One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate / Edition 1

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One Palestine, Complete explores the tumultuous period before the creation of the state of Israel. This was the time of the British Mandate, when Britain's promise to both Jews and Arabs that they would inherit the land, set in motion the conflict that haunts the region to this day.

Drawing on untapped archival materials, Tom Segev reconstructs an era (1917 to 1948) of limitless possibilities and tragic missteps. He introduces an array unforgettable characters, tracks the steady advance of Jews and Arabs toward confrontation, and puts forth a radical new argument: that the British, far from being pro-Arab, consistently favored the Zionist position, out of the mistaken--and anti-Semitic--belief that Jews turned the wheels of history. Rich in historical detail, sensitive to all perspectives, One Palestine, Complete brilliantly depicts the decline of an empire, the birth of one nation, and the tragedy of another.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Tom Segev, who has made a name for himself among historians for his often controversial viewpoints, has done it again with his take on the history of this troubled region. This is a panoramic look at the three decades (1917-1948) when the Palestinian region was ruled by the British -- a time during which both the Jews and the Arabs were told that they would inherit the land. As we see in today's daily headlines, those promises continue to affect this volatile region. Segev claims that the British were, in fact, pro-Zionist, rather than pro-Arab as commonly thought.
From the Publisher
"The best single account of Palestine under the British mandate . . . This will doubtlessly become the authoritative text for the pre-state history of Israel."—Omer Bartov, The New York Times Book Review

"Sharp, skillful . . . Segev certainly knows how to write a riveting tale."—Anita Shapira, The New Republic

"A brilliant, truthful, and compassionate book . . . In all the vast literature about Palestine/Israel, this is the only book with equal insight into all of the protagonists."—Arthur Hertzberg, author of Jews: The Essence and Character of a People

"An antidote to myths . . . A book of pressing relevance . . . We should be thankful."—Gershom Gorenberg, Washington Post Book World

"Remarkable and poignant . . . Important for any understanding of the Middle East conflict."--Susan Muaddi, Philadelphia Weekly

"Masterly . . . well-informed and impartial . . lets the historical record straight."—Patrick Martin, Toronto Globe & Mail

"A fresh look at a period that at times prefigured the present . . . Compelling."—Seth Gitell, Boston Phoenix

"A wonderfully readable account of the mandate, classic and magisterial in unpacking the story . . . At various times one wants to wrestle it, hurl it against the wall, salute it, even slap it on the back in congratulation . . . A fascinating book."—Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Thoroughly researched . . . incisive."—Steve Lipman, Jewish Week

"Never have we had a book documenting life under the British with the precision, magic, and charm of One Palestine, Complete. . . Tom Segev has chosen wonderfully tangible details for a rich and fascinating fresco . . . He treats the Mandate period as a novel, laying out all the elements needed to further the plot over the next fifty years. Here are the seeds of all that has come to pass . . . Clearly, the tensions, problems, and ills plaguing the country today were very much alive then."—Ha'aretz

Thrilling and eye-opening,"—Benny Morris, author of Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1999

"This book is hard to put down. Events are fascinatingly told from three viewpoints...The mistakes made by the British, Jews, and Arabs that led to the current impasse are clearly evident in Segev's book."—J. Zel Lurie, Hadassah Magazine

"Loaded with information on the British mandate and the people who ran it."—Sol Schindler, Washington Times

"Segev handles his material with a historian's scrupulous scholarship and a journalist's eye for storytelling. Sophisticated in its analysis and fair in its judgments, One Palestine, Complete isn't a chronicle of heroes or villains."—Dave Luhrssen, Milwaukee Shephard Express

"Exceedingly well written . . . Certain to become a landmark of information on the history of Israel."—David Rosenfield, Houston Jewish Herald-Voice

