Conflict Online. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2010.

  • McCombs, Maxwell. Setting the Agenda: Mass Media and Public Opinion. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014.

  • Philo, Greg. More Bad News from Israel. London: Pluto Press, 2011.

  • Rodgers, James. Headlines from the Holy Land: Reporting the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

  • Shlaim, Avi. The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. London: Penguin Books, 2014.


Students are required to register through uSis. 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 “Act.nbr.”. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Ms. 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.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to familiarize themselves 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.