Special Series: History of Middle East Conflict

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Listen for a special seven-part series on the history of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, airing on Morning Edition September 30th to October 8th.

The series chronicles key moments in the history of the struggle between the two peoples and features interviews with experts representing a cross-section of historical perspectives.

Visit VPR.NET to find additional information related to the series, including maps, bios, transcripts and other materials.

“This series traces the roots of the conflict seeking to bring context and perspective about the complex situation in the Mideast. It tells the history of the confrontation using radio to bring the views of leading historians of the region to air, documenting the deep and conflicting roots of today’s Middle East. The series touches on the beliefs and emotions that motivate both sides,” said Bruce Drake, NPR’s vice president for news.

The series was researched and reported by Mike Shuster, a veteran correspondent for NPR News. Shuster has been reporting on the Middle East for almost 12 years, starting with his coverage of the Gulf War in 1991.He has made seven trips to Israel as a roving correspondent and has also reported from Iraq, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. Since 1994, Shuster has been diplomatic correspondent for NPR News. Prior to that, he was Moscow correspondent where he covered the collapse of the Soviet Union and he served as senior editor of NPR’s London Bureau. He is now based in Los Angeles.

Shuster begins the series near the turn of the 20th century with the story of the early Zionist movement led by Theodore Herzl and Chaim Weizman. He traces the intensifying conflict between Jews and Palestinians during the years of the British mandate, leading up to David Ben-Gurion’s announcement of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Shuster explores the events that led up to the Six- Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the first Intifada and the Oslo Peace Process. The series concludes as Shuster investigates the reasons why the Oslo process collapsed and how and why the second Intifada started.

Transcripts will be available online each morning after the series airs. Audio and text transcripts will also be posted to the special Mideast web portal that archives all of NPR’s Middle East coverage produced for its newsmagazines and talk shows.

Listed below is a description of each of the seven parts in the series followed by a complete list of historians and writers on the Middle East who were interviewed for the series:

  • In Part I (9/30), the series begins with the first Zionist conference in Basel in 1897 when Austrian journalist Theodore Herzl first conceived the idea of a Jewish homeland. Shuster talks with historians to explore the conditions and reasons that led to the formulation of Zionism.
  • In Part II (10/1), the Zionist movement gets its first great diplomatic breakthrough with the Balfour Declaration in 1917, when Great Britain declares itself in favor of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. Palestine becomes a British mandate at the end of World War One and it becomes a time of increasing hostility between Jews and Palestinians.
  • Part III (10/2), the struggle for Palestine intensifies with the end of World War Two. The Zionists supported the British during the war but now are in conflict with them as the British place strict ceilings on immigration to Palestine. The newly created United Nations votes in 1947 to partition Palestine, a move celebrated by the Zionists but rejected by the Palestinians. A year later, David Ben-Gurion announces the establishment of Israel, leading to war with the four surrounding Arab states. Israel is victorious; soon after the exodus of Palestinians begins.
  • In Part IV (10/3), the Six Day War which pitted Israel against Egypt and Syria is a major watershed event in the history of the Middle East an event that changed borders, military and political perceptions and brought the United States into the mix as a major player in the region. The territories Israel seized in winning the war would be at the center of all peace negotiations in the years to come.
  • In Part V (10/4), Israel is caught by surprise by the attacks of Egypt and Syria that became known as the Yom Kippur War, the fourth war between Israel and Arab states since 1948. Israel again is the victor, but with heavy losses. The U.S. deepens its involvement as a peace process begins which would come to involve seven American presidents. The military, diplomatic and political maneuvering that followed opened up the door to a historic reconciliation between Israel and Egypt.
  • In Part VI (10/7), the Palestinian people living in the territories of the West Bank and Gaza decide to confront Israel directly, by launching the first Intifada in 1987. Five years later, Yitzhak Rabin is elected Prime Minister of Israel and begins secret talks to bring the Palestinian Liberation Organization to a deal, which results in the Oslo Agreement envisioning a Palestinian state and the end to the conflict. But the hardest issues are postponed.
  • In Part VII (10/8), The Oslo peace process collapses in mutual recriminations, leading to the last two years of violence which the Palestinians have called their second Intifada or revolt. The final piece explores why the Oslo peace process failed and why Israel and the Palestinians are again locked in violent conflict.

Experts interviewed for this series include: Howard Sachar, author of “A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time”; Avi Shlaim, author of “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World”; Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, of Haifa University, the author of “Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel”; Benny Morris, author of “Righteous Victims, A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict”; Rashid Khalidi, author of “Palestinian Identity, the Construction of Modern National Consciousness”; Phillip Mattar, editor of “The Encyclopedia of the Palestinians”; Tom Segev, author of “One Palestine Complete, Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate”; William Quandt, author of “Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict”; Michael Oren, author of “Six Days of War”; Anita Shapera, of the Chaim Weizman Center for the Study of Zionism in Tel Aviv; Yezid Sayigh, author of a monumental study of the Palestinian national movement and Edward Said, Palestinian-American writer of “Peace and its Discontents” and other books on the subject.

Related Link:
Conflict in the Middle East Special coverage in our Newsroom, with reports from newspapers, other public radio stations, and more.

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