top of page

Podcasts to support classroom discussions about Israel-Palestine

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Discussions about Palestine and Israel are very sensitive, especially in a classroom where curriculum, policy and process are heavily regulated. Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but anyone who writes, speaks, or creates content about the region will be policed and critiqued with severity akin to no other I've ever seen or experienced. The placement of every word and the framing of every sentence, picture and context is under constant scrutiny and can be gravely misread or misunderstood, especially with parallel histories. This is particularly difficult for Muslim and Jewish people and is enough for individuals to fall silent, or shout loud enough to be heard. Part of the problem is Israel-Palestine is very rare and often absent from the curriculum (In the UK at least) and therefore knowledge about history, politics and international relations (for a vast majority) is based on media narratives. Interest in the discussion usually begins with any escalation in the region. Now more than ever it is important young people learn about the history and context of the region as it will be their generation that drives change and ultimately, peace. I hope the resources and information in this blog help with that. As ever, please read with sensitivity and respect.

The words Israel and Palestine weren’t mentioned to me at school until A-level and that’s only because the History department opted for a module all about the British Empire. Israel-Palestine is complicated because there is so much history, so much to learn and it rarely (if ever) features on the curriculum.

However, the more I think about classroom dynamics and what school is for, I realise discussions do not need to be as complicated as we think; instead, they need to be rooted in knowledge, compassion and humanity. I say this very mindfully and by putting myself in the shoes of a young person. I am very mindful that young people learn a great deal from social media and so much of it is valuable. However, listening and learning from a screen (as brilliant as it can be) does not create space for a critical discussion. I often find people reiterate what they have seen, heard, or read online, but when questioned or critiqued, people stumble. I am guilty of this too.

Learning how to articulate and express diverse viewpoints, ask questions respectfully and engage with honesty and conviction is what I cherish most about the classroom. Again, I am also mindful of the extreme sensitivities and vulnerabilities associated with this particular discussion, especially for Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian, Israeli and Arab individuals. I am particularly mindful that school is not considered the right place for these discussions and caregivers may not want their children to engage - school is an escape from the horror, the fear dominating our news 24/7. Equally, there can be concerns or curiosity about how young people are influenced or impacted by particular lessons at school.

However, I also firmly believe schools can enable safe spaces where students can learn about a wide range of topics with a 360 approach, and I think teachers have the skills to develop and facilitate these spaces in respectful ways. Schools teach global citizenship values of empathy, compassion and respect. Sometimes, they can provide spaces for students to learn and reflect in a way they do not elsewhere. By compassionately discussing Israel-Palestine, navigated by knowledge and critical thinking, we are preparing young people to understand and process what they are witnessing. We are also helping them work together to find solutions to end the ongoing occupation and siege of Gaza, the catastrophic bombing, violence and horror endured by Palestinians in Gaza and The West Bank, and to create solutions that lead to Palestinians and Israelis living equally, with freedom and safety.

So many young people have also been learning about this particular region of the Middle East from a young age; there are many Jewish and Muslim students whose understanding of the situation goes beyond anything I share here and this can sometimes be difficult to navigate in the classroom. Equally, many students don't know much more than what they have seen in the last few weeks, mainly online or through mainstream media. I've always found young people have a very strong sense of justice, truth, empathy and curiosity. They need (and deserve) adults to respectfully and honestly meet them halfway with knowledge and truth to navigate a history, which holds multiple truths and experiences at the same time. To begin these discussions, we need to establish a common goal: that every human being deserves to live peacefully, freely, safely, and equally. And, as difficult as it is, we need to be aware that our anger, sadness, frustration and despair may skew our thoughts, but we need to channel our feelings into solutions for peace.

Safe Space

The term 'safe space' is being used more and more, especially in equality, diversity and inclusion work. The phrase can be problematic for some (surely every space and every conversation should centre respect and trust?). However, it can help classroom discussions to ensure students are clear about the objectives and parameters of the space. Below are some expectations that may help define 'safe space' discussions about Israel and Palestine:

  • This is a classroom discussion to learn more about Israel-Palestine from resources that will help us understand the histories of the region, the context and the current climate.

  • In this space, we must be respectful and mindful of how everyone is feeling, which will likely be painful. We must show compassion and empathy with our language, actions and our body language.

  • This space will be free from any hate, bullying, antisemitism and Islamophobia.

  • This space is one of learning, understanding and critical discussion; it is not a space to prove right and wrong or to win an argument.

  • The experiences of Palestinians and Israelis will be discussed with compassion, humanity and respect.

  • It is important to know that the actions, decisions and words of a ruling party and government officials are not representative of all Palestinians or all Israelis. We will not conflate their actions and words with all Palestinians and Israelis.

  • It is ok to ask questions to learn more about Palestine and Israel; please respect and understand your teacher's impartiality to the political climate and their responsibility to all of their students to feel safe, seen and heard.

  • Please remember, this is hard, painful and so sad. We are a community and we are here to support each other.

These points can be adapted to suit your setting and it is also ok for students and staff to add objectives and parameters. It can often help to engage students in deciding how to navigate and create a safe space to further engage in discussion.

