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1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War Paperback – March 23, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"'Morris's account seems admirable, because he is unafraid of upsetting both camps... His commitment to the pursuit of historical truth deserves as much admiration as his dismay at Arab intransigence commands sympathy... Morris's book is no mere military narrative, but a crisp, vivid introduction to the historical tragedy of Palestine.' Max Hastings, Sunday Times 'Morris relates the story of his new book soberly and sombrely, evenhandedly and exhaustively... An authoritative and fair-minded account of an epochal and volatile event.' David Margolick, New York Times Book Review 'An ambitious, detailed and engaging portrait of the war itself - from its origins to its unresolved aftermath - that further shatters myths on both sides of the Israeli-Arab divide.' Glenn Frankel, Washington Post Book World"

From the Author

A conversation with Benny Morris


Q: How does 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War relate to your previous work?

A: In the past, I have written about one particular aspect of the war—about the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem over 1947-1949, for example—or, more generally, about the course of the Zionist-Arab conflict from 1881 to 2000. In this book I address the whole of the 1948 War in its political and military aspects, taking in as well the international context and interventions, the Arab world, and the internal Israeli scene. I try to present a good overall picture of what happened and why, from the UN handling of the Palestine issue to the Israeli-Arab armistice agreements that ended the war.


Q: What do you think at bottom is the cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict?

 A: I would say that there is a territorial dispute between two peoples who claim the same patch of land. It is a very small, patch of land, and so the idea of dividing it between the two is extremely problematic a the technical sense. But it is also a cultural-religious conflict between the Islamic East and the West. The Islamic Arab world sees Israel—as it sees itself—as an offshoot and outpost of the West in—in their view—a Muslim area and as an infidel, invasive presence. Israel and Zionism are seen by the Islamic Arab world, and the wider Islamic world, as illegitimate. This, at root, is the cause of the ongoing conflict. Were they to accord it legitimacy, the problem in Palestine/Israel would be soluble. At present, given this mindset, it isn't.   


Q: Are there any lessons to be learned from the study of the 1948 War?

A: To be sure, many Israelis will learn that they must remain strong and technologically advanced; otherwise they will be overwhelmed by Arab numbers and fervor. The Arabs might learn that they must improve themselves, at least on a technological-scientific level, and better their societies and armies, if they hope to overcome Israel, though it is possible that if they do, they may lose the desire to destroy Israel. Outsiders may simply learn about the conflict and the nature of the two contending societies, at least as they were in 1948, and perhaps with certain implications for the present and future.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300151128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300151121
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #611,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In tackling the controversial and important, but gigantic, subject of the 1948 war, the Nakba, the Israeli was of independence, Mr. Morris has come full circle from his original study The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (Cambridge Middle East Library). This journey was a process that has already involved one revision of that celebrated thesis on the Palestinian refugees. Undoubtedly it was inevitable that this book had to be written in order not only to show the context and the military side of 1948 but also to show the Jewish side, the fate of Jewish areas conquered by Arabs, the fate of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, and the agency, the decisions, made by Arab leaders and local Arabs that led to the war.

There have been other stand alone studies of the war by Gelber, Palestine 1948: War, Escape And The Emergence Of The Palestinian Refugee Problem and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and War in Palestine, 1948: Strategy and Diplomacy (Israeli History, Politics, and Society). But each has had its own weaknesses, either because it concentrates on the military aspects or because it is terribly biased.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1948 Benny Morris shows himself to be a first-rate historian with an accurate and detailed command of the events leading up to the first Arab Israeli War and the war itself. The book is primarily the military history of the conflict, and Morris is a well informed chronicler of military engagements. Morris, also considered one of the grandfathers of the "revisionist" school of Israeli historiography, here shows that he is not afraid to document both Jewish/Israel and Palestinian/Arab excesses and missteps in the war, opportunities missed or failed to be exploited. By and large Morris is very sympathetic to the Zionist enterprise in the Holy Land in this book. He views war in 1948 as inevitable given the demographic/strategic situation in Palestine since the arrival of the first Zionist settlers in the 1880s. This is in keeping with some of his more recent utterances about the Israeli Arab/Palestinian conflict. Given the pressure the Yishuv and early state of Israel were under, he states, conflict was unavoidable. In 1948 Morris seeks to show that calls for jihad against the Jews in Palestine was no mere bluster; that it was just as powerful (if not more so) source of Arab ire against Israel as the rising sense of Arab nationalism following WWII. It is here, I suppose, where Morris makes his most original contribution to the study of the 1948 war.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Benny Morris, considered by many to be the"Dean" of Israeli Middle Eastern historians, is noted for "revisionist" works on the genesis of the Palestinian Arab refugee issue and rewriting of Israeli historical hagiography. This book, a comprehensive history of the dual-phase 1947-1948 war (civil war between Jews and Arabs antedating Partition, followed by invasion by a constellation of Arab professional militaries and various ad hoc militias) reviews the entire enterprise from both a military and political perspective.

The book can be divided into three segments: 1). an introductory section, which places in context the, 2). major middle-section, which exhaustively deals with military affairs and, 3). a summary/conclusion section, which presents the author's perspectives based on presently available evidence. As Arab archives have not been opened to researchers as of the 2008 publication date, this work cannot be considered "definitive", but certainly holds this status as of now.

There is one major shortcoming of this book: the lack of maps. The barrage of detail on virtually every military and paramilitary engagement becomes confusing and frustrating, as the reader cannot readily follow the strategy and tactics elaborated in the text. Further, many of the maps have inadequate legends, rendering the majority of them difficult to understand.

Morris attributes the Israeli military victories to a combination of better planning, better logistics, better preparation, better motivation, better training, fighting along "interior lines", internal cohesion in the form of communality of purpose and international sympathy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I approached this book with caution. I had not read any of Morris' prior books, fearful of his reputation (earned or not) for bashing the Israeli side without providing context for their actions. Though when I read history I already know how the story ends, I want something fresh, with context, and an attempt to give the losing side a chance to explain what it was thinking. To my delight, and to the benefit of those who like me devour serious histories written for scholars and non-scholars, Morris accomplishes this.

"1948" skillfully weaves together the political and military history of Israel's war of independence. The atrocities of war being what they are, he places those committed by Israelis, whose command was not always unified, against the Arabs' threats to destroy them Those threats remained largely (though far from completely) unfulfilled due to incompetence, and not a lack of desire. The Arab countries surrounding Israel had no interest in allowing the Arabs who lived in Mandate Palestine to form their own country, and the the Arabs who lived within the Mandate territory (whom we now call Palestinians) lacked the will to better their situation militarily, economically, educationally and politically. If they had succeeded in driving out the Jews, they would not have been Palestinians, but Egyptians, Syrians, and Jordanians. Their land would probably still be impoverished, disease ridden, and lacking any serious institutions of higher learning. They did not want a nation-- they just wanted the Jews to leave.

The men and women who formed modern Israel determined that they would be victims no more. Few gentiles complained when, wherever they lived, Jews' land, chattel and lives were stolen or destroyed.
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