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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
When I came upon this book I was searching for a definitive history of Zionism. I had read current histories on Israel and the Middle East, but I didn't have a deep understanding of where Zionism came from nor its philosophical impetus. I was looking for a book that would give me an unbiased account of where and why Zionism came to be, and in this one book I found it.

Mr. Laqueur gives a detailed and clinical look into this phenomenon from its inauspicious beginnings to its improbable statehood and the many twists and turns in between. How he was able to go through and gather so much information on a movement that was so spread out and splintered between many different ideologies and theories is beyond me. He has assembled a wealth of information and presented it fairly and evenly.

Zionism is a movement unprecedented in history and the affects of this movement are still being felt today. It seems that everyone has an opinion about Zionism, but it is important to have a deep understanding of where this movement came from before one can have an accurate picture of where it is now and why it has become what is. The more people understand about that past the more clearly they will see the present. This is an important book that needs to be read.
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2004
I do not know where else in history that we have a people disposed from a land for two thousand years, scattered all over the world, who reconvene through an international movement and regain their homeland. I also can not recall any group suffering the violent and irrational hatred of so many nations as the Jews have.

Lacqueur's history traces this unique movement. It's success was very fragile; the many decisions from world leaders could have gone much differently if made a few years sooner or later. Jews did not initially support it broadly; many prefered assimilation to their country of birth and some felt that the growing socialist movement provided a better answer to anti-Semitism. Even within the Zionist movement political infighting was strong.

Yet the worst fears of those seeking a refuge from growing European anti-Semitism did not forsee the scope of the Holocaust, exterminating 6 out of 7 Jews in Europe. This emboldened the survivors and motivated just barely enough world sympathy to formulate the creation of the Jewish state.

The reaction of the Arabs was neither surprising or unique in the course of developing nations. Lacqueur has the advantage of hindsight to examine policy mistakes and examine how it could have been different, but concludes the difficulty would have remained regardless.

This examination shows Zionism not as a righteous holy ordained movement, nor is it a an evil racist colonial movement as the modern Arab media prefers to portray it. It was a politically and diplomatically unique solution to a very serious and unique problem.

That the success of the Zionist enterprise has not yet yielded the peace they so desperately seek, makes this work only an introduction, but a valuable source to those seeking to understand the volatile Middle Middle East of the 21st century. There are many more chapters to be written.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2009
A History of Zionism is still a well written, thoroughly researched book. Laqueur explores the roots of Zionism in the French Revolution right through to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. One of the great strengths of the work is that Laqueur explains in detail the political factions and in-fighting in the Zionist congresses, exposing the reader to men who have been all but forgotten to history. On the negative side, the work places too far an emphasis on Zionist activity in the Diaspora, and not enough in Palestine. Laqueur's work also suffers from the use of old sources (the youngest from the 1960s). His work is not informed by the more recent writings of the so-called post-Zionist school of historiography. When Laqueur quotes Ben Gurion, for instance, it is from official sources, and does not plumb the depths of Ben Gurion's complex and sometimes doubled sided motivations. The work also treats Zionism like a faltering child, which right up until the establishment of the State of Israel was about to keel over. This may or may not be true, but this overall stance informs the book deeply, and for a reader that does not agree with this, it can be a fatal flaw.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2012
I was looking for a comprehensive history of Zionism and this is the only book I found that fit the bill. Checked author's background and took note of Mr. Laqueur's credentials, such as, for example, his past employment as a "Professor of History and Ideas at Brandeis University". Considering credentials of this sort, I fully expected this book to be written from a certain point of view and therefore was not disappointed when my expectations were met.

The book is expertly researched and is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how the State of Israel came to be and the currents and ideas that led to its creation. The author went to great lengths to describe different political movements within Zionism. He is very thorough in his description of the political process and his portrayal of political figures.

Nevertheless, this book has several issues with it. To start with, the author does not interpret Zionism in the context of the rise of the nation-state model. Zionism was and is, fundamentally, a nationalist movement, and its first seeds came from Germany, which had just undergone unification. The rise of the nation-state had also, in many cases, institutionalized antisemitism and attached it to a larger platform.
Second, the author is openly partisan, with particular hostility toward Revisionists such as Jabotinsky.
Third, this book is primarily a history of political Zionism. I didn't think enough attention was given to the economic development of the land in years before the statehood, which is a fascinating story of achievement in and of itself.

I recommend this book for its competent, well-researched, reasonably comprehensive content. I found no good alternative on the subject matter.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2009
This is one of the best books anyone can read on the history of Zionism. It is also very well written -making it a pleasure to read. One can really understand the very serious problems which faced the Jews in Europe and Russia in the 19th century -and some of the questions they were dealing with enable one to understand some of the tensions which still exist in Israel.
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on October 27, 2014
Thanks.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2013
The book is very informative and interesting and no further commdations is necessary nor essential to show my gratifude for this product.
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28 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2005
Although this book is presented by its author as a neutral, objective history of the Zionist movement before the founding of the state of Israel, it is not that at all. This is a rather pessimistic appraisal of the Zionist movement, and an apologetic treatise on Britain's failure to live up to its promises to that movement. While it condemns European inaction during the Holocaust as well as anti-Semitism from every direction, it comes out as pro-Palestinian in its analysis of their "right" to the levantine lands and does not seriously consider the Jewish claim. (The fact of enormous Arab immigration to Palestine AFTER the founding of Zionism in the 1890's is stated only as an afterthought, and he disputes the historic fact that the Palestinian Arabs were told to leave their homes to allow invading armies to destroy the Jews in 1948.) Even while Laqueur admits that the Jewish people may have a claim to nationalism, it is clear from his choice of commentary that he believes them to be too long away from their ancient home to have any stake in it. He also strongly advocates Jewish assimilation into host nations of the diaspora, which is disturbing as it minimalizes and trivializes the plight of the Jewish people, which continues to this day.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2010
A great buy and was just as described. The price was right and the book is in great condition. I can't wait to curl up with this book and a cup of coffee.
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2 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2006
... i find it to be a very interesting book. im gaining some insight as to why my great grandparents mightve changed their last name from a russian version to a german one. cant wait to get back to my couch and find out more.
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