Israel and Palestine: Reflections, Revisions, Refutations

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Avi Shlaim, one of the world’s foremost experts on the Israel–Palestine conflict,  reflects with characteristic rigour and readability on a range of key issues and personalities. From the 1917 Balfour Declaration to the failure of the Oslo peace process, from the 1948 War to the 2008 invasion of Gaza, Israel and Palestine places current events in their proper historical perspective. It assesses the impact of key political and intellectual figures, including Yasir Arafat and Ariel Sharon, Edward Said and Benny Morris. It also re-examines the United States’ influential role in the conflict, and explores the many missed opportunities for peace and progress in the region.

Clear-eyed and meticulous, Israel and Palestine is an essential tool for understanding the fractured history and future prospects of Israel-Palestine.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Avi Shlaim is the sort of historian every country needs. An exposer of national myths, the supreme scholar of Arab-Israeli negotiations.”—Philip Mansel, Spectator

“Not often today do we find historians who are this honest and this bleak and this able—for some reason, I think here of T. S. Eliot’s essays—to express truth so simply.”—Robert Fisk, Independent

“Provides even the hardened student with some new perspectives.”—The Economist

“Noted historian Shlaim presents a collection of hard-hitting pieces about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....Shlaim is an important, sage, reasoned voice on the course of Israeli-Palestinian relations.”—Kirkus Reviews

“One of the best and most illuminating accounts of Arab-Israeli relations in years.”—Foreign Affairs

“Fascinating ... Shlaim presents compelling evidence for a re-evaluation of traditional Israeli history.”—New York Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly
Shlaim (Lion of Jordan), an Israeli army veteran and international relations professor at Oxford University, offers a penetrating critique of Zionism in these reviews and essays collected from the last 30 years. He focuses on the “three main watersheds”—Israel's establishment, the Six Day War of 1967 and the Oslo Accords of 1993 and offers valuable commentary on current scholarship—saving his sharpest criticism for Benny Morris, a former colleague in Israel's school of “new historians,” a group who made their name by refuting early historical accounts of Israel's creation and the displacement of Palestinians. But while he illuminates unfamiliar corners and characters in the Arab-Israeli impasse, such as a Syrian dictator who briefly pursued peace before getting swept from power and executed, Shlaim too often lets his politics seep into his work, omitting important details that should shape the debate: he describes Professor Norman Finkelstein as merely “a well-known critic of Israel,” ignoring Finkelstein's rather incendiary comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany. Shlaim's book is an important one, but some readers might think that he gives short-shrift to the Israeli side of this divisive debate. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
Noted historian Shlaim (International Relations/Univ. of Oxford; Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace, 2008, etc.) presents a collection of hard-hitting pieces about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 1988, the author published a "revisionist" reappraisal of the official Zionist version of events upon the 40th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. Here Shlaim offers a significant, readable sampling of his astute essays on the subject. He establishes his position clearly by revisiting the watersheds of Israeli history. He believes that after the horrors visited upon the Jewish people in the Holocaust, "the moral case for a Jewish state became unassailable," but that the only legitimate borders of the state were established upon its armistice agreements made with its various Arab neighbors in 1949. Thus, when Israel began to acquire territory after the 1967 Six-Day War and build civilian settlements, "in blatant contravention of the 4th Geneva Convention," it essentially became a dreaded "colonial power." Shlaim vigorously reexamines this so-called policy of "creating facts on the ground" and the subsequent eruption of violence in the refugee-saturated Gaza Strip. He reconsiders the question of whether the Palestinian exodus of 1948 was a "pre-planned and ruthlessly executed Zionist policy of expulsion"; how the Palestine government in Gaza was derailed by inter-Arab rivalries; Syrian Colonel Husni Zaim's offer to resettle Palestinian refugees in Syria; the successes and failures of the Mossad; the U.S.'s "passionate attachment" to Israel; the hopes of the Madrid Conference and Oslo Accord; and the more recent breakdown of the peace process. The authoralso provides discrete essays on the legacies of Golda Meir, Ariel Sharon, Edward Said and an excellent interview with "His Royal Shyness," King Hussein. Shlaim is an important, sage, reasoned voice on the course of Israeli-Palestinian relations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844673667
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 9/7/2009
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Avi Shlaim is a Fellow of St. Anthony’s College and a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2006. His books include Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace; War and Peace in the Middle East: A Concise History; The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World; and Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations. He lives in Oxford.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted December 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Fine studies of the Israel/Palestine conflict

    Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at Oxford University, is the author of The iron wall, the best book on Israel's relations with its neighbours. This erudite work is a collection of articles that were originally published in the Journal of Palestine Studies and the London Review of Books.

    Part 1 comprises ten articles on the 1948 war and after, Part 2 ten articles on the Oslo Accord of September 1993 and beyond, Part 3 five articles on the breakdown of the peace process, and Part 4 five articles looking at the current situation from various perspectives. He identifies three main watersheds, each the subject of heated debate: the founding of Israel, the 6-Day war of June 1967 and the Oslo Accord.

    Israeli governments usually oppose a Palestinian state and a return to its 1967 borders, even though, as Shlaim argues, ending the occupation of the West Bank would enhance Israel's security. The Oslo Accord, negotiated by Israelis and Palestinians, with virtually no US or EU involvement, was a great step forward towards creating a Palestinian state. But tragically Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his successor Ehud Olmert wrecked the Accord, as Shlaim shows.

    Shlaim recognises that the Iraq war had 'no solid basis in international law' and that the invasion did not help to resolve the Israel/Palestine conflict or promote democracy in the Middle East. You don't end one illegal occupation by starting another.

    Shlaim argues that Israel's brutal military occupation of Gaza was 'deliberate de-development'. The USA and the EU helped the Israeli state by imposing sanctions on Gaza, not on the occupier but on the occupied. As Shlaim writes, "The development of local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination to Israel and to establish the economic underpinnings essential for real political independence."

    In 2005-8, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire from Gaza; in 2005-7, the Israeli Defense Force killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. In November 2008, Israel broke the ceasefire which had held for four months. In its 22-day attack on Gaza, 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Bush and Blair backed the attack and opposed UN calls for a ceasefire.

    Shlaim concludes, "A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism - the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria."

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  • Posted October 7, 2009

    Same old Israel bashing

    The Israeli State Archives opened in 1982 for the benefit of professional historians, journalists, as well as the wide public soon became a virtual treasure trove for leftist activists in Israeli academia. The activists, dubbed 'New Historians,' cherry picked the documents for their anti-Zionist value and interpreted them in the spirit of their ideological preferences. The interpretations were presented as iron-clad facts out of which the anti-Zionist 'New History' was made up.
    One of 'New Historians', an Israeli ex-pat Avi Shlaim, who is professionally bashing Israel for many years now, published a new book Israel and Palestine: Reflections, Revisions, Refutations. The book is a collection of sophisticated pasquilles written in the course of years. It does not contain new refutations or revisions, but old shibboleths like 'Israel missed every opportunity to make peace with Arabs', or, that 'Zionism is a colonialist movement', or 'give a country without people to people without country', etc.
    Readers, who are in the business of anti-Israeli propaganda and in need for anti-Israeli arguments, will find them in the book. Those, on the other hand, who are tired of regurgitating the same old 'stuff' can skip that book and save their money. They will not lose much since other books of similar content will, no doubt, be published next year and, then, the year after. Israel bashers have to make a living too.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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