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


Admission requirements

Admission to (one of) the programme(s) listed under Part of in the right information bar.
If you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of (one of) the listed programme(s), please contact the Coordinator of Studies.

Students are expected to have read ONE of the following books before the first class:

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

  • Peters, Joel, and David Newman. Routledge Handbook on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. London: Routledge, 2012. Available as eBook

  • 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, states that are direct and indirect parties to the conflict, as well as regional and international media. 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 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; designing a study of limited size taking into consideration the methods and methodologies relevant to the humanities and social sciences disciplines) 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 designing 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 developing a primary-source based research project that demonstrates reasoned argumentation that is empirically well founded.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The course is offered as part of a full-time program of studies, and therefore work commitments, holidays, or overseas travel do not constitute valid reasons for absence. The lecturer should be informed in writing of any classes 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, problems with residence permits, victim of crime, or railway delays). In case of a justified absence, it is up to the Lecturer to decide whether the missed class should be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. 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.

The course format is a combination of seminar discussions, based on weekly reading and viewing assignments, and student-presentations followed by group discussion and feedback.

Students should be aware that most of their work is done in preparation for the seminars. They are expected to arrive in class ready to discuss the weekly readings. Class discussions offer the opportunity to debate the readings, a space to think out-loud, and receive feedback for developing ideas.

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated. It is assumed that students' work is their own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). Students may not substantially reuse any work they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.
Assignment(s) must be submitted to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.


The course is assessed on the basis of the submission of a Final Assignment and Engagement across the semester (demonstrated through active participation in live seminar discussions and Brightspace discussion boards, submission of weekly reading-notes, and a news bulletin team-assignment).

The final mark for this course is determined by the weighted average. An additional requirement is that students must pass their Final Assignment. In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher for their Final Assignment. 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.
Late submissions will result in a deduction of marks for the assignment 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. Submissions more than 96 hs late, including weekends, will receive a failing grade of 1,0 for the assignment.

Students who submit the Final Assignment late, and without giving advance notice of extenuating circumstances, lose the privilege of feedback in the form of comments. They will receive a numerical mark only for their work.
A request for deadline extension must be submitted before the deadline, or else it will be considered as a request for an extra retake. If a deadline extension of up to 3 weeks is sought, students will contact their lecturer, who will consider the request and decide whether to grant it or refer it to the Board of Examiners. No form has to be used in this case. If an extension of over 3 weeks is sought, the student will submit their request on a form that can be obtained from the coordinator of studies.


50% Engagement
50% Final Assignment


A re-sit is available only to students whose mark on the Final Assignment was insufficient (5.49 or lower). The re-sit date will be set at least five working-days after the ‘fail’ grade has been issued. The lecturer may decide to assign students a modified topic for the re-sit assignment. In such cases, the re-sit deadline will be set at least 10 working days after the ‘fail’ grade has been issued.

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 syllabus will be posted on Brightspace two weeks before the start of the course. It is each student’s responsibility to log into the course page well in advance of the first seminar, read through the syllabus, and turn notifications on for the course to ensure they receive announcements posted by the instructor.

To receive notifications for a course on Brightspace, go to your profile in the upper right corner (click on your name), choose Notifications. Under Instant Notifications, check Announcements - new announcement and click Save.


Students from MA programmes listed under Part of in the right information bar, will be informed by their Coordinator of Studies on the enrolment procedure. After admission they will be registered by the Education Administration Office Vrieshof, one week prior to the start of the first semester.