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Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy Hardcover – February 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1ST edition (February 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195181581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195181586
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,198,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Equal representation of all sides should be a goal for anyone who seriously wants to reconstruct the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which has proved itself to be one of the most persistent in modern history. In that respect, this book, which begins with the birth of Zionism in the late 19th century, comes as close as one could possibly hope for. Ben-Ami, who has served as both Israel's minister of foreign affairs and minister of public security and who is also an Oxford-trained historian, quotes sources from both sides of the conflict and takes great pains to represent all the major points of view. Equally notable is the evenhandedness of his criticisms. Ben-Ami proves perfectly willing to take to task near-mythic heroes from both sides—he's as critical of David Ben-Gurion (for his paranoid and messianic vision of territorial conquest) as he is of Yassir Arafat (for his self-serving political maneuvers and tactical blunders). One senses that comprehensive understanding and mutual respect are crucial motives for the author, who bore personal witness to the collapse of the Camp David summit led by Bill Clinton in 2000. With its insider perspective to this and other seminal events in the troubled peace process, this book is an important and outstanding contribution to the field. (Feb.)
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Review


"Shlomo Ben-Ami worked tirelessly and courageously for peace. His account of what he did and failed to do and where we go from here should be read by everyone who wants a just and lasting resolution." --President Bill Clinton


"Many of the participants have now dissected the failure of Bill Clinton's heroic effort six years ago to make peace between Yasser Arafat and Israel's Ehud Barak. The longest book to date has come from Dennis Ross, the senior American official involved. The most profound may be this beautifully written account by Mr Barak's foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, a Moroccan-born historian who became a politician. It should be compulsory reading for anyone who feels a partiality to one side or the other, though it will not be a comfortable read: Mr Ben-Ami is unsparing in his criticisms of both sides."--The Economist


"Ben-Ami's assessments are often spot-on: he correctly emphasizes that Israel's basic motivation for erecting the separation barrier was to forestall the danger of a Palestinian demand for a 'one-state solution'; he cogently argues that it was only unbending and even aggressive Israeli behavior--behavior he often judges harshly--that forced the Arab world to reconcile itself to the Jewish state; and he nicely highlights the historical continuities in Zionist-Palestinian relations, specifically the geographic and demographic realities that, after more than a century, still render impossible an accommodation between the two people."--Atlantic Monthly


"Ben-Ami, a professional historian and diplomat, has written something far more valuable than another book of diplomatic memoirs.... He brings a long historical perspective to the Israeli-Palestinian encounter... Packed with informative nuggets.... In this detailed and elegant narrative of the long conflict, its tone elegiac with regret at so many opportunities lost, what stands out is Mr. Ben-Ami's account of the disastrous failure at Camp David."--Martin Walker, Washington Times


"A provocative interpretive essay focused on decades of largely inadequate Arab-Israeli peacemaking.... One can marvel at Ben-Ami's many brilliant analytical insights--including his subtle, astute observations about Israeli society and his laudable ability to understand the Palestinians' needs, not just Israel's."--David Makovsky, Washington Post Book World


"An important and outstanding contribution to the field.... Takes great pains to represent all the major points of view. Equally notable is the evenhandedness of his criticisms. Ben-Ami proves perfectly willing to take to task near-mythic heroes from both sides--he's as critical of David Ben-Gurion (for his paranoid and messianic vision of territorial conquest) as he is of Yassir Arafat (for his self-serving political maneuvers and tactical blunders)."--Publishers Weekly


"Shlomo Ben-Ami was there every step of the way at the Camp David negotiations. His careful, objective analysis is a must read for those who want and need to understand the highs and lows of the history of the tragic conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians."--Madeleine K. Albright, Former United States Secretary of State


"Shlomo Ben-Ami brings passion, insight and fairness to his account of both the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the efforts to resolve it. As an Israeli negotiator, he would often try to rise above the psychological burdens of the past to see the other side's needs and not only Israel's. Any negotiator must try to achieve what he believes essential to his interests. But the best negotiators understand that reaching out to the other side and meeting their need for an explanation is ultimately an act of self interest. Shlomo brings that same mind-set to his comprehensive, if sorrowful, look at this historic conflict."--Ambassador Dennis Ross, Former Special Middle East Coordinator and Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy


"This book is one of the best overviews on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Using up-to-date material and a fresh analysis, Shlomo Ben-Ami provides some new and accurate views about an important and controversial issue." --Barry Rubin, Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center


"This is an exceptionally subtle and sophisticated treatment of one of the most bitter, protracted, and intractable conflicts of modern times--the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. Shlomo Ben-Ami brings to the task both the skills of the professional historian and the practical experience of a senior participant in the peace process. He invariably goes to the core of the problems and he writes in a lucid and incisive style. His book is a must for anyone seeking to understand the causes of war and the prospects for peace in the Middle East."--Avi Shlaim, author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World


Telling the story largely in terms of representative political figures, Ben-Ami weaves a rich tableau of individual leaders and the more elusive social forces and mindsets that guided their actions. It is a brilliant interpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, from mandate days to the present, that strips away the myths and official positions of both sides and offers an ongoing critique of why this asymmetrical conflict has resisted resolution. This is a book that the layperson will read with profit and the old Middle East hand will ponder and annotate. --Foreign Affairs



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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A. Cooper on May 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'd been wanting to find an informed, intelligent, even-handed history of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and I have.

