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191 of 216 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyrically Written and Deeply Reported, May 2, 2013
This review is from: My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (Hardcover)
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This book is a beautifully written and deeply reported attempt to explain Israel to Israelis and to the world.

The author is candid about his own perspective -- a "left-wing journalist," an "anti-occupation peacenik," yet nonetheless one genuinely aspiring to be balanced and fair. His great grandfather Herbert Bentwich arrived in Israel in 1897, and at the beginning and end of the book the author retraces Bentwich's steps.

Pro-Israel American Jews such as myself will find this book troubling. It argues that the crux of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not the 1967 Six-Day War and the occupation that resulted, but rather the events of 1948. It recounts (though without footnotes, and in a chapter that may well be challenged by other historians) an episode in 1948 in which, the author says, David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin ordered the expulsion of 35,000 Palestinian Arabs from the city of Lydda.

For all his directness about what he calls "the tragedy of 1948," Shalit is proud of what he calls the "miracle" of Zionism, He writes about Israel's orange groves, its wineries, its high-tech industry, its absorption of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and from North Africa, Yemen, and Iraq, its music scene. He is critical of the Israeli peace movement for imagining that the threat to Israel's existence can be solved and peace achieved by withdrawing from the West bank and Gaza, and he is clear-eyed in describing the threats Israel faces from a nuclear-armed Iran and from the surrounding Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinian Arabs.

When prominent Saudi Arabian, Egyptian, Syrian, Iranian and Palestinian Arab journalists write books this critical about their own societies, and those books are published and sold freely in those societies, that will be a day when Israelis and their friends will know that peace is on the way. In the meantime, we can read Ari Shavit, and hope that the discomfort he sometimes makes us feel is not a sign of the confusion or weakness of which he warns, but rather the irreverence and freedom he celebrates and documents.
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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 18, 2013 10:12:22 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 18, 2013 10:15:07 AM PST
Listening to Ari Shavit today on NPR, and having read his recent piece on Lydda / Lod in The New Yorker, I am astonished by several things. I do not comprehend how it was possible, as Shavit (born 1957) said he was, to be Israeli and unaware until the 1990's that the essence of the conflict has always been 1948, and not the 1967 war or the ensuing occupation per se. The common saying among many Israelis at the time was "ayn breirah," i.e. "no alternative" to a protracted state of war / need for self-defense in light of the PLO's famous "three No's" (including non-recognition of Israel in any form; did not alter until the late 1980's), the by then deeply established sense of Palestininan nationalism, and their enemies' privileging of (chronologically) Christianity and Islam as the religions of "the Holy Land." The second concerns historical narratives about what happened at Lydda. Shavit bases his reification of "Zionism as having committed a massacre there" on the work of Benny Morris, whose conclusions have been questioned by others based on primary sources in three languages. This is not to state that Israel's hands are or were ever "clean" and its weapons "pure," it is simply to note that in war, there is great confusion and the paramount issue for anyone involved is survival. I do not know if Shavit refers to it all in his book, but I found his complete silence in The New Yorker piece regarding the PLO ~ PFLP's revenge attack against hundreds of innocent travelers at Lod Airport in 1972 outrageous. To not mention it seemed tantamount, at least to me, of justifying that attack on the grounds that violence occurred in the area nearly a quarter century earlier.

Posted on Nov 18, 2013 11:50:13 PM PST
David Tsal says:
"When prominent Saudi Arabian, Egyptian, Syrian, Iranian and Palestinian Arab journalists write books this critical about their own societies, and those books are published and sold freely in those societies, that will be a day when Israelis and their friends will know that peace is on the way."

No, not even then.

Currently in country after country (Russia and Poland come to mind, but the full list would be enormous) there are plenty of books of every kind, yet Jew-hatred is very strong. In fact, much of the criticism of their own societies and governments is on the bases of them being "too kind to Jews."

Jew-hatred is more powerful than all these other things. Jew-hatred is forever.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2013 3:02:26 PM PST
J. A Magill says:
Dr. Marcus -- I think you miss Shavit's point. He's arguing that the world seems to imagine that '67 is the problem. One sees this illusion reflected all the time in the odd belief that if Israel returned to the Green Line the Middle East would become Western Europe and that terrorism against Israel began after June '67.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2013 4:14:04 PM PST
I understand. I haven't seen the book. I assume that what appeared recently in The New Yorker about Lydda was excerpted from the book. He was quite clear when interviewed by Teri Gross on "Fresh Air." He was referring to himself and I suppose, other Israelis known to him while growing up (in the late 70's and early 80's) as "not knowing" and "not understanding" what was essential. Perhaps he only knew people who dismissed as extremist arguments made outside the left. Still, it's very difficult for me to fathom, since there is no left without a right.

