Primers, Briefings, Discussion Guides & Suggested Readings
The following resources will help you further investigate historical and contemporary issues related to Israel. They provide an easy-to-understand overview of complex and difficult matters.
Understanding Jewish Statehood
Israel is a unique country in many ways. In just a few decades, it integrated millions of immigrants from all over the world with diverse cultural traditions. It has become a hub of innovation in a politically and economically repressed part of the world. But Israel is not especially different in being a democracy with a dominant national group—the Jewish community—and a significant national minority group—the Arab community. Neither is Israel distinct in extending special citizenship benefits to its diaspora community, nor in capturing its national symbols on its flag, in its anthem, and in its myriad expressions of public life. However, many Americans wrestle with the claim that Israel can be both Jewish and democratic, and might be prone to charges that Israel has no right to exist. This PDF, written by David Bernstein, provides context and depth to understanding how a Jewish state fits into the varied gamut of liberal democracies worldwide.
Operation Protective Edge: Understanding Hamas Tunnels
As the conflict with Hamas in Gaza escalated, Israel’s primary focus moved from stopping the thousands of rockets fired into Israel to destroying the labyrinth of tunnels built by Hamas from Gaza into Israel. The estimated 60 tunnels, up to 1.5 miles long and 75 feet deep, replete with electricity and sanitation facilities, are used for Hamas attacks and kidnappings. The ceilings are high enough to walk through standing up and reinforced by concrete. Each tunnel is said to have cost one million dollars to build. This past week, the Israeli military discovered documents revealing that Hamas was in the planning stages of a major attack on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, using the tunnels. For these reasons, Israel regards the tunnels as a major national security threat, likely prolonging the current hostilities.
This PDF, written by David Bernstein, provides context on the Hamas tunnels as well as suggestions for further reading to help you understand the current situation in Israel.
Operation Protective Edge Discussion Guide
UPDATED: On June 12, 2014, the day that three Israeli teenage boys were kidnapped in the West Bank, Hamas sent a barrage of rocket fire into Israel. Since July 8, 2014, and the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, more than 1,800 rockets have been fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip toward major Israeli population centers. In response to the continued rocket fire, Israel has launched ground operations in Gaza, in order to locate and destroy Hamas’ tunnels into Israel and weapon stockpiles.
This PDF includes articles we recommend you read to help you understand the current situation in Israel, followed by a number of guided questions to assist in facilitating discussion.
Understanding the Iranian Nuclear Deal: A Briefing for Students & Campus Professionals
Over the weekend, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany reached an interim agreement in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear program. This agreement is the result of several rounds of negotiations and backchannel discussions that gained momentum following the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
1. What is included in this deal? What are the obligations of the parties involved?
This six-month interim agreement seeks to suspend key elements of the Iranian nuclear program, while allowing time to reach a more comprehensive agreement. All told, the deal will provide approximately $6-7 billion worth of relief to the Iranian economy, which has been crippled by severe economic sanctions for the past few years. The agreement leaves in place core sanctions, and threatens additional sanctions should Iran violate the terms of the agreement.
Key components of the deal are as follows:
- Iran agreed to:
- Cease all uranium enrichment to maximum 5% purity and disconnect centrifuges capable of enriching uranium above 5%
- Dilute/oxidize current stockpiles of uranium enriched to 20% to prevent its use in weapons
- Refrain from fueling the Arak reactor during the interim period
- Refrain from replacing or installing new centrifuges, necessary equipment for the enrichment process
- Allow more frequent and intensive inspections in most nuclear facilities, including Natanz and Fordow
- UN Security Council+1 agreed to:
- Recognize Iran’s right to access peaceful nuclear energy
- Relax sanctions on various industries, including its petrochemical and auto sectors
- Allow greater access to frozen Iranian funds and allow commercial activity on gold and other precious metals
2. Why are Israeli leaders and those from the Gulf States (namely Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) upset over this arrangement?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been lobbying world leaders for years to take a tougher stance against Iran’s nuclear program and has expressed disappointment that the deal does not go nearly far enough to curtail Iranian nuclear aspirations. While this deal may retard some aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, critics worry it leaves in place much of the infrastructure for a nuclear break-out capability and can easily be reversed. Reportedly not privy to much of the discussion that led to this agreement, the Israeli government would have preferred stronger terms requiring Iran to dismantle its program and fully disclose its past nuclear weapons work. Gulf leaders, including members of the Saudi royal family, also view this deal as evidence that the United States may be pulling away from traditional allies in the region, and moving to a foreign policy more closely aligned with Iran.
