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Israel: A History Hardcover – March 18, 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gilbert's impassioned history adds immeasurably to our understanding of the forces that have shaped contemporary Israel. Digging up a wealth of primary source material and quoting liberally from letters, memoirs, eyewitness accounts, interviews, memoranda and diaries of David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Abba Eban, Shimon Peres, Teddy Kollek and dozens of ordinary people, the eminent British historian (The Holocaust) has produced a gripping epic. Gilbert's extensive behind-the-scenes and on-the-battlefield coverage of Israel's numerous wars with its Arab neighbors adds much new detail. While the narrative focuses predominantly on politics, high-level diplomacy and war, it also illuminates other topics, including the Jewish settlement of Palestine in the early years of this century, tensions between secularists and Orthodox Jews, Israeli military intelligence operations, the current impasse in negotiations with Palestinian Arabs and the ferment of Israeli society, which Gilbert portrays as a diverse mixture of immigrant peoples that embody many different strands of Judaism yet are united by Israeli culture. Photos. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

From Churchill's official biographer: a 50th-anniversary history of Israel.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (March 18, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688123627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688123628
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The history of modern Israel is a search for security and peace -- an elusive, tragic search at best. Martin Gilbert's history can be viewed as slanted toward Israel, but that would miss his point, which is that Israelis have self-consciously wished for and worked for peaceful and fruitful co-existence with their neighbors and with the Palestinians from the beginning. Certainly, there have been grave misdeeds by Israelis (and Arabs) that have resulted in senseless loss of life. But if we go off on that track we will never see what Gilbert's point really means. What both sides would likely acknowledge is that the idea of peaceful coexistence has been more seriously entertained by Israelis than by Arabs -- Palestinian and otherwise. If this book is one-sided then it is so because because Gilbert has revealed this critical asymmetry in a way that has not been made clear before. The book is overflowing with details, anecdotes, portraits and asides that lend it an splendid depth. Yet the author never indulges himself in the sort of speculative forays that might confer color to his work at the expense of careful historical analysis. As a result, there is a critical neutrality toward the facts, with a minimum of bias, emotion or polemic. Perhaps the most emotional part of the book surrounds the events leading up to the assassination of Rabin, a masterful, moving account the whole world should read. Gilbert does not provide an argument for the Labor party or a brief against the Palestinians. Instead, he draws out the tragic dimension of a lost opportunity for peace in a part of the world where peace seems always beyond the pale. In the end, this is a hopeful, though sober and cautious work, and certainly not a book that favors one or the other side.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Why is it that any history of Israel which does not conclude that Zionism is a crime against human nature is "biased". Even many supporters of Israel regard works that look favorably on the Jewish state as somehow "biased." The reality is that any fair neutral analysis will show Israel in a favorable light and its enemies unfavorably. Martin Gilbert's extensive history is such a book. It is not necessary to re-create the myths of Zionism and to whitewash bad acts of the Israelis in order to conclude that Israel is a just country and one that Americans should support. Gilbert makes no attempt to persuade the reader in this regard. Instead he comprehensively (and sometimes pedantically) lays out the facts and events of history. The book is not biased at all. Gilbert is not gifted at prosaic writing as was the man for whom he is official biographer, Winston Churchill. If you want to read a British historian whose prose resembles Churchill, the author to read is Paul Johnson. But Gilbert is a gifted historian and this book is eminently readable and thus serves as an excellent introduction to and reference guide for Israeli history through the late 90's. Of course recent events beg for a second edition. We will see.
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Format: Hardcover
Being born in 1966 I grew up constantly hearing and seeing bits and pieces about Israel. This book has connected the dots for me, my view of Israel being permanently altered. The author's maps are many and excellent. At the top of each page he gives the corresponding year of that part of the narrative which I was constantly referring to in this fast moving history.
Make no mistake about it though, the author is pro-Labour and secular Jew, and at best not sympathetic to Likud or the religious Jews. My impression was that his vantage point was standing next to Ben-Gurion and Rabin, while Begin, Netanyahu and the religious Jews were over yonder, almost intruders.
He is very even with the Ashkenazi and Sephardi divide. Great book.
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Format: Hardcover
Gilbert notes occasions in which Jewish leaders asked Arabs to remain in their villages (p. 172, for instance), and occasions in which the Arabs were effectively turned out (p. 218, for one). He recounts the efforts of several Arab leaders to induce Arab flight (p. 173, among others).

He graphically depicts the ugliness of the refugee movements (p. 218, etc).

He talks about Israeli looting (p. 220) and the States efforts to stamp it out.

He describes some solid military justifications for forcibly evacuating Arab villages (p. 177, and others).

He reveals the Israeli decisions to appropriate the land of Arab refugees for Jewish settlement(p. 256, etc), Jewish opposition to such measures (same page) and the enormous population pressure of incoming Jewish refugees which made such measures critical (p. 261, among others).

He documents the internal conflicts of the new State, including those within its divided armed forces (p. 211, and others). He shows self-serving division among Israel's Arab neighbors (pp. 241-242, etc).

He chronicles United States support for Israel (p. 445, 460) but also many occasions in which the United States pressured Israel on various issues, including withdrawing from occupied areas and accepting Arab refugees. (pp. 232, 255, 414, 457, 458).

None of the page lists is exhaustive, merely representative.

Gilbert glosses over nothing. He shows both sides of every question. He never tacitly accepts a simple solution to, or explanation for, a complex problem.

It is my opinion, having read the book, that any perception of favoritism toward Israel is actually an uncomfortable awareness (based on well-documented facts) that Israel, for all its mistakes, has been the victim of ingrained hatred and constant aggression, and that her successes have ultimately been the result of the dedication and brilliance of her own people.
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