Podcasts about Israel-Palestine for students and teachers

Following on from establishing a safe space (this may take a whole lesson or more to nurture), I find podcasts are an excellent classroom and homework resource for students to learn from. It can help to create time for students to listen to the episodes below independently and make notes on any questions or points they may want to discuss. Or, depending on your classroom dynamic, you can listen together, followed by a carefully guided classroom discussion with time for students to express how they are feeling and to ask questions. Podcast episodes are listed in a recommended order*:

  1. Empire: origins of the Israel-Palestine conflict: an excellent podcast for ages 14+ explaining The Balfour Declaration and its impact on Palestinians and Israelis.

  2. Dan Snow's History Hit: Israel, Gaza and The West Bank: a history - a critical podcast for ages 14+ that focuses on the history of the region to the present day.

  3. Leading: Tony Klug: Could the Israel-Hamas conflict restart the peace process? a brilliant podcast for GCSE and A-level students to critically engage with and discuss solutions they may pursue in future careers too.

  4. Leading: Simon Sebag Montefiore: The impact of conflicting histories in the Israel-Hamas and Russia-Ukraine wars Ideal for A Level students to explore multiple histories and to engage in a challenging discussion about multiple truths existing at the same time.

  5. The Rest is Politics: Israel at War Ideal for ages 14+ explaining and discussing the terror attack in Israel, October 7th 2023 with historial Yuval Noah Harari.

  6. The Rest is Politics: Palestine, Gaza and Israel Ideal for ages 14+ to listen to Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot.

  7. The Rest is Politics: Israel-Gaza: What happens Next? Ideal for ages 14+ to listen to a discussion about Israel-Gaza, from a distance.

  8. Leading: Sayeeda Warsi: Britain and the Muslim World This is a brilliant podcast for ages 14+ to understand the lived experiences of a Muslim woman growing up in the world of British politics and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi's voice and views on Israel-Palestine are well worth listening to.

  9. The Rest is Politics: Yuval Noah Harari: Crisis and tragedy in Israel this was recorded before October 7th but, like Sayeeda Warsi's podcast, this Harari shares the lived experience of growing up in Israel, its politics and important perspectives for students.

*students may question some of the events and comments in the podcasts because of emerging news; it is recommended all teachers listen to the podcasts beforehand and edit/adapt the order or list to suit your students.

There are so many more sources and podcasts not listed here (please share and I will happily add them to to the list). I find listening to these podcasts and noting down thoughts and questions for a discussion humanises Palestinians and Israelis, whilst providing necessary knowledge, context, references, and an understanding of how to engage in a critical debate that is often lost on social media.

Practice with compassion and empathy

As parents, teachers and carers we have seen the catastrophic images and videos coming out of Gaza; we feel grief, sadness, anger, and despair every day. We are so sad for the loss of innocent human life in Israel on October 7th - it is all too much and sometimes just sitting and trying to make sense of what is happening in the world is all we can do; social media can leave us feeling paralysed by grief and trauma, which in itself feels wrong to admit, living in safety, witnessing from afar, through a screen. We can show our compassion, empathy and pain - which is felt by our students too - for the loss of human life in Gaza, The West Bank and Israel. We can remind them that feeling anger, despair, fear and vulnerability are valid and expected. As teachers and responsible adults, we are here to listen and care.

At school, we can also help students navigate feelings of hate and anger into action. We can facilitate discussions and guide them to learn the skills and expertise necessary to seek solutions for peace. Protests and rallies are necessary and are making such a positive difference. They are a positive call to attention, and there will be students who can turn that attention into positive action, to benefit people who need it the most.

It feels impossible and utterly tragic in the present moment, but for the sake of Palestinian people, children just like our students, for the sake of the hostages and Israeli citizens suffering, we must prepare young people with the knowledge, skills and empathy needed to end the unfiltered horror people in Gaza are experiencing every second of every day. We must encourage students to be at decision-making tables, to engage with subjects, skills and careers that will help rebuild Gaza for Palestinians, that will work towards a solution where Palestinians are free and Israelis are safe. We must encourage students to engage in community work to foster a sense of solidarity with different people, to engage in politics to advocate for change, to work towards careers in medical healthcare, artificial intelligence, sustainability, education, peace work and more to help rebuild Gaza and foster peaceful relations in the region so they can thrive, just like us.

There is so much more to say and so many more resources to recommend, but we all must start somewhere and I find podcasts to be a great resource to facilitate discussions. I hope the information in this post helps to create safe and critical discussions about Israel-Palestine in schools. But, more than anything I so desperately pray for a ceasefire and to end the genocide on the people of Gaza. There are no words left to express the grief and pain so many of us are feeling.

Other helpful resources:

Blog: G is for George, Gaza and Genocide (with a fantastic Google drive full of useful resources)

Organisation: Solutions Not Sides - workshops and resources to navigate antisemitism and Islamophobia in schools.

1 comment

1 Comment

Dec 13, 2023

A brilliant article of common sense, wisdom and insightful advice, Demonstrating the author's call for humanity, compassion and knowledge it sets out how to go about dealing with this subject that educators should not be frightened away from by the imperative to avoid being political. Our duty is to global civic and human rights. A seminal piece that is worthy of sharing widely. Thank you.

bottom of page