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The Siege: The Saga of Israel and Zionism Paperback – November 1, 1986


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 798 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone Books (November 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671633104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671633103
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a discursive style that is almost conversational at times, O'Brien conveys his fascination with the origin and development of political Zionism and the history of the State of Israel to the present day. The book offers provocative food for thought to the general reader. O'Brien argues, for instance, that the closing of America to mass immigration in 1924 was as decisive an event in the history of Zionism and the prehistory of Israel as the coming to power nine years later of Adolf Hitler. He discusses Gentile impatience with "Holocaust consciousness" and its exploitation by certain Israeli leaders, and how Israeli militancy has been regarded in some quarters as "a monstrous mutation." He asserts that Arabs are not, and cannot be, anti-Semitic: "They are anti-Zionist for good reasons." He compares the Catholics of Northern Ireland with the Palestinian Arabs. As O'Brien, former U.N. ambassador and member of the Irish parliament, notes, this is a highly personal book. One is hard pressed to recall another which deals in depth with this vast and prickly subject that is as bold or as readable. February
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

O'Brien, a scholar, former diplomat, and Irish politician, has written a highly readable book for nonspecialists interested in the history of Israel and Zionism. The title of the book reflects its focus: the international political, religious, social, and diplomatic forces affecting the history of the Jews who identified with Zionism and later with the state of Israel. O'Brien, who is widely known in the United States and abroad as a brilliant reviewer of scholarly works on both Zionism and Israel, has based his synthetic and interpretive work on wide reading and knowledge of the secondary literature. His insights and reflections would interest general readers as well as specialists. His assessments are sympathetic, but not uncritical. Highly recommended. Jehuda Reinharz, Near Eastern & Judaic Studies Dept., Brandeis Univ., Waltham, Mass.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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See all 16 customer reviews
O'Brien explains very complex situations with remarkable clarity.
D. Berkebile
If any doubt reading this lengthy tome, first read the preface, and you will be hooked.
Collins G.B
One reason to read this book is obviously an interest for the history of Israel.
Amore Roberto

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So how did Conor Cruise O'Brien, a born-and-bred Irishman, come to be writing a history of Israel? As he tells it, the United Nations used to seat its delegates alphabetically: and so he, representing Ireland, found himself sitting right between Israel and Iraq. This began his interest in the history of Israel, and his research eventually produced this fantastic book -- well-written, well-researched, and a pleasure to read. The subject matter itself is pretty interesting, and O'Brien has so many great turns-of-phrase that I found myself underlining as I went along. This book is highly recommended to anyone who wants to find out more about how Israel came to be.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
If you only read one book to understand modern Israeli history, this one is it! O'Brien is fair and detailed, and a wonderful storyteller. The book tells the story of modern Israel with religious context but is primarily concerned with the individuals and state actors involved in the epic struggle to create the Jewish state. I read the book twice, partly because it was one of the primary texts for an Arab-Israeli relations class I took in graduate school, and because it was so good. This book provides the necessary details and history to allow a deep understanding of modern day Israel and place the ongoing conflict in the Middle East within historical context.
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful By sid1gen on March 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
One of the best books on Israel and Zionism, this volume by Irish author Conor Cruise O'Brien deals with a poisonous subject in an intelligent manner, without avoiding taking sides, but attempting, and mostly succeeding, to understand all sides. Make no mistake, this is a pro-Israel book, and that is what I like about it. It manages to favor the Israelis in their struggle, but the author is an Irishman, so, at least, we won't have to listen to those who accuse anyone that takes a pro-Israel stance of being a Zionist. O'Brien does not see the Arabs with much benevolence, but it is difficult to blame him, given his knowledge of both Israelis and Arabs. His argument is plain from the title: the State of Israel has been subjected to a "siege" ever since its founding day, and, actually, the siege has been in operation from before. To the argument, so many times repeated that some people give it the quality of gospel, that before the creation of the modern State of Israel Arabs and Jews lived in harmony and Arabs didn't resent or hate their Jewish neighbors, O'Brien answers, through argument and solid foundations, that the resentment and hatred were there before World War I, and found expression in some of the most violent outbursts of mob action against the Jews ever seen. Of course not every one hated every one else, but the very powerful seed of dislike of the stranger, the dhimmi (second class subject in a Moslem land, always a non-Muslim, and increasingly a Jew, since Christians had powerful patrons in the nations of Europe) were already there, and so was their bitter fruit. Those who do not like Jews will skip this book, since the author manages to be non-Jewish but very much pro-Israel.Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amore Roberto on November 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is unfortunate that a book like this is no more available on print.

It is probably the best history of Israel I have read until now.

There are many ways in which you can write history: a factual and maybe emotionally charged description of events (Martin Gilbert), a militant history (Furio Colombo, Fiamma Nierenstein), a somewhat limited critical analysis of previous studies (sometimes presented under the name of revisionism - like - for Israel - the one of Zeev Sternhell).

This kind of history is different: it is mainly focused on the analysis of forces, equilibriums and strategies, some working some not, with an eminently diplomatic approach.

Because of the approach, attention is mainly focused on three arguments: the signals given by the parties involved, their ability to "read" the situation and the correct feedback.

Almost an essay on the so called logic of failure.

But the analysis can command a very special viewpoint, since it is restricted to the so called "Siege situation" in which options are limited, pressures strong and forces easily identifiable.

The result is a truly balanced appraisal of the history of Israel, that is not hiding anything but trying to present the many facets of the so called Siege, which the new nation has been forced to cope with.

So like in a real siege we are presented with the many parties: besieged, besiegers, friends and foes, and with the peculiar psychological and social consequences.

O'Brien is not using the siege theme as a way to blame one or the other party: the main concern is to assess the forces that are at work and to get rid of all rhetorical and unnecessary (pseudo-moral) over-structure.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 9, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this extremely easy (albeit long) to read book.
I marvel at O'brien's skill as a writer, researcher and author.
To me it read as a fascinating adventure story and was extremely meaningful. I wish it were still in print.
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