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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. If you are interested in taking this course but NOT a student of the above-mentioned MA programmes, please, contact the student advisor, Dr. Nicole van Os, or the instructor Dr. N. Schonmann prior to registration for permission. See also below, under “registration”.

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. 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 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 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 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 research proposal and literature review, including notes and bibliography): 30 hours

  • Preparing presentation (research proposal and literature review): 30 hours

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

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Attendance and active participation in seminar discussions 20%
Mid-term written assignment: literature review (1,500 words) 15%
In-class oral presentation of research proposal and literature review 15%
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.

Students who submit one of the course’s two written assignments late, and without giving advance notice of extenuating circumstances, lose the privilege of substantive feedback in the form of comments. They will receive a numerical mark only for their written assignment.

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.

Sample readings:

  • Baden, Christian, and Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt. "The Search for Common Ground in Conflict News Research: Comparing the Coverage of Six Current Conflicts in Domestic and International Media over Time." Media, War & Conflict 11, no. 1 (2018): 22-45.

  • Zandberg, Eyal. "The Right to Tell the (Right) Story: Journalism, Authority and Memory." Media, Culture & Society 32, no. 1 (2010): 5-24.

  • Hafez, Kai, ed. Mass Media, Politics, and Society in the Middle East. Cresskill, N.J.: Hampton Press, 2001.

  • Yarchi, Moran. "The Effect of Female Suicide Attacks on Foreign Media Framing of Conflicts: The Case of the Palestinian–Israeli Conflict." Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 37, no. 8 (2014/08/03 2014): 674-688.

  • Mellor, Noha. The Making of Arab News. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

  • Wolfsfeld, Gadi. Media and the Path to Peace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

  • Malinsky, Ayelet. "Death is in the Eye of the Beholder: A Study of Casualty Count Framing in the 2014 Israel–Gaza Conflict." Critical Studies on Terrorism 8, no. 3 (2015/09/02 2015): 491-502.

  • Liebes, Tamar, and Zohar Kampf. "Routinizing Terror: Media Coverage and Public Practices in Israel, 2000-2005." Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 12, no. 1 (2007): 108-116.


Students of the MA program Middle Eastern Studies are required to register through uSis before January 15. Students from this programme who cannot register in uSis, and interested students from other MA programmes are requested to send an email to the student advisor, Dr. Nicole van Os, including their name, student ID number, course title and prospectus or catalog number. Depending on the availability of places, the student advisor will register these students after January 15. By February 1 at the latest the student will be able to see in uSis whether (s)he is registered or not.

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.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English. You can also have a look at the FAQ.

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 how to register.

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.