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All the difference

Avi Shlaim, 25 June 1992

The Road Not Taken: Early Arab-Israeli Negotiations 
by Itamar Rabinovich.
Oxford, 259 pp., £19.50, December 1991, 0 19 506066 0
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... The 40th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1988 was accompanied by the publication of a number of books which critically re-examined various aspects of what Israelis call their War of Independence. The authors of these books – Simha Flapan, Benny Morris, Ilan Pappé and myself – are sometimes collectively referred to as the ‘new historians’ or the ‘Israeli revisionists ...

Sleepless Afternoons

Avi Shlaim, 25 February 1993

The Passionate Attachment: America’s Involvement with Israel 
by George Ball and Douglas Ball.
Norton, 382 pp., £17.95, January 1993, 0 393 02933 6
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... In his farewell address in 1796 George Washington counselled the new nation to refrain from ‘passionate attachment’ to or ‘inveterate hatred’ of any other nation and to cultivate instead peace and harmony with all. A passionate attachment to another nation, he warned, could create the illusion of a common interest where no common interest exists ...

It can be done

Avi Shlaim, 9 June 1994

Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of ‘Transfer’ in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948 
by Nur Masalha.
Tauris/IPS, 235 pp., £19.95, May 1994, 0 88728 235 0
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The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951 
by Ilan Pappé.
Tauris, 324 pp., £39.50, June 1992, 1 85043 357 7
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... Of all Zionist slogans, the most persuasive has always been Israel Zangwill’s ‘a land without a people for a people without land’. Had this slogan been true, there would have been no conflict; the Jews could have peacefully realised their dream of statehood in their Biblical homeland. Unhappily, an Arab community had lived on the land for centuries and its refusal to share it with the Jewish immigrants from Europe spawned the conflict which reached its climax in 1948 with the creation of the State of Israel and the uprooting and dispersal of some 730,000 Palestinians ...

Overtaken by Events

Avi Shlaim, 30 November 1995

Intimate Enemies: Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land 
by Meron Benvenisti.
California, 260 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 520 08567 1
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... Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated earlier this month by a right-wing extremist claiming to act in the name of God, inflicted more punishment and pain on the Palestinians than any other Israeli leader. As Chief of Staff in 1967, he presided over Israel’s spectacular military victory and the capture of the West Bank. For the next 25 years, in various capacities, he tried to hold on to the Occupied Territories by brute force ...

Changing Places

Avi Shlaim, 9 January 1992

... Since its origins at the end of the 19th century, the Jewish-Arab battle for the possession of Palestine has been accompanied by a battle of persuasion to win the hearts and minds of the world. Although in essence the struggle was between two people for one land, the Zionists won a good deal of international sympathy by portraying Palestine as ‘a land without a people for a people without a land ...

Israel’s Dirty War

Avi Shlaim, 18 August 1994

Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-56: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation and the Countdown to the Suez War 
by Benny Morris.
Oxford, 451 pp., £40, September 1993, 0 19 827850 0
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... Benny Morris is one of the most original and prolific contributors to the new or revisionist Israeli historiography of the Arab-Israeli conflict. What distinguishes the new historians most clearly from the traditionalists is that they are critical of the claims made by Israeli governments, claims which were turned into national myths and as such continue to influence popular attitudes to the Arabs even now ...

Israel and the Gulf

Avi Shlaim, 24 January 1991

... Two major security challenges confronted the Israeli government headed by Yitzhak Shamir in the second half of 1990: the Palestinian uprising, now in its third year, against Israeli rule in the occupied territories, and the crisis triggered by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on 2 August last year. To begin with, the Gulf crisis overshadowed the intifada, but within a short time it also contributed to a serious escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, pushing it to the brink of an inter-communal war ...

‘Abu Nidal, Abu Shmidal’

Avi Shlaim, 9 May 1991

Israel’s Secret Wars: The Untold History of Israeli Intelligence 
by Ian Black and Benny Morris.
Hamish Hamilton, 603 pp., £20, February 1991, 0 241 12702 5
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... In March 1954 Isser Harel made his first official visit to the United States as head of Mossad. Warmly received by Allen Dulles, the director of the CIA, he presented his American opposite number with an ancient dagger inscribed with the words from the Psalms: ‘The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.’ Like the celestial guardian, Mossad was expected to uphold a high standard of morality, to show integrity and commitment in the service of a noble cause ...

