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22 December 1994
War and Peace in the Middle East: A Critique of American Policy 
by Avi Shlaim.
Viking, 147 pp., $17.95, June 1994, 0 670 85330 5
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... is the Middle East. This book enables us to examine that claim and much else besides, because War and Peace in the Middle East is a critique of American policy from the end of the Second World War. AviShlaim is well known to readers of this journal, who will be aware that nobody is better fitted for the task. A member of the revisionist school of Israeli historians, he is a rigorous and fearless ...
25 June 1992
The Road Not Taken: Early Arab-Israeli Negotiations 
by Itamar Rabinovich.
Oxford, 259 pp., £19.50, December 1991, 0 19 506066 0
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... The 40th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1988 was accompanied by the publication of a number of books which critically re-examined various aspects of what Israelis call their War of Independence. The authors of these books – Simha Flapan, Benny Morris, Ilan Pappé and myself – are sometimes collectively referred to as the ‘new historians’ or the ‘Israeli revisionists ...
25 February 1993
The Passionate Attachment: America’s Involvement with Israel 
by George Ball and Douglas Ball.
Norton, 382 pp., £17.95, January 1993, 0 393 02933 6
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... In his farewell address in 1796 George Washington counselled the new nation to refrain from ‘passionate attachment’ to or ‘inveterate hatred’ of any other nation and to cultivate instead peace and harmony with all. A passionate attachment to another nation, he warned, could create the illusion of a common interest where no common interest exists. To speak, as George Ball and his son do, of ...
23 June 1988
The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities 
by Simha Flapan.
Croom Helm, 277 pp., £25, October 1987, 0 7099 4911 1
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Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine 
by Avi Shlaim.
Oxford, 676 pp., £35, May 1988, 0 19 827831 4
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The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 
by Benny Morris.
Cambridge, 380 pp., £30, March 1988, 0 521 33028 9
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... country’s archives attempting to discover and present the truth. Among them are Yehoshua Porath, professor of Middle East History at the Hebrew University, and several younger historians such as AviShlaim, Tom Segev and Benny Morris. A handful of older men have also encouraged the re-examination of Israel’s past, including the late Simha Flapan, a pioneer of the state’s early days, and Dr ...
24 January 1991
... Two major security challenges confronted the Israeli government headed by Yitzhak Shamir in the second half of 1990: the Palestinian uprising, now in its third year, against Israeli rule in the occupied territories, and the crisis triggered by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on 2 August last year. To begin with, the Gulf crisis overshadowed the intifada, but within a short time it also contributed to a ...

Ehud Barak

Avi Shlaim: Ehud Barak

25 January 2001
... The outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada, following Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the holy Muslim shrine on 28 September last year, reopened the question of whether the Oslo Accord is capable of producing a viable settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Ever since it was signed on 13 September 1993 on the White House lawn and sealed with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat’s ...
22 June 2000
The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey 
by Fouad Ajami.
Pantheon, 368 pp., $14, July 1999, 0 375 70474 4
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... Fouad Ajami’s The Dream Palace of the Arabs is at once an intellectual tour de force, and an intimate and perceptive survey of the Arab literary, cultural and political worlds. Ajami was born in Southern Lebanon and raised in Beirut, and he has a rare ability to listen to and convey his culture’s inner voice. Equally rare is the quality of his English prose. Like Conrad, of whom he’s an admirer ...

Capital Folly

Avi Shlaim: The Jerusalem Syndrome

21 March 2002
Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City 
by Bernard Wasserstein.
Profile, 420 pp., £9.99, March 2002, 1 86197 333 0
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... More than any other capital city, Jerusalem demonstrates the power of symbols in international politics. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is one of the most bitter and protracted of modern times, and the Jerusalem question, a compound of religious zealotry and secular jingoism, lies at its heart. The Oslo Accords, which launched the Palestinians on the road to self-government, bypassed ...
18 August 1994
Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-56: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation and the Countdown to the Suez War 
by Benny Morris.
Oxford, 451 pp., £40, September 1993, 0 19 827850 0
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... Benny Morris is one of the most original and prolific contributors to the new or revisionist Israeli historiography of the Arab-Israeli conflict. What distinguishes the new historians most clearly from the traditionalists is that they are critical of the claims made by Israeli governments, claims which were turned into national myths and as such continue to influence popular attitudes to the Arabs ...

