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Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 22 November

Israel-Hammas ceasefire continues to hold

By Ed Dorrell

Golden Dome in Jerusalem

Wednesday’s ceasefire, which put an end to eight days of bloodshed in Gaza, is the most recent in a conflict which has lasted for more than 60 years. In order to help secondary teachers respond to questions and discuss the conflict in class, we have put together the following summary of the events which led to the current truce between Israel and Hammas.

The bloodshed between Israel and the Palestinians over the Gaza strip may have been halted but the likelihood of a long-standing peace deal in the region is as remote as ever.

Wednesday was a tumultuous day in the troubled area; the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv was rocked by a “terrorist bomb” on a bus, a volley of rocket attacks by the Israeli Defence Force on Gaza and, finally, an improbable and fragile ceasefire.

For many historians the current situation in Gaza – a tiny strip of land sandwiched between Israel and the eastern end of the Mediterranean – is nothing more than the latest footnote in a historical narrative that has been developing since before the Second World War.

The interwar years saw an influx of European Jews escaping the horrors of Nazism and/or Communism into what was then British-mandated Palestine.

This movement of people – combined with the end of global hostilities in 1945 – culminated in the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, which largely settled its borders at the moment of ceasefire in the first Arab-Israeli war of the same year. The tiny Gaza Strip and larger West Bank were left as the remaining areas of Arab influence, with the hugely sensitive religious city of Jerusalem at the heart of this divide.

This moment in time can be seen as pivotal in the history of the post-War world – many would argue, for example, that neither the formation of Al-Qaida nor the war on terror would have been likely without the mutual loathing that has emanated from this stand-off.

Since 1948, the region has suffered a seemingly endless string of short wars and terrorist atrocities as both sides have attempted to wrestle advantage from one another.

Throughout, Israel, often backed vehemently by the USA, has remained largely undefeated militarily, while also exerting control over the Palestinian territories, including the building of controversial settlements in these areas and intermittent military occupation, especially in the extended period after the 1967 six-day war. The Palestinians meanwhile have been largely led by an umbrella group, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which for many years pledged to destroy Israel through international terrorism.

In the last two decades there have been a series of attempts at peace-talks – largely orchestrated by the US – that have come extremely close to agreement but which have ultimately collapsed. Some observers blame the rise to power in Gaza of Hamas, a militant Islamic organisation not under the auspices of the secular PLO, on failure to reach a settlement based on two states living peacefully side-by-side, a solution now controversially accepted by the PLO.

The recent developments have seen Israel’s right wing government lose patience after a series of rocket attacks from Gaza territory on its towns and villages. Both sides are implacably opposed to one another, with the current Israeli administration – led by Benjamin Netanyahu – seemingly dragging its feet in recent peace talks, suspicious of the so-called “two-state solution” and committed to defending and expanding its contentious West Bank settlements. Meanwhile Hamas – which is largely bankrolled by Syria and Iran –is committed to the defeat of Israel using armed struggle. All the while the PLO remains in power in the West Bank but largely impotent.

No one appears to have anything close to a workable solution that would bring about a lasting peace. The most, it would seem, that can be hoped for is for a fraught ceasefire such as the one in place just now.

While the current situation can seem all-but impossible, it is essential to understand if one is to comprehend the very nature of the modern world.

Related resources

Palestine Israel introductory lesson

  • This introductory lesson focuses on the geographical and historical context of current events.

The Arab-Israeli conflict

  • A detailed PowerPoint which explains the background of the conflict and why it is being discussed in the news.

Conflict in Gaza assembly pack

  • In response to the ongoing situation in Gaza, this secondary assembly draws on first-hand accounts of life under blockade in the Gaza Strip.

Conflict in Israel: through the eyes of an Israeli

  • After the assassination of a leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, a young soldier in the Israeli Defence Force, Nati Mazuz, prepares for action in this video.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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In the news archive index

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