Peacekeeping in the Middle East: Expressions - Commemoration through Art
A printable activity sheet to help develop students' understanding of wartime through artwork. The photograph shows Australian peacekeeper Lieutenant Colonel Keith Desmond Howard in the Middle East in 1968. He is on the lower step of a United Nations (UN) observation post. The post was used by the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO). This organisation monitored the ceasefire between Israel and the Arab nations surrounding it. Peacekeepers from several countries were involved in UNTSO. Use the background information and inquiry questions to encourage student research and learning in relation to Australians serving as peacekeepers.
The United Nations (UN) came into existence in October 1945. Australia played a part in the establishment of the UN. From the beginning, Australia’s armed forces have had roles in UN operations around the world. These roles have included landmine clearance and election support. Australians have also provided humanitarian aid and operated between hostile armies or warring groups of people. One of the first UN peacekeeping missions began in 1948.
The mission was called the UN Truce Supervision Organisation, or UNTSO. This mission was set up to supervise the ceasefire between Israel and the Arab countries around it. UNTSO continues to this day.
At least 26 countries have played a part in UNTSO. Sadly there have been UNTSO personnel wounded or killed while serving in the mission, including some Australians. Australia joined the mission in 1956. Australian observers were posted to countries such as Israel, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. Their roles were made difficult due to the complex history of the Middle East. The creation of Israel after the Second World War produced new challenges in the region. UNTSO personnel have had to balance the needs of Israel and its Arab neighbours. Australians have worked alongside observers from countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and Bhutan. The situation in the Middle East means that UNTSO personnel continue to serve there as peacekeepers.
The photograph depicts Australian UNTSO member Lieutenant Colonel K.D. Howard with other observers at an observation post in the Golan Heights in Syria. Lieutenant Colonel Howard stands at the left, on the lower step. The other people are from Canada, Denmark and Israel. In the background is Mount Hermon, hidden by mist.
The photograph was taken in December 1968. Lieutenant Colonel Howard was the acting head of UNTSO and the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) from 1967 to 1977.
- Look carefully at the photograph and describe what you see. Include all the details in it, even if you think they might not be significant. Keep in mind what you don’t see, as often things left out can be as important as things that are visible.
- Is the photograph a primary or secondary source of historical information? What does it tell us about the UNTSO mission in the Middle East? How does it do this? What can it do that other sources of historical information can’t do?
- Lieutenant Colonel Howard served in the Middle East during the Second World War. He continued to serve as a reservist, or part-time soldier, after the war. In 1966 he investigated possible overseas postings. He was assigned to UNTSO, and moved to Jerusalem in 1967, with his wife Joan and their youngest daughter. What might have motivated Lieutenant Colonel Howard to return to the Middle East? Think about his UNTSO role and his service there in the Second World War. What would be the similarities and differences? There’s information about the Middle East in the Second World War on the Anzac Portal.
- What would be the challenges faced by UNTSO personnel? What special training would be necessary for them before they went to the Middle East? Consider the different cultures and societies in the region and how personnel need to respond to them. You might like to look at UNTSO Operations for information.
- This photograph is one record of peacekeeping activities in the Middle East. Investigate the history of Australian peacemaking and peacekeeping operations in the region. Create an artwork that depicts some of that history. Your artwork could be in two or three dimensions, or in a digital format. Share your artwork with other students and discuss the variations in your responses.
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