- Series: Israeli History, Politics and Society (Book 10)
- Paperback: 378 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (June 12, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 071468063X
- ISBN-13: 978-0714680637
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,761,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fabricating Israeli History: The 'New Historians' (Israeli History, Politics and Society) 2nd Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Be intellectually honest.
Let evidence form the conclusions.
Any first-year history major should have that drilled into their heads. It's also a basic set of tenets for journalists, academics, and anyone else seeking truth among facts and fiction.
What I gain from Karsh's book is an objective perspective of the origin of the modern conflict in Israel. I am treated to primary sources, secondary accounts, and conclusions drawn directly from the evidence, and not wild imagination or heresay. The way it hangs together, and the way it is written, almost compels you to consider going through the bibliography to learn more. Presented in the context of an academic response to sloppy historiography, it is a scathing rebuttal that cannot be ignored.
Presented as an introduction to the conflict, it doesn't stand alone. More than basic familiarity with the facts of Israel's modern (re)birth as a nation is needed to understand a majority of the references. However, once a basic understanding is in place, this book should serve as the standard by which other accounts or works are judged.
Morris says that Karsh's earlier [prior to the current book] work "is a mélange of distortions, half-truths, and plain lies...." Morris fails to give a single example to support his accusation, but simply says, "It does not deserve serious attention or reply."
If all Morris can muster in his defense is an ad hominem attack on Karsh, reasonable persons can safely conclude that Morris is engaging in psychological projection.
Karsh relies on the diary of Ben-Gurion, intentionally misleading the reader. Ben-Gurion was deeply concerned with his legacy and knew that his diary would form the basis of his biographies. So his diary is perhaps the most sterile and least trustworthy source to quote when discussing the idea of transfer in Zionist thought. The author also attempts to frame Israel as the liberating third world nationalist movement, while painting a picture of the British as anti-semitic overlords of the inept, irrationally hostile Arabs. The British must've gotten over their Israel hatred quickly because 8 years later, Israeli troops served as foot soldiers for the Brits and French during the Sinai campaign. For Karsh, a former researcher for the IDF, national foundational myths are perhaps a little too near and dear for him to let go of.
Karsh favors only sources from brief periods of time that support his arguments, ironically what he charges with the New Historians of. For instance, he fails to look at the longue duree of relations between the Yishuv and the Hashemites. Avi Shlaim has demonstrated that after a few decades of talks and negotiations, there was indeed an understanding between the two parties. Shlaim even removed the word "collusion" from his updated works, appropriately easing up on his earlier claims.
I'm sure that this review will be attacked by the Hasbara folks on Amazon, but this book was honestly hard for me to take seriously because of the tone employed by the author. If your mind is made up on the issue of Israel and Palestine, this book will not change your mind either way.
'new historians', including Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe
and Benny Morris burst onto the scene, claiming to
have written the 'real' history of the beginning of
the state of Israel, a history that had ostensibly
been covered up and which they wished to expose.
According to the 'new history', Israel was guilty of
a multitude of sins, from direct or indirect
responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee
problem (Morris) and colluding with Jordanian monarch Abdullah
I to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state by
secretly agreeing to divide the country between them (Shlaim
and Pappe). Morris also insisted that the idea of
'trasferring' the Arabs out of the Jewish state had been a
central tenet of the Zionist movement, at least from 1937.
They attracted criticism quickly, and for years the argument
over what exactly happened in the Israeli War of Independence
was THE hot topic, resulting in many
journalistic and scholarly articles and mutual accusations.
By far the most straight-forward, no-holds-barred attack on
the collective theses of the 'New Historians' is this book.
Karsh, professor of King's College, faces the 'new historians'
on their home turf-namely their claim that their research is
based on newly uncovered archival material, a claim that is
only partly true.
After first demonstrating that their 'ideas' are not new -
indeed, many of them have been staples of Arab propaganda for
years - Karsh takes a look at the evidence the 'new
historians' bring to support their ideas.
Repeatedly, whether it is the claim that the Zionist movement was obsessed with 'transfer' or that Britain under Atlee and Bevin, long thought to be anti-Zionist, was in fact a friend of Zionism,Karsh demonstrates that these historians ignored evidence that contradicted their thesis, blew the (slim and selective) evidence they had out of proportion, and at times even misread what the document actually said, such as the case where Morris claimed that a meeting discussing the future of the Negev actually discussed transfer. Worse, they completely failed to consider the historical context of various documents, thus jumping to conclusions not allowed when examining the whole picture.
Though Karsh may overreach at times with his rhetoric, it
is impossible to ignore his claims. Karsh's rebuttal is
not just important in the limited context of correcting a
distorted picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but is an
important warning against the dangers of forcing the facts
to fit the theory, rather than the other way around.
Historians the world over should take note.
This book is a must-read on the still controversial subject
of the fateful period of 1947-1949, whatever side of the
conflict you may be on.