Customer Reviews: Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001
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on January 13, 2003
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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on 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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on 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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on April 11, 2002
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. But I will say that this book gives a very good reference from which you can formulate your own opinions on the matter. Sure, there are probably other "comprehensive" histories out there that are clearly slanted one way or another. But they do a lousy job of allowing the reader to develop their thoughts and ideas. Righteous Victims was a comprehensive, complete, fair, and meticulously detailed account of the conflict which helped me develop my own opinions.
The reading is quite dense and slow-going, but please don't let that deter you. This is a valuable work that I highly recommend for anyone with an interest in the subject.
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on 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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on 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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on June 15, 2008
Benny Morris, the author of "Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001," has been counted as one of the Israeli "revisionist" historians, that group of Israelis that have debunked some of the myths that have surrounded the birth of Israel. In an earlier book, "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949," Morris examined one such myth: that Palestinian Arabs left the nascent Israeli state in 1948 of their own volition or under the direction of their own leaders. Although that occurred in a small number of instances, there were many more cases in which the Israeli army drove Arabs out at gunpoint. Such revelations have not endeared him to many of his countrymen. In "Righteous Victims," first published in 1999, Morris also describes many instances of Arab antisemitism, venality, and brutality directed against Jewish settlements in Palestine. He provides many fascinating details in the early years of the interaction of the Zionist organization in Europe, British and French colonial policy, and the moribund Ottoman empire. For example, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which Great Britain promised the Jews of Palestine a national homeland was seen to be a completely self serving act by Britain to further its own military-political aims in World War I. This nearly 700 page book, as its title indicates, covers the entire history of the conflict from the origins of the Zionist movement including the birth of Israel and all of the subsequent Arab-Israeli wars as well as political considerations and attempts by Arab and Israeli leaders at achieving peace. Objectivity is Morris's aim, and he achieves it quite well.
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on 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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on September 15, 2011
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 as is humanly possible. If you're looking for a book with a totally pro-Israel bias or a totally pro-Palestinine bias, then this isn't the book for you. If you want to get some reasonable sense of history, then this is your book. Caution: This book is not an easy read. There are so many dates, times, names, places, etc., etc., that it's easy to get bogged down while reading this book.
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on September 11, 2004
The author covers a long period of this one century old conflict. He makes alot of efforst in maintaining an unbiased view of the events, and covers the the important events and incidents of this conflict. This book can be used as a good starting point to learn about the enormous web of people, events, plots, plans, wars that shaped and still shaping this conflict without a forseeable end.
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