Lesson Plan: UNDERSTANDING THE MIDDLE-EAST CONFLICT THROUGH THE WRITINGS OF HANNAH ARENDT
Carole Garrison, Eastern Kentucky University
It would be a mistake to assume that the events of 9-11 have no long historical context. In fact, events of over hundreds of years help set the stage for such acts. One writer who prophesized such inevitable acts was Hannah Arendt. The following lesson looks at the late mid-20th century political scientist and philosopher with specific focus emphasis on her writings related to the Israeli-Palestine dilemma.
· Introduction to Hannah Arendt
· Historical perspective of the Israeli-Palestinian problem
· Develop new approaches to resolving the middle-east question
Hannah Arendt, (1906-1975)
As one cannot take the Israeli-Palestinian problem out of the mix of factors contributing to 9-11, it is useful to look back at its history for insight. While many have written on the situation I have chosen to put forward for discussion the writings of Hannah Arendt whose writings are steeped in not in any apparent partisanship but have a humanitarian and egalitarian focus. It is through Hannah Arendt’s observations and writings in the early 1940’s and 50’s which seem so eerily prescience today that I think we get our best understanding of the current intractable situation. By all accounts she was out of step with most Jewish political leaders and intellectuals of her time. Arendt bluntly attacked the notion of a sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East and predicted endless strife.
In her essay Zionism Reconsidered in an edited volume of the same title (Selzer, 1969) she outlined the sequence of events in which Jewish nationalism had grown, to the detriment of Arab Palestinians, of Diaspora Jewry, and of international understanding. “The social revolutionary Jewish national movement, which started a half a century ago…overlooked the Near East and the general wickedness of the world, has ended-as do most such movements-with the unequivocal support not only of national but of chauvinistic claims-claim not against the foes of the Jewish people but against its possible friends and neighbors.” She indicted the Jewish leadership for appeasing the Nazis, for reliance of England, and ignoring the political realities of the social experiment, the Kibbutz. “Up to now,” she concluded, “no new approaches, no new insights, no reformulation of Zionism or the demands of Jewish people have been visible. And it is therefore only in the light of this past, with consideration of this present, that we can gauge the chances of the future.”
She was isolated but not alone in her unpopular but prophetic thinking, Judah Magnes, founder of the Ikhud or Unity party in Palestine, had for decades criticized the 1917 Balfour Declaration by which England promised the land of Palestine to the Jews warning that such a promise could only result in hostility from the Arabs living on the land. Two others who shared this view and became colleagues of Arendt were the historian Hans Kohn and Robert Weltsh, editor of Judische Rundschau.
According to one of her biographers (Bruehl, 1982), whenever Arendt wrote about Palestine, she repeated her prophecy that political organization in the postwar world would take one of two forms, empires or federations, and that the Jewish people would only have a chance for survival if federations were formed. She had urged the avoidance of establishing a Jewish state, which she believed, would become the pawns of foreign powers while alienating the “goodwill of neighbors”.
Assignment: Two groups, Israelis and Palestinians, have historically claimed the same territory as their country. Their claims date back to Biblical times to Abraham and his two sons: Isaac, who founded the Jewish nation, and Ishmael, the symbolic father of all Arabs. On the web you will find current and historical essays and opinions about how to resolve the middle-east crisis that is embedded in motivations behind 9/11 and is critical to whatever resolution we develop to end terrorism. Research a minimum of five articles written since 1990 and cover the time span between the early 90’s and now. Identify the author’s position, whether the essay is factual or personal opinion, and the reasons for which you accept or reject the author’s conclusions. Using Arendt’s Zionism Reconsidered compare and contrast other views on the Israeli-Palestine question; and finally construct a resolution to the Middle East question.
Short Biography and Bibliography
ARENDT, Hannah, (1906-1975), German-American political scientist who characterized 'totalitarianism'. Received Doctorate from the University of Heidelberg at the age of 22 after studying under Martin Heidegger. In 1933 she went to France to escape the Nazis and, in 1941, fled to the U.S., becoming a U.S. citizen in 1951. Arendt was research director, Conference on Jewish Relations (1944-46); chief editor, Schocken Books (1946-48); executive secretary, Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (1949-52); visiting professor, Princeton (1959), Columbia (1960); Professor, U. of Chicago at Berkeley (1963-67), New School for Social
Research (1967-75). Author of Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), The Human Condition (1958), On Revolution (1963), Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), On Violence (1970). For a lengthier biography and bibliography go to:http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/biography/arendt.html
Arendt, Hannah. (1996). Love and Saint Augustine. (Edited and with interpretive…). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1982). Lectures on Kant’s political philosophy. (Edited and with interpretive…). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1972). Crises of the Republic; lying in politics, civil disobedience on violence, thoughts on politics and revolution. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Arendt, Hannah. (1970). On Violence. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
Arendt, Hannah. (1968). Men in dark times. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
Arendt, Hannah. (1968). Between past and future: eight exercises in political thought. New York: Viking Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1966). The origins of totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
Arendt, Hannah. (1963). On Revolution. New York: Viking Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1963). Eichmann in Jerusalem; a report on the banality of evil. New York: Viking Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1961). Between past and future, six exercises in political thought. New York: Viking Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1958). The human condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Arendt, Hannah. (1958). The origins of totalitarianism. New York: Meridian Books.
Arendt, Hannah. (1951). The origins of totalitarianism. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
Arendt, Hannah. (1974). Rahel Varnhagen, the life of a Jewish woman. (translated by Richard and Clara Winston). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Arendt, Hannah. (1978). The life of the mind. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Arendt, Hannah. (1978). Thinking. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Arendt, Hannah. (1970). Zionism Reconsidered in Zionism Reconsidered (Ed. Michael Selzer). London, The Macmillan Company.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (work done on Hannah Arendt)
Canovan, Margaret. (1974). The political thought of Hannah Arendt. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.