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"The British entered Palestine to defeat the Turks; they stayed there to keep it from the French; then they gave it to the Zionists because they loved `the Jews' even as they loathed them, at once admired and despised them, and above all feared them. They were not guided by strategic considerations, and there was no orderly decision-making process," claims Segev in revealing the thrust of his argument that the contemporary problems between the Arabs and the Jews over the issue of a promised homeland were exacerbated by the interventions of the British empire between the two world wars. Segev, author of the well-known and highly controversial books 1949 and The Seventh Million, is one of the "new historians" who have revised and demythologized the history of modern Israel. The reason the British feared the Zionists, Segev maintains, was that they believed that the Jews had inordinate political power around the world. Moreover, he suggests that the Arab rebellions of the late 1930s were instrumental in convincing the British to leave the reins to the Jewish Agency and even hypothesizes about how the British would have reacted if the Arabs had had a political infrastructure in place similar to that of the Jews. Although his argument would be more convincing had he given greater credence to the Palestinian perspective, Segev is an excellent historical writer who presents a compelling and timely discussion of a well-trodden subject--even if it does not stir as much controversy as his earlier work. (Nov. 14) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In the past 50 years, Arab-Israeli relations have been marked by several wars and internecine conflicts. Understanding the events in Palestine during the first half of the 20th century, which shaped the future of this conflict, is critical to understanding the contemporary obstacles confronting the Middle East peace process. Israeli journalist Segev (1949: The First Israelis) has written a detailed, evenhanded account of these events, which led to the establishment of the state of Israel and the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. By relying on a wealth of archival material, the author demonstrates how and why the British ultimately favored the Zionist forces over the Arabs and how they helped the nascent Zionist movement defeat the Palestinians and other Arabs. Highly recommended for both academic and large public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/00.]--Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Omer Bartov
Reading Tom Segev's remarkable book just as another round of violence and frustration erupts in Israel and the Palestinian territories, one is instantly gripped by a powerful sense of déjà vu. Once again the region has succumbed to despair, and peace seems, at best, a distant prospect. And yet One Palestine, Complete is more than the tale of a historical tragedy in the making. For Segev is unusually attuned to the hopes and dreams that both Arabs and Jews have invested in this divided land. Instead of telling his story through the loud pronouncements of political leaders, he has woven a fine tapestry of individual portraits, curious anecdotes and penetrating insights. One is left with a faint hope that the current crisis is as much a convulsive reaction to an anticipated settlement as it is a compulsive return to old patterns of prejudice and violence...Segev has written an enormously important book, perhaps the best single account of Palestine under the British mandate.
New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A cogent, readable, and meticulously researched account of Zionism and British policy in Palestine under the British Mandate. Ha'retz columnist Segev (The Seventh Million, 1993) draws from a mind-boggling array of primary and secondary source material to illustrate the wide range of issues and individuals that affected the political climate of Palestine between 1917 and 1948. His primary claim is that the British government was sympathetic to the Zionists over the Arabs at the close of WWI, because certain key officials (e.g., Lloyd George) believed the world's Jews to be a great and powerful transnational force that he would be wise to befriend and foolish to alienate. To this end, the author paints Chaim Weizmann as the one-man propaganda machine and spin-doctor who was behind it all—a kind of magic-bullet theory that fails to solve the puzzle satisfactorily. More plausible than Segev's radical claims of conspiracy and cowardice is his emphasis on Zionism in its pre-WWII form: he manages, through careful documentation and the innovative integration of source material, to effectively debunk the popular myth of Israel owing its independence to the sympathies of an international community horrified by the Holocaust. Making good use of historical documents, personal correspondence, and private journals, Segev allows certain characters to tell their own stories—from Yefim Gordin (a young Jewish immigrant who changed his name for the cause) to Khalil al-Sakakini (a leading Arab intellectual, educator, and nationalist)—which add up, in the end, to an intricate portrait of the mottled, beautiful, deadly mess that is the Holy Land. A careful, thorough,andintelligent work of journalistic history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805065879
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 623,920
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Segev is a columnist for Ha'aretz, Israel's leading newspaper, and author of three works on the history of Israel, 1949: The First Israelis, The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, and One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate. He lives in Jerusalem.

