Carnegie Mellon University

Laurie Eisenberg

Laurie Z. Eisenberg

Teaching Professor of History

Bio

Prof. Eisenberg is an historian of the modern Middle East. Her areas of research and publication include the Arab-Israeli conflict and peace process; Israeli foreign policy; Israel-Lebanon relations; American foreign policy in the Middle East; the interplay of religion and politics in the Middle East; and the interactions of multiple Middle East countries and non-state actors. Prof. Eisenberg’s current research focuses on the Israeli Independence Day celebration of May 1967, coming just three weeks before the outbreak of the 1967 War. She is examining how Israeli planners adapted the traditional Independence Day parade, rally and press releases in a failed attempt to signal the Arab states that Israel was not looking for war and that they could deescalate their own rhetoric and military preparations. Prof. Eisenberg bases this project on her research in various Israeli archives; a study of the Hebrew press; and oral histories she conducted with participants and planners of the Independence Day festivities.

In the classroom, Prof. Eisenberg emphasizes the interpretation of primary source documents and their centrality in original research projects. Her students learn to read historical documents closely and critically and to subject them to rigorous content analysis. Students also explore a wide variety of sources beyond textbooks, such as maps, news media, photographs, biographies, and oral testimony.

Many of her courses incorporate in-class role-playing exercises. In “The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” students immerse themselves in an extended five-week role-playing exercise, The Struggle for Palestine, 1936, an elaborate recreation of hearings held by the British in Jerusalem, where they heard testimony from Arabs and Jews as to reasons for their conflict in British Mandate Palestine. “The Arab-Israel Conflict and Peace Process” concludes with a weeklong Arab-Israeli negotiation simulation via Facebook, which allows CMU students to interact with students at universities in the Middle East, in real time. The U.S. foreign policy course includes a mock emergency meeting of the National Security Council, which must advise the President on a response to Middle East terrorism. Historical reenactment constitutes an exciting pedagogical experience and provides the opportunity for delving deeper into topic material than regular coursework allows. Prof. Eisenberg works with colleagues around the globe to develop and refine the technique of teaching with historical and political simulations.

She also teaches courses on religion and politics in the Middle East; American foreign policy in the region; the 1967 Arab-Israeli War; a practicum on how historians conduct research, interpret historical evidence and present their findings as appropriately prepared scholarly papers; and a capstone research course. “American-Arab Encounters” takes place via video-conferencing in real time, uniting CMU students in Pittsburgh with students at the CMU campus in Qatar. An unusual but highly rewarding aspect of her work came when she served as a consultant for ImpactGames, a company that produced “PeaceMaker,” a video game simulating Palestinian-Israeli interactions.

She is a frequent speaker on Middle East topics on university panels and programs and at the invitation of area churches, synagogues, schools, civic groups and for the World Affairs Council of Greater Pittsburgh.

Education

Ph.D.: University of Michigan, 1990

Publications

(Selected)

  • Gonzalez, Cleotilde, Lelyn Saner and Laura Zittrain Eisenberg, "Learning to Stand in the Other's Shoes: a Computer Video Game Experience of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," Social Science Computer Review, 31:2 (April 2013).
  • “Peace Plans: 1967-1993”, in Joel Peters and David Newman, eds., Handbook of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (New York, Routledge, 2012).
  • “From Benign to Malign: Israeli-Lebanese Relations, 1948-1978,” in Clive Jones and Sergio Catignani, eds., The Israel-Lebanese Conflict: An Interstate and Asymmetric War in Perspective (New York: Routledge, 2010).
  • “History Revisited or Revamped? The Maronite factor in Israel’s 1982 Invasion of Lebanon,” in Efraim Karsh, ed., Israeli-Lebanese relations Since 1948, (New York: Routledge, 2010) and Israel Affairs, 15:4 (October 2009).
  • With Neil Caplan, Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, Possibilities, revised second edition (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010).
  • “Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? Israel and Lebanon After the Withdrawal,” Middle East Review of International Affairs, 4:3 (September 2000).
  • “The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Lessons about Diplomatic Initiatives and Negotiations,” in Mark Tessler, ed., Area Studies and Social Science: Strategies for Understanding Middle East Politics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).
  • With Neil Caplan, Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: Patterns, Problems, Possibilities (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998).
  • With Neil Caplan, "The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process in Historical Perspective," in Ilan Peleg, ed., The Middle East Peace Process: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Albany: SUNY Press, 1998).
  • “Israel's Lebanon Policy,” Middle East Review of International Affairs, 3:2 (September 1997).
  • The Arab-Israeli Peace Process: A Contextual and Textual Analysis, Occasional Paper published by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, June 1996.
  • My Enemy's Enemy: Lebanon in the Early Zionist Imagination, 1900-1948 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994).
  • Restraint or Retaliation? Israel's Response to Iraqi Missile Attacks During the 1991 Gulf War, Pew Case Studies in International Affairs #361, Pew Charitable Trusts, 1994.
  • “Desperate Diplomacy: the Zionist-Maronite Treaty of 1946,” Studies in Zionism, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Autumn 1992).
  • “Passive Belligerency: Israel and the Gulf War,” The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 15, No. 3 (September 1992).

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Historical Research
  • The Art of Historical Detection
  • Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1880-1948
  • Arab-Israeli Conflict and Peace Process since 1948
  • American Foreign Policy and the Middle East since 1945
  • Religion and Politics in the Middle East
  • Documenting the 1967 Arab-Israeli War
  • American-Arab Encounters
  • Historical Research Seminar

Department Member Since: 1992