- Hardcover: 298 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (October 2, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521888352
- ISBN-13: 978-0521888356
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,484,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War 2nd Edition
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"Gelvin elucidates the broad trends in the hundred-year conflict, making them intelligible through eye-catching examples and apt quotations.... In all, The Israel-Palestine Conflict is an accessible and thorough study from which students and the educated public can benefit. It is value added to a crowded field." - Journal of Palestine Studies (praise for the first edition)
A historian of the modern Middle East, Gelvin is well placed to examine the early development of both Zionist and Palestinian national movements...The book provides a challenging comparison of two ostensibly opposed nationalisms, a comparison which offers food for thought..." - Georger Wilkes, Journal of Jewish Studies
"The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War is a lively read, written by a well-informed specialist on Syria... I might mention that the photographs are excellent-the best that I have seen in a book of this kind... The Israeli-Palestine Conflict is an accessible and thoughtful study...It is value added to a crowded field." - Ann M. Lesch, Journal of Palestine Studies
"Gelvin's volume is distinguished from the others cited above because it is concise; written in a witty and engaging style; profusely illustrated with photographs, facsimiles of stamps, and maps; and successfully uses poetry and other cultural materials to inform the political narrative. Most importantly, and this remedies the biggest flaw of all the other existing texts, Gelvin's book is theoretically informed without being jargonistic; and it is equally skeptical of the nationalist mythologies of both parties to the conflict without indulging in false moral equivalencies." - Joel Beinin, H-Net
"If anybody could be expected to make sense of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in less than 300 pages, Gelvin could. With this book, he has succeeded." - Mark Sedgwick, Terrorism and Political Violence
James Gelvin's account of the Israel-Palestine conflict, from the first glimmerings of national consciousness among Jews and Ottoman Palestinians to the present, offers a compelling and up-to-the-moment introduction for students and general readers. It is written as an interpretive, thematically composed essay, set within the framework of global history.
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Those two reasons should hint external factors in pressure pointing those charged reactions. First, defenders of Israel are both very focal and organized. Second, contemporary politics (the left in particular) narrate that the losers of history carry moral right regardless of the means at which ends are attained with respect to political violence. In other words, Jews - victims of the Holocaust - take on the role of colonizer in a post-1945 world where "colonialism" becomes a dirty word at the expense of the victimized Palestinians, whose most extreme defenders have equally resorted toward violence to achieve political ends. Two consequents result: cognitive dissonance on the left, and ethnic and theological polemics from both sides defending their respective nationalistic myths.
Dr. Gelvin's raison d'être is found in this confusion. Taking a deconstructionist approach that has the most epistemic certainty (see the paragraph below), he sees the conflict for what it is as two competing nationalisms. In doing that, Gelvin puts historic Zionism in context of European nationalist logic. Its strategic purpose is not so obvious: It contains the counterproductive rhetoric from both defenders of Israel and its anti-Semitic detractors. That is accomplished by noting that Zionism is neither distinct nor unique from both European colonialization practices and nationalist constructs. Meanwhile, Gelvin places Palestinian identity in context where - like the Dreyfus Affair was for selected intellectuals of European Jewry - the 2nd and 3rd Jewish immigration waves that excluded Palestinians from Jewish economic life, as well as Jewish aggression during the 1930s Great Revolt, and general lack of surrounding leadership in light of the Ottoman Empire's dismemberment, pressure pointed a nationalist identity of their own. Thus, one could construct parallel, time-independent phases of both Jewish and Palestinian nationalisms that are not only a mirror image of each other but a mirror image of all nationalisms that have sprung since the age of European Romanticism of preceding generations!
(I feel Dr. Gelvin's deconstruction has the greatest historical epistemic certainty. If one rightly assumes that states behave "rationally" in self-interest, despite the ambiguity of rationality, and if one assumes states have a logic system that I call "the frame of reference" that constitutes its rationality, then we can derive greater meaning of these historic events. Further, we can identify short- and long-term pressure points, e.g. the 2nd and 3rd immigration waves into historic Palestine, that give historic state systems a degree of flexibility, i.e. chaos, within a seemingly fixed, deterministic system. This approach leaves little room for interpretation or narration, except for archival access; therefore, its epistemic certainty has increased substantially! Further, one is able to isolate anomalous singularities, such as Yassar Arafat's stumbling-and-fumbling diplomacy!)
Because of Dr. Gelvin's excellent methodology, we have two results. First, we can properly diagnose the Israeli-Palestinian issue. That allows one to isolate the reactionaries of both Zionism and anti-Zionism currents. Second, we have a meta-political schema - an analysis removed from a nationalist assumption - that deracinates the blowhards whether they be the emotional and uninvolved commentators, fear-mongerers, peaceniks, and other assorted clowns. Any idiot can make moral judgments or write simplistic, grand narratives... It takes a true historian to evaluate the system as it is without assuming the system's validity.
From a non-specialist's perspective, I enjoyed reading this book. (I have my own grudges in historical writing, so it's refreshing to step out of one's own bubble every now and then.) Dr. Gelvin's logic was so rigid and his accounting for the human variance of both actors squabbling over historic Palestine resulted in adrenaline surges that led to my boking like a chicken and vrooming in airplane motions whilst making artillery sounds...in a coffee shop, much less.
As I always say, a false historical frame of reference gives a false conclusion of historical context. Gelvin's work breaks the political logic down to its barest constituent properties, leading to an appreciable understanding of a perpetual conflict that, in short, has smaller chances of resolution since both sides have the same logic system over the same territory (at least in rhetoric, not in practice) such that the logic necessitates a power relationship of one side over the other (which Israel, alas, has).
This emphasis on the "big picture" is both the book's greatest strength and its most significant weakness. Although aimed at undergraduates and a general audience, without recourse to other works, the reader may not feel that they have a sufficient grasp of chronology or of major actors. For this reason, readers may well find a basic textbook like those by Charles Smith or Mark Tessler to be of value. At the same time, what this work offers - far more than any other work that I know of - is an understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict as rooted in the very modern problem of nationalism. In a field that often gets caught up in the details or polemics, this broad approach is both engaging and intellectually provocative, offering the reader a means of seeing the Arab-Israeli conflict in a broader context than is generally offered.
Gelvin's breezy style is, at times, too dismissive and, while he argues that both Zionism and Palestinian nationalism are both modern constructions, his fundamental sympathy for the Palestinian cause is clear. This "imbalance" will, no doubt, engage some readers and annoy others. Regardless of political inclinations, however, there are few readers, either novice or specialist, who would not benefit from a careful reading of this engaging and important survey.