As my class gets deeper into the Arab-Israeli Conflict, we came to the UN Partition Plan of 1947 today. I use to just show them the map, talk about why it failed, and move on to the first war Israel and it’s neighbors had. That’s what I would have done in years past.
Rather than rush ahead to the next event on the timeline of Middle East violence, we took the time to go deeper. I gave students the map the UN created, data showing how the population of Arabs and Jewish settlers had changed over the previous decades, and some other factoids (Israel would have access to the Red Sea, Jerusalem would be an International City located within Palestine, etc.).
The students divided into two groups and began to look at the information from the point of view of Palestinians or Israelis. They looked for things they liked in the plan, things they could live with in the plan, and things that were deal breakers. After discussing all of it, they needed to decide whether they would approve the UN’s plan or reject it.
In the end, they came to the same conclusions that Israelis and Palestinians did 67 years ago. The students in the Israeli group accepted the plan, the students in the Palestinian group rejected it. What was more important though was they truly understood the plan and where its strengths and weaknesses were. They truly analyzed all the information they had rather than just scribble notes in their journals.
Did it take more time? A lot. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY! It shows that given time, students can think deeply about complex issues and process what they mean. I’m curious of what will happen when they look at the Oslo Accords and Road Map for Peace. Will they find the same flaws that ultimately doomed those plans? It also makes me incredibly excited to see what they will come up with when I ask them to create a plan that fixes the mistakes of the past and lays the foundation for a peaceful future.