Arafat’s Camel

Avi Shlaim

21 October 1993
... Despite all its limitations and ambiguities, the Declaration of Principles for Palestinian self-government in Gaza and Jericho marked a major breakthrough in the conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. In one stunning move, Arafat and Rabin have redrawn the geopolitical map of the region. The Arab-Israeli divide was one not merely between Israel and the neighbouring Arab states, but also between ...
9 May 1991
Israel’s Secret Wars: The Untold History of Israeli Intelligence 
by Ian Black and Benny Morris.
Hamish Hamilton, 603 pp., £20, February 1991, 0 241 12702 5
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... In March 1954 Isser Harel made his first official visit to the United States as head of Mossad. Warmly received by Allen Dulles, the director of the CIA, he presented his American opposite number with an ancient dagger inscribed with the words from the Psalms: ‘The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.’ Like the celestial guardian, Mossad was expected to uphold a high standard of morality ...

It can be done

Avi Shlaim

9 June 1994
Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of ‘Transfer’ in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948 
by Nur Masalha.
Tauris/IPS, 235 pp., £19.95, May 1994, 0 88728 235 0
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The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951 
by Ilan Pappé.
Tauris, 324 pp., £39.50, June 1992, 1 85043 357 7
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... Of all Zionist slogans, the most persuasive has always been Israel Zangwill’s ‘a land without a people for a people without land’. Had this slogan been true, there would have been no conflict; the Jews could have peacefully realised their dream of statehood in their Biblical homeland. Unhappily, an Arab community had lived on the land for centuries and its refusal to share it with the Jewish ...
30 November 1995
Intimate Enemies: Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land 
by Meron Benvenisti.
California, 260 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 520 08567 1
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... Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated earlier this month by a right-wing extremist claiming to act in the name of God, inflicted more punishment and pain on the Palestinians than any other Israeli leader. As Chief of Staff in 1967, he presided over Israel’s spectacular military victory and the capture of the West Bank. For the next 25 years, in various capacities, he tried to hold on to the Occupied ...

‘It was necessary to uproot them’

Charles Glass: Post-Zionist historiography

24 June 2004
A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples 
by Ilan Pappe.
Cambridge, 333 pp., £15.99, January 2004, 0 521 55632 5
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The Gun and the Olive Branch 
by David Hirst.
Faber, 624 pp., £16.99, August 2003, 0 571 21945 4
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The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited 
by Benny Morris.
Cambridge, 664 pp., £70, January 2004, 0 521 81120 1
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... and company. Their interventions, ostensibly to save Palestine’s Arabs from expulsion, were in large measure attempts to grab pieces of Palestine for themselves: Egypt kept the Gaza Strip; and as AviShlaim tells us in Collusion across the Jordan (1988), by tacit agreement with the Zionist leadership, King Abdullah of Jordan held onto the West Bank. Not only did the Arab armies fail to save ...

The Great Lie

Charles Glass: Israel

30 November 2000
The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World 
by Avi Shlaim.
Allen Lane, 670 pp., £25, April 2000, 9780713994100
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Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999 
by Benny Morris.
Murray, 752 pp., £25, January 2000, 0 7195 6222 8
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A Blood-Dimmed Tide: Dispatches from the Middle East 
by Amos Elon.
Allen Lane, 354 pp., £20, August 2000, 0 7139 9368 5
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Fabricating Israeli History: The ‘New Historians’ 
by Efraim Karsh.
Frank Cass, 236 pp., £39.50, May 2000, 0 7146 5011 0
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From Herzl to Rabin: The Changing Image of Zionism 
by Amnon Rubinstein.
Holmes & Meier, 283 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 8419 1408 7
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... peace with one or all of the Arab states but the Arabs, hell-bent on the destruction of Israel, turned down these overtures and repaid this goodwill with continued belligerence.’ This is the theme AviShlaim takes up, with the help of recently declassified documents, in The Iron Wall. The other prominent new historians include Simha Flapan, the author of The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities ...

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