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Controversial in its conclusions...
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 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?