The Role Imperialism Played in the Formation of the State of Israel

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
1-1 1/2 weeks
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
This activity is designed to help students make connections between the actions taken by Imperialistic nations and the post World War II world, specifically as it relates to Middle East diplomacy and the creation of the state of Israel.

The activity is a week-and-a-half-long lesson that will consist of students using a variety of skills.  They will be asked to read maps, analyze primary and secondary sources, conduct research, demonstrate academic writing skills, work cooperatively, and participate in a Socratic seminar.

Rationale (why are you doing this?)

This activity is designed to help students make connections between the actions taken by Imperialistic nations and the post World War II world, specifically as it relates to Middle East diplomacy and the creation of the state of Israel.  It is also designed to help students consider other factors that developed during and after World War II that contributed to the creation of the state of Israel. Through this process students will be asked to consider the cause and effect relationship between events in history spanning approximately 60 years. They will also evaluate and assign value to the relative impact that different events had on the creation of Israel.  This will also serve as a case study to develop an understanding of the complexity of Cold War Politics.  This activity should not only provide students an opportunity to evaluate multiple sources to reach conclusions regarding the origins of the policies that established the State of Israel, but also an opportunity to see cause and effect relationships associated with this event.

Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • The students will review the course of European Imperialism from 1880-1945.
  • The students will investigate both primary and secondary sources to find connections between actions during the period of imperialism and diplomatic actions taken in the post World War II environment specifically in the Middle East in relation to the creation of the state of Israel.
  • Students will use primary and secondary sources to investigate and develop an understanding of diplomacy in the Cold War era and motivation for the creation of the State of Israel.
  • Students will reflect on multiple perspectives of the actions taken and summarize those perspectives.
  • Students will respond to the following writing prompt using the knowledge they have gained through research and investigation to write a thesis driven response: How significant was the role of Imperialism in creating conflict in the Middle East, being sure to specifically consider the creation of the State of Israel?
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
  • Common Care Standards: RH 9-10.1, RH 9-10.6, RH 9-10.8, RH 9-10.9

WHST 9-10.1, WHST 9-10.4, WHST 9-10.6, WHST 9-10.6, WHST 9-10.7

  • Kansas State Standards: Social Studies:
    • 1. Choices have consequences
    • 3. Societies are shaped by beliefs, ideas, and diversity
    • 4. Societies experience continuity and change over time
    • 5. Relationships between people, place, idea, and environments are dynamic
Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
  • Balfour Declaration
  • 1897 Zionist Conference: List of Goals
  • League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan Memorandum
  • Zionist Peel Commission 1937
  • UN Resolution 181
Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?
  • Day 1
  • This lesson will be introduced after the conclusion of World War II as a case study within the unit about the Cold War era, specifically focusing on Cold War diplomacy.  Students will already be familiar with the history of the British and the League of Nations in the Middle East.  They will also already have a basic understanding of the political climate that was developing in Europe and around the world after World War II. It will also be used to help students make connections with events that happened in the 1880’s-1940’s and how those events factored into decisions made regarding the Middle East, specifically focusing on the formation of the State of Israel. 
  • The lesson will begin with a brief review of imperialism, and its decline from 1917-1948.  To help students review and discuss this information, students will be broken into small groups of three or four.  Each group will be given a series of maps to review.  They will have a map of the world during the height of Imperialism (1880’s) a map of the world post World War I (illustrating the results of the Versailles Treaty), and one Post World War II (circa 1946).  They will be asked to look for similarities and differences in various regions of the world as demonstrated on the maps.  For each of the changes they see they will be asked to provide an explanation for that change, and a potential consequence of that change.  Each group will be asked to summarize their findings for the class in a brief presentation. 
  • After students have presented, and any questions that arise have been answered, students will be asked to review the Belfour Declaration and The First Zionist Conference.  They will review these two documents individually, and then reconvene in groups to discuss the content of each document.  They will be asked to consider how different parties would view these documents, specifically the Palestinians and the Zionists. (see attached document courtesy of Samia Shoman)  These documents will help students to review the Zionist movement that was studied in previous chapters, and allow them to make connections with the creation of the State of Israel.
  • The class will come together as a whole to address any questions, concerns, or ideas that emerged while reviewing the documents.
  • In their groups students will then be given three documents to read and discuss together: League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan Memorandum, Zionist Peel Commission 1937, UN Resolution 181.  By this time in the semester students will be familiar with analyzing a primary source using the AP PARTS method.  As students are processing through the documents they will be asked to consider the following questions:
    • What role does imperialism play in the creation of the State of Israel?
    • What other motivations led to the creation of the State of Israel?
    • What are some potential consequences of the actions you have read about in each document?
    • Day 3
    • Day 4 and 5
  • Day 2
  • Students will be given additional time to process through the documents in their original groups. 
  • By the end of the hour they will be asked to meet with at least two other students who were not a part of their original group to discuss the questions and the documents they reviewed.
  • Students will be asked to conduct independent research using the school library and online resources to find further information about the role imperialism played in policy and diplomacy in the Middle East, specifically focusing on the creation of the State of Israel.  They will be asked to find evidence to support the importance of imperialism as well as evidence that suggests other factors were more important.  They must record their sources, summarize them, and be able to reference them in discussion and in a formal written essay.  Students will be required to turn in summaries and bibliographies of all resources they intend to use, and must have a minimum of 7. Students will be told that the documents and information we have looked at in class as well as the individual research they are conducting will be used in a Socratic that examines our “big question” regarding the role of imperialism. This Socratic will take place on Day 6.
  • Day 6
  • Day 7
  • Students will spend the entire hour participating in a Socratic seminar meant to address the significance imperialism played in the formation of the State of Israel.  Students will be expected to participate fully by speaking, citing sources, and staying engaged in the discussion throughout the hour.  The teacher will grade based on the rubric in the assessment section of the lesson plan.
  • There will be a class debriefing regarding the Socratic which will review the evidence used in the Socratic, and the conclusions that were drawn.  This will also be an opportunity to explore any additional questions or concerns students have encountered throughout the process.  Students will also be assigned to write a thesis-driven answer that addresses the initial question, and uses resources and citations in the response.  The paper will be due in three days and will be graded using the rubric in the assessment section.
Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide