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Read an Excerpt

Under the Turks, the Jews were allowed to pray by the Western wall more or less undisturbed. Officially, they were subject to a whole series of prohibitions; in practice, a wink and a bribe eased relations with the Muslims, and on special days, the Jews were allowed to blow the ram's horn, or shofar, at the wall and set up an ark, benches, and even a screen to separate the men from the women. In the new climate, though, the sheikhs connected these things to the Zionist program, and feared that treating the wall as a synagogue was but a first step in expropriating it from the Muslims. For this reason, they refused to let the Jews install chairs at the wall on a permanent basis: first they'll put out chairs, they said to the governor, then wooden benches, then stone benches. The next thing would be walls and a ceiling to keep out the sun and the cold, and suddenly the Muslims would have a building on their property. This was the Palestine conflict in a nutshell.

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Interviews & Essays

Conversation With The Author

Was there an impetus, or more than one, that started you on the long road of research and writing that resulted in this book? How does this book follow from your earlier work?

The Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestinians was my immediate impetus for writing this book. It occurred to me that for the first time since the days of the British, Jews and Arabs would now once again have to find a way to live with each other as equals, as two distinct nations, two national communities sharing the same country. This means that for the first time we also have to recognize each other's aspirations and fears, national traumas and myths. Unfortunately sharing the same country does not work very well, occasionally we shoot at each other, just like we used to when the British ruled. Indeed, it sometimes appears as if we are back in those days. As you know I am a journalist, I deal mostly with the present, but once in a while I take time off to try and explain, mostly to myself, what led us to the current situation. I first wrote about Israel's first year of independence in 1949, I then went back in time and wrote about the Israelis and the Holocaust in The Seventh Million, and I've gone further back, to find out how it all began, under the British. I try to understand history through the lives of individual people, using diaries, personal letters, etc. I feel as if I have just come back from a long trip into my own past, where I met a lot of people, many of them very colorful¾people of vision, courage, hope and success, uprooted and desperate people, romantics, dreamers, heroes and crooks. And they tell the story which, tragically, we are still living today.

You are Israeli, born and bred, you are Jewish, and the son of survivors and immigrants, so you are obviously personally invested in your chosen subject. How do you maintain objectivity and balance living in the middle of a conflict that you report on and chronicle?

I am not objective. We are all products of our own biographies and so am I. My parents had to leave Germany when the Nazis came to power. I say "had to" because they would have much rather stayed there. Like many of the Jewish immigrants who settled in Palestine, my parents came unwillingly, as refugees, not as Zionist pioneers. I think that they never intended to stay in Israel, but then my father was killed in 1948, during the first Arab Israeli war. My mother had no other place to go, and that's why I was born Israeli. You are absolutely right when you assume that it is difficult, sometimes it seems impossible, to write about a conflict when you live in the middle of it. I try not to think of what my potential readers might say or how they might use what I write for their own purposes. I try to stick to the story itself. Do I get myself in trouble? Yes, all the time.

When THE SEVENTH MILLION was published it raised a storm of controversy, but in the intervening years your revolutionary history of the role of the Holocaust in Israeli and Jewish life has become, for many, the definitive of that time. Do you think that the book's hard-won acceptance by Israeli's and Jewish people around the world indicates an openness, a willingness to reevaluate rigid positions in general?

History is an extremely sensitive issue in Israel, and very political, for the very existence of the state rests on the particular Zionist interpretation of Jewish history, and much of the conflict with the Arabs is about different understandings of history. The question is who was there first, the assumption being that he who was first there owns the land. Naturally history in Israel is very political. About fifteen years ago official Israeli archives were opened, and for the first time it was possible to study the real story of the country. Until then we had ideology, mythology, a great deal of national indoctrination. The opening of the archives gave us facts, which led to a psychological earthquake. For you come to an archive, you order a file, you take out a document and wow!¾this is not what we were taught at school. Our history is far less noble and heroic then we were taught. This all feeds a Israeli identity crisis, or as some people call it, a cultural war.

In the wake of escalating violence in Israel, what can the British Mandate era in Palestine tell/teach us about the likelihood of success or failure of the current Peace talks?

