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Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 1 Reprint Edition

65 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679744757
ISBN-10: 0679744754
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Editorial Reviews Review

Making sense of any particular episode in the long and convoluted conflict between Arabs and Israelis can seem a Sisyphean task--engineering peace in the Middle East has become nearly clichéd in its complexity, with each individual dispute traceable back to years of anger, mistrust, and mutual misunderstanding fueled by cycles of violence and revenge. To add to this confusion, the historical record has been colored by "emphatic partisanship by commentators and historians from both sides, as well as by foreign observers," adds Middle East historian Benny Morris. So what Morris has undertaken in this volume--an inclusive, dispassionate, and rigorous history of the conflict, from Zionism's birth in the wake of the Russian pogroms through to the uncertain prospects for peace in 1999--is no mean feat.

A calm, balanced voice (although a controversial one among some who fear revisionism), Morris has previously proven his scholarship with such definitive titles as Israel's Border Wars and The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem. Righteous Victims likewise doesn't waver in its task, methodically unearthing the political and military roots of the struggle, from early friction between Zionist "colonizers" and native Arabs slowly through to the establishment of Israel and the bloody wars and terrorism that followed. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Like Avi Shlaim (see above), Morris is a revisionist historian working to deflate the heroic-romantic Zionist view of Israeli history. A professor of history at Israel's Ben-Gurion University, Morris (The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem) offers readers a more scholarly, rigorous book than either Shlaim or the authors of The Fifty Years War (see above). He also takes a longer and a deeper view, detailing relations between Israel and the Arabs since the beginning of the modern Zionist movement in the late 19th century and digging beneath politics and diplomacy to get at the broader social and cultural history of Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews. One of his central points is that the very success of Israel as a state has allowed the Palestinians to appropriate the identity of history's victimsAan identity once central to Israelis' view of themselves. Morris makes very clear how Israel's military and economic successes have slowly forced most of the Arab world to accept a Jewish state. At the same time, he notes the irony that the triumph of Zionism helped create a distinct Palestinian national identity that didn't previously exist. His view of Zionism is almost detached as he documents its successes. He has no trouble calling Zionism a "colonizing" movement, but he doesn't strongly condemn it for being so. His harsh judgment that a "fragmented, venal political elite" retarded the Palestinian cause does not make him deny the merits of the cause. Crisply written, balanced and comprehensive, this is an indispensable work of history. History Book Club alternate selection. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 Reprint edition (August 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679744754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679744757
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

129 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Armstrong on January 13, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Righteous Victims is a "revisionist" history of the Zionist-Arab conflict, so its conclusions spark terrific controversy (as you can see from the other reviews on!) I found this book very informative, balanced, and nuanced--a very well written analytic and descriptive history. As the NY Times reviewer said, the book's tone is "calm."

Morris had access to more Jewish and Israeli sources than Arab-Palestinian-Muslim sources, so of course critics can claim that the conclusions are "biased" in some ways. Nevertheless, at each turn in the narrative, Morris clearly describes the political, social, economic, demographic, ideological, intellectual, national, and military consequences of each "phase" or "stage" in the conflict, from "both" sides. (The conflict is far more complicated than "two" sides, however.)

No matter how one regards his conclusions, Morris's dual empathy--for a people nearly crushed under (centuries of European) anti-Semitism and Hitler, and for a dispossessed, poorly led, and impoverished people--comes clear. The book is 784 pages (counting the index) so there is ample opportunity to find something to disagree with, but the thrust and conclusions are hard to escape: security eludes Israel, which has never felt safe; and the Palestinians are citizens of nothing outside the refugee camps.

At some level, this book sadly reminded me of Yeats' poem, written in WW I, "Slouching toward Bethlehem." What new beast, in this terrible time for both Israelis and Arabs, is waiting to be born?
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81 of 87 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I recently finished my master's thesis, writing about the debate between Israel's "New historians" and the traditional accepted version of the events surrounding the establishment of the State of Israel. I've read a lot of books in the past year (from both sides of the argument) but I think that Morris's "Righteous Victims" did the best job of examining ALL the evidence--even the parts that were hard to accept--and writing a conclusion that was well thought out and highly accurate.
This book is easy to read and provides a solid background from Herzl through the events of last year. It is the most comprehensive of the new historians' works, and probably also the most tame. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to understand the background of the conflict in the Middle East.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Brian Bear on March 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Benny Morris has tackled a difficult subject with flair. He has avoided the extremes that an emotionally provocative subject as this usually inspires in some people. He has presented both sides of the conflict, or at least done so as good as anyone could expect, as well as pointing out the failures on both sides that have conspired to leave us with a seemingly hopeless situation today.

For anyone looking for a broad introduction into the history, causes, contributing factors and personalities of the Arab-Zionist conflict, this book is hard to go past. It is comprehensive, well-written, well-referenced and very balanced in its presentation.

Morris is a lively writer, and has struck a happy medium between detail and the need to keep on track in what is a complex subject.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Barry D. Smith on April 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
For me, Righteous Victims was an introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I had relatively little background to the conflict, and so I feel like I am able to evaluate the book somewhat objectively without reading through the lens of a prior bias in favor of either side. That said, I think Morris does a superb job in objectively recording the roots of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, and I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to gain extensive knowledge about the roots of this tragic situation.
Naturally, one can find instances in this book that suggest either an Arab or an Israeli bias... There are rare instances within the text suggest a hint of bias one way or the other. But on the whole Morris gives a balanced history that is not tainted with extreme and devaluing bias. Unbiased writing on this subject seems to be a rarity, and Morris succeeds in that respect.
My main objection to Righteous Victims is that Morris relies primarily on sources from the Zionist perspective. As a result, Righteous Victims goes into much clearer detail about the Zionist side of the struggle, while leaving some parts of the Arab point of view somewhat vague. While predominantly using sources written by Zionists, about Zionists, from the Zionist perspective runs the risk of creating an unfair and unbalanced work, I don't blame Morris. In the introduction, he explains (rightly so) that there simply is not many sources from the Arab point of view open to researchers. Morris did as well as anyone could with the available resources, and one should not be highly critical of his sources, because it is unavoidable to use mostly Zionist sources.
I will not... make arguments for either the Israelis or the Palestinians. That is not the point of a book review.
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Kathleen Kern on June 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read Avi Shlaim's _Iron Wall_ shortly after finishing this comprehensive history and Morris seems ponderous by comparison. I had to renew his book from the library six times to finish it. Morris upfront about telling readers that he writes from an Israeli perspective, because he has more access to Israeli sources. An interesting review of the book in the March 13, 2000 issue of _The Jerusalem Report_ says this is no excuse. Morris could have sought the help of Arabic speakers to read Arab sources.
I was a little taken aback by his casual references to the Israeli attacks on the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967 and on the U.N. headquarters at Kafr Kana in 1995 as regrettable accidents, without mentioning there is considerable interational controversy over whether these attacks were accidental. Still, the book covers a large swathe of history and helps the reader to put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within a largely demythologized framework.
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