The primary forms of assessment will be the performance in the Socratic seminar and they essay.  Participation points will be given for working in small groups, and all document analysis and research citations will be given completion points in a notebook check.

Rubric for Socratic Seminar:




Emerging Proficiency



Analysis and Reasoning

  • Intentionally references text to support reasoning
  • Shows thoughtful consideration of the topic
  • Provides relevant and insightful comments that help to generate new connections
  • Demonstrates logical and organized thinking
  • Moves the discussion to a deeper level.
  • Occasionally references text to support reasoning
  • Shows that consideration of the topic  has occurred
  • Provides meaningful comments that are relevant and on topic
  • Thinking is clear and organized
  • Rarely references text, may references it incorrectly.
  • Demonstrates an awareness of the topic but little reflection on it.
  • Comments are mostly relevant
  • Thinking is mostly clear and organized


  • Does not reference text
  • Demonstrates little or no consideration of the topic
  • Comments are off topic or irrelevant
  • Thinking is confused, disorganized, or stays at a very superficial level.



Discussion Skills

  • Speaks clearly and at a reasonable level so that all can hear
  • Stays on topic and helps to bring the conversation back on topic when necessary
  • Speaks to other students (not the teacher)
  • Remains entirely focused on the topic and the discussion at hand
  • Invites others into the conversation
  • Gives others an opportunity to speak
  • References the comments made by others in the conversation
  • Speaks at a level that can be heard
  • Stays on topic and focused on the discussion
  • Is aware of sharing speaking time and may invite others to speak
  • May occasionally direct comments at the teacher


  • Struggles to speak at an appropriate level
  • Sometimes stays on topic
  • Occasionally dominates the conversation


  • Cannot be heard or may dominate the conversation
  • Demonstrates inappropriate discussion skills





  • Demonstrates respectful listening
  • Remarks made are polite and demonstrate a concern for the feelings of others
  • Uses collegial and friendly tone in all discussion
  • Listens to others respectfully
  • Uses appropriate language and tone
  • Shows some concern for the feelings of others in remarks
  • Mostly listens respectfully but may at time interrupt or lack eye contact
  • Remarks demonstrate an awareness of other feelings


  • May be distracted or not focused on the convers