I'm afraid that as result of my work on ONE PALESTINE, COMPLETE I am much more pessimistic than I was before I started the book. One of the things the book clearly shows is that war between the Jews and the Palestinians was always inevitable, and no compromise will be satisfactory to both nations. The conflict can be managed¾perhaps on the basis of pragmatic arrangements and interim agreements¾but it cannot be resolved.

You argue in ONE PALESTINE, COMPLETE that the British¾far from being pro-Arab, as history has led us to believe¾were driven to support the Jews and specifically the Zionist cause because of the mistaken notion that "Jews turned the wheels of history." Can you explain the origins of this mistaken notion?

Israel owes its existence to the British. The Zionist movement would have been unable to achieve as much as it did in Palestine if not for the active support of the British. Their willingness to help the Zionists is quite surprising because they had nothing to gain from supporting them. The Zionist movement was quite weak and had no real influence; it's only source of power derived from the world's fearful image of the Jews. British policy during World War I and the 1920s was based on the eroneous belief the Jews rule the world, and the thought that Jewish support was essential for the success of the British war effort. In other words, the British role in Palestine rested largely on a fiction. It is an amazing story, but there is no other explanation for their policy in Palestine. This fictitious view constitutes a strange mixture of pro-Jewish and anti-Semitic feelings. The British both adored the Jews and despised them, admired and feared them. In many countries you still find a similar attitude today. People think that Israel is much more powerful than it actually is, again because of the demonic powers attributed to the Jews.

You have a deeply historical and personal perspective on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. What do you really hope for Israel, and for the Palestinian people?

ONE PALESTINE, COMPLETE is about people who lived in a uniquely charming and tragic period, but it is mostly about people whose personal lives were doomed by national and religious circumstances beyond their control. What I hope for both myself and for the Palestinians is that our individual needs, desires, and dreams take priority over our collective myths, so despite our national confrontations we may all just be ourselves.
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2005

    Explosive Cocktail of Reason, Passion and Compassion

    Tom Segev describes in much detail and often with unusual candor how Palestine became a British Mandate and the mission apparently impossible that the British took on them between 1917 and 1948 to manage both communities whose respective aspirations could not ultimately be reconciled under their tenure. Segev makes his account of the events especially moving by describing the life of ordinary Christians, Jews and Muslims besides that of the better known actors of this tragic comedy. Segev challenges the commonly-held view that the British were pro-Arab. Although the British made vague promises of sovereignty to the Arabs in exchange for their support against the Ottomans in charge of Palestine until 1917, they almost systematically promoted the Zionist enterprise at the expense of Christians and Muslims according to Segev. The British both feared and admired the Jews. The British tended to subscribe to the anti-Semitic view that the Jews were in control of history and should not be offended in their capacity of useful ally against common enemies. The proclamation of the Balfour Declaration and the support given to its implementation are deemed to reflect this pro-Jewish bias. To the surprise of many 21st century observers, some British sincerely believed that the aspirations of Jews and Arabs were compatible. Other British feigned to subscribe to this view. Most of the remaining British shared Segev's point of view that the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine could not happen without diminishing the standing of the local Arab community. The contradictory interests of both communities resulted first in local atrocities on both sides and then in the first war between the reborn Eretz Yisrael and the neighboring Arab nations in 1948.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2003

    Superb account which provides important background information about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    Segev's book is a fascinating account that provides essential historical background to the founding of the Jewish state. Those of you who wonder just what motivates a Palestinian to commit horrendous and unspeakable acts of terror against Israel might do well to read this book... which deosn't excuse or exonerate terrorism, but instead provides comprehension and understanding to the depths of historical injustice committed against the indigenous Arabs of the Middle East. One highly interesting aspect of this book: a persistent thread involving the friendship between an Arab and a Jew, and how their freindship survives the historical events over time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2003

    Fundamentally wrong

    The basic proposition of this work that the British favored the Zionists over the Arabs is belied by British action during the time of the greatest evil known in human history the Nazi mass - murder of the Jews of Europe. Britain bowed to Arab pressure and kept the gates closed. This sealed the fates of millions of innocents. Had a considerable share of those people been allowed to come to then Palestine, not only would hundreds of thousands of innocent lives have been saved but the Jewish state would be far more secure today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2003

    Anything but 'complete' !

