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1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War Hardcover – April 21, 2008
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From the Author
A conversation with Benny Morris
Q: How does 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War relate to your previous work?
A: In the past, I have written about one particular aspect of the warabout the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem over 1947-1949, for exampleor, more generally, about the course of the Zionist-Arab conflict from 1881 to 2000. In this book I address the whole of the 1948 War in its political and military aspects, taking in as well the international context and interventions, the Arab world, and the internal Israeli scene. I try to present a good overall picture of what happened and why, from the UN handling of the Palestine issue to the Israeli-Arab armistice agreements that ended the war.
Q: What do you think at bottom is the cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict?
A: I would say that there is a territorial dispute between two peoples who claim the same patch of land. It is a very small, patch of land, and so the idea of dividing it between the two is extremely problematic a the technical sense. But it is also a cultural-religious conflict between the Islamic East and the West. The Islamic Arab world sees Israelas it sees itselfas an offshoot and outpost of the West inin their viewa Muslim area and as an infidel, invasive presence. Israel and Zionism are seen by the Islamic Arab world, and the wider Islamic world, as illegitimate. This, at root, is the cause of the ongoing conflict. Were they to accord it legitimacy, the problem in Palestine/Israel would be soluble. At present, given this mindset, it isn't.
Q: Are there any lessons to be learned from the study of the 1948 War?
A: To be sure, many Israelis will learn that they must remain strong and technologically advanced; otherwise they will be overwhelmed by Arab numbers and fervor. The Arabs might learn that they must improve themselves, at least on a technological-scientific level, and better their societies and armies, if they hope to overcome Israel, though it is possible that if they do, they may lose the desire to destroy Israel. Outsiders may simply learn about the conflict and the nature of the two contending societies, at least as they were in 1948, and perhaps with certain implications for the present and future.
Top customer reviews
Although some claim that Morris labels an apologist for the Arabs and that he is "anti-Israel", I find Morris's writing to be objective and, if anything, pro-Israel. His description of the killings at Deir Yassin is "strictly the facts" as he has uncovered them and doesn't come across as a criticism of the Israeli soldiers or commanders involved. Likewise he describes the few forced expulsions of Arabs by Israeli troops neutrally, and he seems to believe these were an unfortunate but understandable response to Arab actions and also required for a majority-Jewish State of Israel.
Morris also approached the Arab/Muslim side with sensitivity and even-handedness. He described the competing interests - some who wanted to acknowledge and accomodate the reality of Jews living in the land, some who wanted independence, some who wished to annex the mandate into their own Arab realms (notably Jordan, and to a lesser degree Egypt), some who wished let the Jews stay as a minority under Arab/Islamic rule, and some who wish to rid the land completely of all Jews.
I think that this is the best, most even-handed book I have read on the subject so far. I highly recommend it!
account of Israel's War of Independence balanced. Morris is now the object of scorn because he seems to have backtracked from his old glamor as one of Israel's Israeli haters. So let Morris do some good now. There are some passages which I question when he makes assertions about what Israel's leaders knew or did. Of importance, he shows there was no pre-planned Israeli plan for ridding Israel of all Arabs. There is such a glut of negative books about Israel that one which puts some spot light on Arab excrescence during the period leading up and during the war is worthwhile reading.
What I admire most of this book is how Morris handles historically contentious events. In addressing the controversial issues, he weighs both sides against one another. Then, using both historical context and his keen judgment, Morris provides a compelling hypotheses regarding the actual course of events.
Despite giving the book 5 stars, I observed two shortcomings. Some more maps may have aided in the understanding of the events and battles. Also, Morris assumes a prior knowledge of battle terms and weaponry that many readers may not possess.
On the whole, Benny Morris' 1948 provides a refreshing dose of clear-minded scholarship. It is the closest one will get to an authoritative account of what really happened in 1948.