Israel/Palestine: A Lesson Plan for
Understanding the Middle East Conflict
In recent years, a significant
international debate has emerged as to whether the state of Israel is
violating basic international law and human rights, being compared to
the former apartheid regime in South Africa. This is has been
controversial, and has raised discussions around the world.
For students to understand the
current Middle East conflict and to make up their own minds, it is
important that they be introduced to some of the controversial laws and
practices. Students can then judge for themselves whether this is in
violation of international law, with reference to the globally accepted
standards, as codified in the United Nations Universal Declaration of
Students will be presented with a list of laws or practices that may
violate articles of the UN Declaration. They will then be asked to
identify which articles, if any, they believe are being violated.
Students should be encouraged to seek out explanations for these laws
from both non-governmental and official sources, where possible,
including the Israeli Consulate and Palestinian organizations in Canada.
After the students have examined 6 laws or practices, and the differing
opinions as to why the laws were enacted, they can either write a
letter saying they do not believe these are violations, or they can
write explaining why they believe the UN declaration is being violated.
Teachers should make available copies of the UNDHR. Student letters
should make reference to specific articles in the UN document. Letters
can be addressed to any of the relevant actors – the United Nations,
the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, or the student’s own
national government. Laws of practices in Israel and the occupied
territories: 1) The Law of Return, 2) The Citizenship Law (with respect
to marriage), 3) Land ownership in Israel, 4) The ‘Separation’ Wall in
the West Bank, 5) Water in the occupied territories, and 6) Checkpoints
& curfews in the occupied territories. [See Descriptions Below]
An oral version of this project could naturally involve a classroom
debate, perhaps in the format of a discussion at the United Nations.
- UNDHR: http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html
- Jimmy Carter and Shimon Peres on Charlie Rose: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-535303124857726755#
- Decision of International Court of Justice on the Wall: http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?pr=71&code=mwp&p1=3&p2=4&p3=6&case=131&k=5a
- B’tselem, Israeli human rights centre, http://www.btselem.org/English/
- Water resources in Palestine, http://www.palestine-pmc.com/pissue/water.asp
Worksheet: 6 controversial laws or practises in Israel/Palestine -
print out the linked
form, filling it out as you conduct your research
123 Anywhere St.
Foreign Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Canada K1A 0G2
Dear Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Having investigated a number of laws and practices in Israel and the
Palestinian territories, and considering the international standards
stated in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, I am writing
to ask you a few questions.
Brief descriptions of laws and
practices in Israel and the Palestinian territories
The Law of Return
The Law of Return was established to accelerate Jewish immigration from
all over the world to Israel. To this day, anyone with one Jewish
grandparent can immigrate to Israel and obtain citizenship. In
contrast, millions of Palestinian refugees are denied the right of
return to Israel, even though in many cases they or the parents or
grandparents were born and raised in what is now the state of Israel,
and still have the deeds and keys to their land and houses. The issue
of immigration and refugee rights is central to the conflict in
- An introduction to the Law of Return,
- Wikipedia’s Law of Return page,
The Citizenship Law
The new Citizenship and Family Unification Law denies Israelis the
right to have their new spouse to become a resident or citizen of
Israel if he or she is a Palestinian. This forces the new couple,
mostly Arab Israeli citizens and their new Palestinian spouse, to leave
the state of Israel if they wish to live together. On the other hand,
Israeli citizens have the right to have their new spouse live in Israel
and become an Israeli citizen as long as they are not Palestinian.
This means that Israelis, especially Israeli Arabs, who are married to
Palestinians will be encouraged to leave Israel in order to keep their
- BBC article,
- Znet article,
- Legal news commentary,
Land ownership in Israel
The Jewish National Fund is a non-governmental organization that
controls leasing and ownership of the majority of the land in Israel.
Arabs living in Israel and Palestinian refugees native to the area are
not allowed to purchase this land, which can be sold only to Israelis
and others of Jewish background.
The Separation Wall
Israel has been constructing a “separation wall” inside the territory
of the West Bank. The stated reason for the Wall was to keep
Palestinian suicide bombers or other would be terrorists out of Israel.
The Palestinians claim that it is a “land grab”: The wall is being
build inside Palestinian territory. In 2004, the International Court of
Justice ruled by a vote of 14 to 1 that the Wall contravened
international law (only the US judge voted against the decision). This
ruling was upheld by a vote in the UN General Assembly.
- The ICJ ruling,
Water use in the occupied territories
The Middle East is an extremely water-scarce region. Much of Israel’s
ground water comes from aquifers in the West Bank and from upstream
diversion of the Jordan River. In the West Bank itself, Israeli
settlements often have swimming pools and green laws, and controlling a
significantly higher percentage of the water than the adjacent
Palestinian villages, which are often short of water.
- ‘Blood and water,’
Checkpoints and closures
Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank are frequently stopped at
military checkpoints. Sometimes roads in and out of towns are closed
entirely. This has been a controversial policy, justified by Israel on
security grounds, which has resulted in incidents of pregnant women and
others being unable to get to hospital in time, sometimes causing death.
- Articles on closures and checkpoints,