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Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 [Paperback]

by Benny Morris
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 28, 2001 0679744754 978-0679744757 1 Reprint
At a time when the Middle East has come closer to achieving peace than ever before, eminent Israeli historian Benny Morris explodes the myths cherished by both sides to present an epic history of Zionist-Arab relations over the past 120 years.

Tracing the roots of political Zionism back to the pogroms of Russia and the Dreyfus Affair, Morris describes the gradual influx of Jewish settlers into Palestine and the impact they had on the Arab population. Following the Holocaust, the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948 resulted in the establishment of the State of Israel, but it also shattered Palestinian Arab society and gave rise to a massive refugee problem. Morris offers distinctive accounts of each of the subsequent Israeli-Arab wars and details the sporadic peace efforts in between, culminating in the peace process initiated by the Rabin Government. In a new afterword to the Vintage edition, he examines Ehud Barak’s leadership, the death of President Assad of Syria, and Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, and the recent renewed conflict with the Palestinians. Studded with illuminating portraits of the major protagonists, Righteous Victims provides an authoritative record of the middle east and its continuing struggle toward peace.

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Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 + The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, 7th Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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.

Product Details

  • Series: Vintage
  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 Reprint edition (August 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679744754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679744757
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.7 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
113 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Controversial in its conclusions... 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 Amazon.com!) 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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63 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WELL WORTH YOUR TIME December 21, 2000
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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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and Fair March 30, 2005
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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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, but ponderous June 7, 2000
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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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 694 pages!!! April 14, 2006
Actually, for a topic this fascinating, it could've been longer. Great book. One gets the impression Morris genuinely desires to be objective. The problems, however, were these: It WAS slightly biased towards the Palestinians. However, my guess is this was not ideologically based and more the result of another flaw: the overwhelmingly Israeli source material and the paucity of Arab documentation. This is glaring. How can one be totally objective with such missing data? It's easy to discuss Israeli aggressions with pages of detailed reports. Would he have found the same evidence of atrocity and plotting with adequate Arab documentation? My guess is the information would be rather disturbing and might vindicate the Jews a little more than does the tone of this book. Still..........great book.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book for the current times, unfortunately.... January 12, 2002
How do you rate Righteous Victims? It is a difficult question, and not an easy thing to do. So much of what people have written here is true. This book is everything that has been written here.
The book is highly readable. The book is as up to date as possible. It goes to the election of Ariel Sharon. The book has so much information it can be exhaustive at times. And yes, the book at times seems very sympathetic to the Palestinians and the Arabs. There are many examples of the author leaning a bit in that direction. HOwever, the author does make it clear in many places as well that the Palestinians and many of the Arab nations and extremists other than Egypt and Jordan have been against the peace proccess and are very anti-event the very existance of Israel.
so is the book pro-palestinian? at times yes, but i think it is part of a bigger picture and goal of showing all sides and angles of the situation.
The bottom line about this book or any history book is whether or not you learn new things by reading it. This book is not perfect. I do not agree with everything in this book, but this book taught be a lot about the situation, this book made me think, and this book exposed me to some point of views and historical facts i was not aware of.
Ultimately, this book taught me a lot about what is going on in the Middle East and that fact alone made it a good read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the Best!
Absolutly the best history book in my interesting area (1948). A lot of data was used in books of other autors, Morris didnt fall in the traps of IDF offensives, but explains only... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Andrej Vilar
5.0 out of 5 stars Benny Morris Establishes The Real Facts - Although He Clearly Does Not...
This book basically closes the subject on the Zionist theft of Arab Palestine. What makes it even better is that Morris approves of what was done. Read more
Published 6 months ago by john thames
2.0 out of 5 stars Righteous Victims
I felt it was one-sided -- the Peel Commission, for example, which the Arabs boycotted, was dismissed in order to claim no attempt by the British and the Jews toward compromiise.
Published 8 months ago by Barbara Cortright
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must
Yes, a must read for anyone wanting to make his mind in the Middle East conflict on the basis of fact. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Baruch Maoz
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Overview of the Conflict in Israel
Very detailed and comprehensive overview of the conflict in the middle east. I would also recommend reading the 1948 book that Benny Morris wrote
Published 11 months ago by Paul Bienstock
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Morris is part of a wave of so-called "new historians" of Israel, including Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, and Ilan Pappe, who have used the declassified Israeli archives to rewrite the... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Max Gershenoff
5.0 out of 5 stars Righteous victims
A first class eye opener. I learned many things about the history of Israel which I never knew because of lack of decent information. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Manfred Finkhaeuser
5.0 out of 5 stars a good book
As far as I am concerned, the best book on this topic. Insightful, knowledgeable, readable, and, in the first place, fairly balanced. Read more
Published 20 months ago by An Observer
5.0 out of 5 stars A Never Ending Battle
An excellent history, from the late 19th through the 20th centuries, of the battle for a land two people claim as theirs. Read more
Published on February 23, 2012 by Steve McCullough
5.0 out of 5 stars Hated by many Jews and Palestinians
Any book that makes both Jews and Palestinians uncomfortable is probably on to something. I believe that Morris has done his absolute best to present the facts with as little bias... Read more
Published on September 15, 2011 by K. Thurm
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