History of Isrel/Palestine

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After (yet another) depressing pub discussion of the current problems in Israel last night I realised that although I kind of understand the present situation in there much of the history of that region is pretty cloudy to me. Can anyone recommend a good, un-biased book on the post-war history on Israel and Palestine?

winterland, Tuesday, 23 March 2004 10:52 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Read a book called the Iron Wall, Israel and the Arab World by an author called Avi Shlaim, who is an ex-Israeli serviceman and now a professor in England. Book itself was an examination of Israeli foreign policy, but I remember that I found it provided a very interesting and relatively unbiased picture of the history of the region and the diplomatic relations between countries.

oblomov, Tuesday, 23 March 2004 11:21 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Oh and should have said that A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin is very good book about the break up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War One and provides an interesting insight into the origin of many of the issues which are now plaguing the middle east.

oblomov, Tuesday, 23 March 2004 11:37 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Can I make an off-beat suggest to counter-balance the Shlaim book?

The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Its History in Maps is a fantastic book by world renowned historian and official Churchill biographer, Martin Gilbert.

dcs234, Tuesday, 23 March 2004 15:53 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Though not exactly post-war, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate by Tom Segev is supposed to be quite good (I haven't read it yet).

mookieproof (mookieproof), Tuesday, 23 March 2004 17:54 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

good, un-biased book on the post-war history on Israel and Palestine

haha sorry, doesn't exist!! there's one by norman finkelstein called "image and reality in the israeli-palestine conflict", published by verso, that's a good read. good explication of the biases inherent in representations of the conflict, vividly illustrated by finkelstein's OWN strong anti-zionist bias. like, we're talking pretty far-left here, not quite as far as chomsky, but if that sort of thing offends you'll want to stay away. if you can look past it, i'd say the points about western news etc are well-thought and argued.

A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin

oblomov's suggestion is excellent, urgent and key, OTM and all that. if you read this book you will not need a post-war history, you'll have a stronger grasp of the situation than most network news "security analysts" and "middle east experts"

vahid (vahid), Tuesday, 23 March 2004 18:36 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I found this very helpful: http://www.banterist.com

Michael White (Hereward), Wednesday, 24 March 2004 17:50 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Michael, I did indeed find that helpful. Thanks.

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Wednesday, 24 March 2004 19:12 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

dsc234 - thanks for the reference to the Martin Gilbert book will have to look for a copy

On the same subject has anyone read Sowing the Wind: The Seeds of Conflict in the Middle East by John Keays? I was just wondering if it was worth picking up. I have previously read the Honourable company: a history of the English East India Company by the same author and that was a very good book.

oblomov, Thursday, 25 March 2004 00:51 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I'd recommend the book "From Beirut to Jerusalem" by Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Winner (x2) for an understanding of the regional politics and psychology.

Phastbuck, Thursday, 25 March 2004 02:49 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...
I would say any article written by Edward Said, possibly using Orientalism as a forword to all.

annina, Friday, 9 April 2004 09:01 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

the Avi Shlaim book kicks arse. Which is good.

I think Martin Gilbert also has a proper history of Israel as well as the picture book. I imagine it is a bit ISRAEL RoXoR UR T-HEADS but is probably a good insight into that side of the fence.

Robert Fisk's "Pity The Nation" is an excellent book. It is mainly about Lebanon, but as that unfortunate country served for a time as Israel & Palesine's battlefield it might have insights for you.

DV (dirtyvicar), Friday, 9 April 2004 10:20 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

nine years pass...

anyone read this book? just got it for my kindle:


(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Wednesday, 4 December 2013 22:27 (five years ago) Permalink

I also suggest reading Mondoweiss for ongoing coverage of this conflict. It is avowedly not Zionist, however, and mostly anti-Zionist. There is quite a bit of critique of the writing of liberal Zionists, including one mentioned on this thread.

_Rudipherous_, Thursday, 5 December 2013 01:29 (five years ago) Permalink

Now that I'm posting from home, with access to my books, I can recommend Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Charles D. Smith, as a textbook style, maybe "unbiased" (if that is possible), treatment of the matter.

Many years back I read part of A Peace To End All Peace, mentioned earlier in this thread, and I should really read it all some day. It looks excellent.

If you want to cut to the chase, Ilan Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is powerful, if a bit dry.

I'm currently reading Max Blumenthal's Goliath which reports on current fascistic tendencies, while making a case for continuity between what's happening now and what happened during the inception of the modern state of Israel.

Alan Hart's three volume Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews covers a lot of ground and benefits from Hart's close personal familiarity with some of the major players in the conflict, but I'm afraid he's not a very good writer.

On the question of the possibility of an "unbiased," "balanced," "neutral" account of this conflict, I like the way Miko Peled (who has authored a memoir worth reading) handles the matter at the introduction of this talk.