This book is brilliant. Ben-Ami approaches the complexities and contradictions of the Middle East relationships with a fair, open mind and the insight that comes from both his educational background and his unique perspective as a peace negotiator. We find a history of a region that is, in a word, exasperating, and yet hope does not fall to despair. It is telling that while Ben-Ami shows great empathy for both the Jewish and Arab populace, he keeps a savvy eye on the sometimes self-serving motivations of their leaders.

Sadly, those who have already chosen sides and shut their minds will probably be able to cherrypick segments to bolster their own views, but they'll learn nothing. But for those readers who wish to attempt to grasp the area's passions and fears, on all sides, this is the book to read.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth M. Riedel on March 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is the product of Shlomo Ben-Ami's life time of studying the Arab-Israeli conflict both as an historian and a diplomat. The result is truly a masterpiece, perhaps the best single volume on a conflict that has produced a library full of books. This volume holds nothing back and is rigorous in its analysis of all the players in the tragedy of the conflict. No side is spared a critical review. Perhaps the best chapter is on the Camp David summit in 2000 and why it failed. Here the reader benefits from the insights of one of the key negotiators as Shlomo Ben-Ami served as Israel's Foreign Minister during the talks. His analysis of the Israeli, Palestinian and American players at the summit and in the talks that followed until the election of Prime Minister Sharon in 2001 is probably the best available to date.
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36 of 48 people found the following review helpful By N. Ravitch on February 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not yet another book by starry-eyed leftist historian deploring the negative aspects of Zionism and the follies committed in its name in the last hundred years. Shlomo Ben-Ami is a solid historian and former foreign minister of Israel. He worked directly in the recent failed attempts under the Clinton Administration's umbrella to achieve a Palestinian-Israeli settlement. He is no self-hating Israeli and certainly no right-wing fanatic.

The Israeli state was founded, and the Jewish settlements in Palestine in the previous three quarters of a century, by a subtle combination of violence, hard work, idealism and diplomacy. The Jews of Europe indeed had no choice but to use every and any method available to save a remnant in Palestine. And they did so. Their achievement was amazing and it did create a new Jew, the Israeli, free from diapora paranoia and isolation. Whatever methods they used can be justified -- even the most atrocious -- as the choice between living and dying. But once established Israel came to rely on military power alone. It rightly feared and mistrusted the Palestinian Arabs but it never really tried to understand their positions, which were in many cases the mirror images of those of the Zionists.

Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have allowed themselves to be led by leaders who can only resort to war and who will never try anything more than cosmetic to find peace. Palestinian leaders like Arafat never really tried to reign in terrorism, and Israeli leaders have never really given up the use of settlements to impose their own borders on the Palestinians.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter D. Tsahiridis on November 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
As a professor of Middle Eastern history and politics and of the Arab-Israeli conflict I recommend Shlomo Ben-Ami's book Scars of War, Wounds of Peace. I have taught Arab-Israeli conflict at Drury University for over three years and Ben-Ami's book is one of the required texts that students use. Shlomo Ben-Ami captures the Palestinian, Israeli, and American perspectives concerning this conflict. This is a very objective and reasonable interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. I recommend this book to any student of Near East studies or Middle Eastern studies.

Professor Peter Tsahiridis
History/Political Science
Drury University
ptsahiridis@drury.edu
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patrick J. Jones on February 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
Title: Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy by Shlomo Ben-Ami

Pages: 332.

Time spent on the "to read" shelf: It has been on and off for a long time. Around 3 years.

Days spent reading it: Close to 3 years from start to finish.

Why I read it: I read a review about this book in Books and Culture. I was interested to find out more about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and thought this might be a good place to start. It was and wasn't.

Brief review: It is very clear from the start the Shlomo Ben-Ami has done his research. This book is a political history of the Arab-Israeli conflict from about the 1930s through today. The greatest strength of this book is Ben-Ami's knowledge of the people, events, and processes that have been involved in the conflict. The weakness is that he is too knowledgeable and does not consider that lowly readers like myself might not even have a basic understanding of some of the major events that have taken place in the last 50 or 60 years.

I found the first part of this book, dealing with Israel's establishment as a nation in 1948 the most interesting part of the book. I have a clearer picture of some of the major players. I'm sorry to say I did not know who Ben-Gurion was before I read this book (and if you don't either, go read this wikipedia article about him). I am pathetic in my understanding of Palestine and Israel. I still am, but at least now I'm a little less pathetic.

Scars of War, Wounds of Peace traces the different political processes (and occasionally delves into the military history, but mostly in how it pertains to the political history) that have transpired since Israel became a nation in 1948.
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