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1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War Paperback – March 23, 2009
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"This is a wonderful contribution to the historiography of the Israel/Palestine War of 1948. Morris has written a fresh account, substantiated by a lot of new documentation."―Ronald W. Zweig, Professor of Israel Studies, New York University
About the Author
Benny Morris is professor of history in the Middle East Studies Department of Ben-Gurion University, Israel. He is the leading figure among Israel's "New Historians," who over the past two decades have reshaped our understanding of the Israeli-Arab conflict. His books include Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001; Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956; and The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited.
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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.
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!
I have just completed a study of 1,524 pages in three books: 1948 was one of them.
I devoured this work authored by Michael B. Oren ( Ballantine Books, NY -- Random House 2002) entitled Six Days of War - June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. This treatise traces the relationships between Arabs, Israelis and "The Great Powers" from 1948 through the War (June 5 through June 10 1967)....a triumph for the preparation and strategy employed by the IDF. Again, a magnificent work.
Morris obviously researched his material quite well, as I compared his book with other authoritative works written by Israeli and non-Israeli authors including David Ben-Gurion, Abba Eban and Margaret Larkin. Highly recommended.