Arafat’s Camel

Avi Shlaim, 21 October 1993

... Despite all its limitations and ambiguities, the Declaration of Principles for Palestinian self-government in Gaza and Jericho marked a major breakthrough in the conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. In one stunning move, Arafat and Rabin have redrawn the geopolitical map of the region. The Arab-Israeli divide was one not merely between Israel and the neighbouring Arab states, but also between Jewish and Palestinian nationalism ...

A History of Disappointment

Avi Shlaim, 22 June 2000

The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey 
by Fouad Ajami.
Pantheon, 368 pp., $14, July 1999, 0 375 70474 4
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... Fouad Ajami’s The Dream Palace of the Arabs is at once an intellectual tour de force, and an intimate and perceptive survey of the Arab literary, cultural and political worlds. Ajami was born in Southern Lebanon and raised in Beirut, and he has a rare ability to listen to and convey his culture’s inner voice. Equally rare is the quality of his English prose ...

Capital Folly

Avi Shlaim: The Jerusalem Syndrome, 21 March 2002

Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City 
by Bernard Wasserstein.
Profile, 420 pp., £9.99, March 2002, 1 86197 333 0
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... More than any other capital city, Jerusalem demonstrates the power of symbols in international politics. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is one of the most bitter and protracted of modern times, and the Jerusalem question, a compound of religious zealotry and secular jingoism, lies at its heart. The Oslo Accords, which launched the Palestinians on the road to self-government, bypassed the matter of Jerusalem along with the other truly difficult issues in the dispute: the right of return of the 1948 refugees, the future of the Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories and the borders of the Palestinian entity ...

Ehud Barak

Avi Shlaim: Ehud Barak, 25 January 2001

... The outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada, following Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the holy Muslim shrine on 28 September last year, reopened the question of whether the Oslo Accord is capable of producing a viable settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Ever since it was signed on 13 September 1993 on the White House lawn and sealed with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat’s hesitant handshake, the Accord has been a subject of controversy ...

The Fighting Family

Avi Shlaim, 9 May 1996

Israel, Likud and the Zionist Dream: Power, Politics and Ideology from Begin to Netanyahu 
by Colin Shindler.
Tauris, 324 pp., £25, August 1995, 1 85043 969 9
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Summing Up: An Autobiography 
by Yitzhak Shamir.
Weidenfeld, 276 pp., £19.99, April 1994, 0 297 81337 4
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Broken Covenant: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis between the US and Israel 
by Moshe Arens.
Simon and Schuster, 320 pp., $25, February 1995, 0 671 86964 7
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A Zionist Stand 
by Ze’ev Begin.
Cass, 173 pp., £15, January 1993, 0 7146 4089 1
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Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorism 
by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Farrar, Straus, 152 pp., $17, October 1995, 0 374 15492 9
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... Menachem Begin and his Likud union of nationalist and liberal parties won their first electoral victory on 17 May 1977, bringing to an end three decades of Labour rule. The Likud was to dominate Israeli politics for the next 15 years. Colin Shindler’s book provides the first comprehensive survey of the Party’s origins, rise and decline, while paying particular attention to the role played by its successive leaders ...

The Propitious Rise of Israel’s little Napoleon

Avi Shlaim: Why peace with Syria and the Palestinians is getting closer, 16 September 1999

... Ehud Barak’s landslide victory in the general election of 17 May marked the beginning of a new era in Israeli politics. The election was critical for the future shape of the country’s chronically divided society as well as for its relations with the Arab world. Under the reformed electoral system, each voter casts two ballots – one for the prime minister and one for the parties to be represented in the 120-seat Knesset ...

My Israel, Right or Wrong

Ian Gilmour, 22 December 1994

War and Peace in the Middle East: A Critique of American Policy 
by Avi Shlaim.
Viking, 147 pp., $17.95, June 1994, 0 670 85330 5
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... Peace in the Middle East is a critique of American policy from the end of the Second World War. Avi Shlaim is well known to readers of this journal, who will be aware that nobody is better fitted for the task. A member of the revisionist school of Israeli historians, he is a rigorous and fearless scholar who follows the truth where it leads him. A few ...

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