Posted on Nov 23, 2013 6:13:24 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 23, 2013 6:16:58 PM PST
Seer says:
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Posted on Dec 13, 2013 7:03:33 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 13, 2013 7:04:26 AM PST
Jaysonrex says:
This is a 65 year old horse that simply one should not whip any more. It is way too old. Nevertheless, since the whipping seems to be rather profitable it will continue, no doubt.
The U.N. divided the Promised Land into an Arab and a Jewish land. The Jews accepted but the Arabs didn't. Together with other Arab states they attacked Israel hoping to destroy it and kill its Jewish population. The Arabs failed. Not once but five times. Lately, the Arabs, now nicked Palestinians, have increased their terrorist attacks against the unarmed Jewish population of Israel. Israel reacted and the U.N. General Assembly where Arabs have a huge numeric advantage condemned Israel for ... defending itself. Now Obama administration decided to "mediate" the peace between Arabs and Israelis. In the end, it will fail just like all other attempts. End of the soap opera. Paying money to read all types of opinions about this topic seems silly. But then - to each his own.

Posted on Dec 25, 2013 6:44:02 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 25, 2013 6:48:57 AM PST
The book is excellent, but it is not "lyrical" in its writing. There is almost no poetry. It is dull and plodding writing, but in some way that makes it more effective. He seems to have too little imagination to make this up, and the consistent journalistic interviews are extremely compelling in giving a very rounded point of view on many dramatic themes. Still overall, there is no resolution and many missing details. His early sentence says it all: "This book is the personal odyssey of one Israeli who is bewildered by the historic drama engulfing his homeland. " The reader will also be bewildered, but perhaps more open to beginning to understand.

The ending of this review seems to me to be be particularly wrong. the reviewer says: ".. and hope that the discomfort he sometimes makes us feel is not a sign of the confusion or weakness of which he warns, but rather the irreverence and freedom he celebrates and documents. " If the book has any theme it is that confusion and weakness dominate the current Israeli political scene. The author can find no solution there and can offer none himself. He is bewildered, leaves us bewildered, and is not happy with this state of affairs.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 23, 2014 12:29:58 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 23, 2014 12:30:42 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2014 12:37:26 PM PDT
Joseph Psotka says, "The author can find no solution there and can offer none himself. He is bewildered, leaves us bewildered, and is not happy with this state of affairs."

From my own reading of this very worthwhile book it seems to me that Shavit is just being honest--there is simply no viable solution. That is, there is nothing that will make the Palestinians (and the rest of the Arab world, diverse as it may be) happy and at the same time give Israel the security it needs to survive. No, Shavit cannot clear up the universal bewilderment that encompasses the question of how to assure the long term existence of the State of Israel when most of the Arab and Islam world doesn't want it to exist at all.

One of the few "one star" reviewers says that only the first eight chapters are worthwhile reading. To me, if one were to read only one chapter, it would be the final one, "By the Sea," in which Shavit gives an up-to-date (third quarter of 2013) snapshot of the current status of Israel, and puts all the conflicting threats, both internal and external, into sharp relief in a way that cannot easily be found in any other single source.

Shavit's description of the "concentric circles of threat closing in on the Jewish state," beginning on page 399 of the hardback copy, is chilling. He is a Leftist (self-described), and is clearly against the continued occupation, but reading between the lines even Shavit seems to imply that a pre-emptive military strike against Iran may be the only answer, if there is an answer, to Israel's most immediate existential threat.

I was going to write my own review--I would have given it five stars--but this review (Stoll's) and those of many others are quite sufficient to convince anyone who wants to go beyond the usual polemics to read this book. If the reader doesn't end up as bewildered as Shavit, then he or she probably doesn't understand the situation, to loosely paraphrase Rudyard Kipling's well-worn quotation.

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2014 3:53:49 PM PDT
David M. says:
The current narrative heard overwhelmingly around the world is that if Israel pulls back to the 67 borders, thereby giving the Palestinians as state, there will be peace with them and peace with rest of the Arabs and even Iran will follow. This is the premise of all US and European peace efforts. Especially the left from which the author comes (Haaretz, for which he writes, has a very small circulation) and e3ven the left in the U.S. believe messianicly that if the Israeli gives the Palestinians the West Bank (they already have Gaza) that peace will prevail through out the world.
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