_Rudipherous_, Friday, 6 December 2013 02:26 (five years ago) Permalink

The title of the Alan Hart book alone makes it seem highly questionable as a source

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 6 December 2013 03:00 (five years ago) Permalink

Titles are not always accurate iundications of an author's intentions or views, as they are often assigned by the publisher.

Aimless, Friday, 6 December 2013 03:09 (five years ago) Permalink

Yeah but come on

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 6 December 2013 03:17 (five years ago) Permalink

it's one thing to argue that zionism is somehow bad for Jews, but to call it "the REAL enemy of the Jews" is just inflammatory and offensive, not to mention ahistorical

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 6 December 2013 03:18 (five years ago) Permalink

In an article published on the Iranian run Press TV, Hart described Zionists as “The New Nazis” and argue that “Europeans and Americans could have stopped the original Nazis and prevented the extermination of six million Jews. If Europeans and Americans do not stop the New Nazis, it is likely that their end game will be the extermination of millions of Palestinians.”[4]

A Skanger Barkley (nakhchivan), Friday, 6 December 2013 03:22 (five years ago) Permalink

If nakh's source is correct about that Hart quotation, then 'nuff said, the man is a disgrace.

Aimless, Friday, 6 December 2013 05:55 (five years ago) Permalink

Whilst Alan’s US publisher has the courage to publish his book “Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews”, they don’t have the finances to promote it. Book promotion usually involves getting the author onto radio talk shows, TV talk shows, book signing engagements, debates etc and as the purpose of his book is to stir up an honest debate about the situation, this kind of promotion is the current need of the time.

There are many organisations in the US willing to arrange all of this for Alan, but the cost of touring the US is a lot and contributing towards it is the best way that you can support Alan right now.

We’re trying to sort out a better donation mechanism, but in the meanwhile, PayPal has made it very easy and you can donate by following the PayPal link on the side.

buzza, Friday, 6 December 2013 05:58 (five years ago) Permalink

ten months pass...

i thought rudy was reasonable but he's obviously slipped pretty far down the anti-semitic rabbit hole. sad. he probably thinks i'm another defensive pro-zionist jew who can't handle the truth.

I dunno. (amateurist), Tuesday, 21 October 2014 05:05 (four years ago) Permalink


my jaw left (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 21 October 2014 13:27 (four years ago) Permalink

Interesting review of a couple of new books on the subject: My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit and Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict by John Judis.


o. nate, Wednesday, 22 October 2014 02:41 (four years ago) Permalink

Yeah I read that and a couple of other similarly-themed articles at the time. It's sort of academic by now, but I don't agree with the premise that zionism necessarily has/had to become illiberal. The reality for me is that it has gone that way, but I think it could possibly have gone differently. From the beginning there were left zionists who didn't support expelling Palestinians. Maybe their position was an impossible contradiction, but they existed.

my jaw left (Hurting 2), Wednesday, 22 October 2014 03:08 (four years ago) Permalink

I agree it could have gone differently. The Freedland piece makes that point as well:

Still, believing that a Jewish national home had become a moral necessity is not the same as believing that the dispossession of the Palestinians was logically inevitable. The two views are separable. Judis’s central argument is that things could indeed have turned out differently, had Truman followed his instinct for evenhandedness between Jews and Arabs and backed the Zionism of Ahad Ha’am and his followers, who called for a binational state in Palestine...

The conventional view is that the vision of Ahad Ha’am and the Brit Shalom movement he inspired—which included Judah Magnes, Martin Buber, Henrietta Szold, and Gershom Scholem among others—was impossibly utopian and doomed to fail, that the two peoples were always fated to clash. Judis rejects that, insisting that Truman could have used US might to impose a binational solution on Palestine.

Others, including the political scientist Jerome Slater, argue that a binational state was not the only way that expulsion and dispossession could have been avoided. Slater describes plans in circulation at the time for voluntary resettlement by Arabs, along with substantial financial compensation, which might have made a Jewish state possible without much of the brutality that ensued.

These should be important questions for liberal Zionists because they challenge, at the very least, the notion that violent dispossession was unavoidable and inherent in the Zionist enterprise.

o. nate, Thursday, 23 October 2014 02:19 (four years ago) Permalink

Oh huh, I think I am mixing it up with a different piece.

my jaw left (Hurting 2), Thursday, 23 October 2014 02:26 (four years ago) Permalink

Also around that time some rando friend-of-friend told my wife she was "crying the crocodile tears of the liberal Zionist" which really pissed me off

my jaw left (Hurting 2), Thursday, 23 October 2014 02:26 (four years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

Not a history but I think this is the nearest place to link this piece by John Berger on Mahmoud Darwish:


xyzzzz__, Friday, 18 May 2018 13:51 (one year ago) Permalink

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