Critics further suggest:
- While it may sound like limiting Iran’s uranium enrichment to 5% is a significant concession, such a concentration can easily and quickly be increased to weapons grade level in a matter of weeks. The hardest part of the enrichment process is getting to 5%.
- The deal does not altogether prohibit Iran from conducting work on the Arak plutonium reactor, allowing Iran to make progress on this facility during the interim period.
- The agreement allows Iran to continue to develop technology necessary for placing a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile, which would advance its overall nuclear program even if it temporarily slows down uranium enrichment.
- The deal reduces the overall leverage that the US and the West have built up against Iran, which may be difficult to regain in the future. Once countries such as China and Russia are able to resume doing business of any kind, the reasoning goes, it will be difficult to rein them back in if the sanctions must be fully reinstated.
The split between the deal’s optimists, who negotiated the agreement, and pessimists, such as the Israeli government and Gulf states, revolves around the question: how will this deal be interpreted by Iran’s ruling elite? Will it, in hopes of the optimists, strengthen the relative moderates in Iran, who will use their newfound political capital to reach a comprehensive deal downgrading the Iranian program? Or will it, in the fears of the pessimists, merely strengthen the regime’ resolve, who will take advantage of an improving economy and use it as evidence that Iran can outlast the West?
For additional analysis:
David Horovitz – When the US Let Iran Off the Hook
Greg Sargent – Dems Should Give Iran Deal a Chance
Jeffrey Goldberg – In Iran, Obama Achieves 50 Percent of His Goals http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-24/in-iran-obama-achieves-50-percent-of-his-goals.html
Michael Eisenstadt – Why a Nuclear Deal with Iran is So Hard http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/why-a-nuclear-deal-with-iran-is-so-hard
Israeli Elections Discussion Guide and Analysis
Download the PDF of our 2013 Israeli Elections Discussion Guide
Understanding the Settlements Primer
Operation Pillar of Defense: Special Briefing & Discussion Guide
Click the images below to view the PDFs of our Operation Pillar of Defense briefings.
Click the image below to view the full PDF of an article about Proportional Force.
The David Project Recommendations for How to Respond on Campus
Below are seven tips about how you can engage students on campus in a constructive dialogue around Operation Pillar of Defense.
- Educate yourselves and your peers. Discuss with your Israel group and the larger Israel community what is going on, collect information, and educate yourselves on the situation. Click here for our conversation guide to “Pillar of Defense.” Create a safe space for students grappling with the conflict to ask questions.
- Show public support. Show support for Israel by holding a public display of solidarity with the people of Israel. This show of support can be in the form of tabling or a larger gathering like a rally. You should aim to create a space to show your commitment to Israel, while welcoming discussion, questions, and information sharing.
- Don’t counter-protest. Do not directly engage with anti-Israel protests and rallies. We do not want to increase attention to anti-Israel activity and inadvertently amplify the voice of Israel’s detractors. Our job is not to stop an anti-Israel rally from happening on campus. Rather, we should educate our peers and encourage understanding and conversation about the situation. Likewise, avoid inflammatory postings on Facebook, Twitter, etc. or posting in open forums. These kinds of posts tend generate needless rancor and undermine our own standing.
- Connect with your partners. Email, call and sit down to talk with your contacts on campus from the various partner organizations and communities. Share information with them , welcome their questions and ask them what questions they are hearing from their constituents. Provide updates as events transpire. Start a campaign to engage students one-on-one. Your willingness to engage in these conversations will show the community that you want to hear their concerns but also that you wish to share your grasp of the current conflict
- Mobilize support. Ask students to sign an open letter to the mayor of Sderot that lets him know the students of your university support the people of his city and stand with innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians. A draft letter can be found here. The David Project’s grants program is available to help fund the publishing of the letter in your campus newspaper or other campus space.
- Humanize Israel and Israelis. Find opportunities to connect your peers and your campus with your friends, family and peers in Israel. If you know someone in Israel studying abroad, on a gap-year program, or living there, ask them to Skype or video chat with you and your friends so that you can hear first hand what is happening in Israel and what it is like to be in Tel Aviv, Sderot, Jerusalem or other cities right now.
- Provide public information. Write an op-ed providing more information on Operation Pillar of Defense and your perspective. We’d be happy to help!