    I remember picking up this book prior to purchase and flicking through the pages. Cover reviews adorned the publication with glowing critiques such as `...the widest research...' & `...the greatest scope..' etc.. Initial pre-purchase study of the book also proved favourable with the articulate text being easy to understand. I therefore began reading with a sense of anticipation. However, this soon transformed into frustration as I discovered the failure to address some fundamental issues without which any worthwhile study of the subject is incomplete. At the post first World War Versailles Treaty, the League of Nations gave Britain a Mandate to establish the Jewish National Home in ALL of Palestine (including both sides of the Jordan River). Britain however, soon embarked on a policy of Arab appeasement, which it still pursues to this day, when with one swift stroke of a pen, acting on it's own volition, Britain cut off some 80 percent of Palestine and gave it to Abdullah Ibn Hussein, whose family had been ousted from Arabia by the Sa'ud family. Abdullah formed Transjordan (now Jordan) and became it's King. The British also established Abdullah's brother, Feisal. As King over a semi-independent Iraq. In November 1947, the Jews finally ate the `crumbs' that dropped from the British table. What remained of Palestine at that time was `divided' between Arabs and Jews, with the Jews again receiving the smaller allotment. The Jewish National Home that was to have originally incorporated all of Palestine now actually constituted less than 11 percent of the land. (Even this being too much for the Arab world and it's International supporters.) I found the overall assessment of even the above in this book to be misleading and flawed. Following the Arab riots in the 1920's, no reference is made to the League of Nations Mandates Commission which stripped the British of their `moral standing' by announcing in 1930 that Britain had actually caused the Arab riots in Palestine by failing to provide sufficient police protection. The further Arab riots & general strike of 1936 demanding the suspension of Jewish immigration and the collaboration of British forces at the time also receive scant attention. Through much of the Arab uprising, the British Army withheld fire and continued it's policy of disarming Jews, (Jewish possession of a firearm being punishable by death by hanging) whilst allowing the supply of weaponry to the Arabs themselves to proceed. And where is the study into the effects of the British White Paper of 1939 which drastically restricted the numbers of Jewish immigrants into Palestine ? Jews fleeing the Nazi Concentration Camps of Europe for their homeland were turned back to die in the gas chambers of the Third Reich. Either that or the Jews were refused entry & imprisoned in Britain's own Concentration Camps on Cyprus. All of this taking up a vast number of the British Armed Forces just to pursue Mandate policies & Britain's own regional agenda. The latter subjects which also receive scant coverage here. Indeed, I think that the British betrayal of the Jews, extending well beyond the Balfour Declaration, can only be really understood in the context of what was happening in Europe during the 1930's but this book in no way provides the attention to the subject that is surely demanded. The book hardly produces any coverage or reference at all when it comes to the invasion of the fledgling Jewish state in 1948 by the surrounding Arab nations intent on the total eradication/genocide of the Jewish presence from their midst. Indeed much of this book unfortunately consists of exaggerating some facts whilst distorting & minimising others. Some basic historical truths and absolute facts relating to the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict being ignored or trodden underfoot. I cannot recommend this book as a reference or a study of the period concerned. I found the book's portrayal of the Mand

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2002

    More revisionism

    Professor Yehoshua Porath wrote probably the best assessment of this revisionist history, in the spring, 2000 issue of Azure. Segev claims, he notes, that the British came to rule Palestine with no clear idea of what they wanted. Segev posits that a well-organized Arab nationalist movement, vigorously opposed to British rule, mounted the murderous Arab "revolt" of 1936-1939 and forced Britain to conclude it had no interest in Palestine and should leave. Why it took them until 1948 Segev does not bother to explain. As to voluminous evidence that the British themselves stirred up Arab nationalism and the anti-Semitic revolt, and joined in fighting the Arab's first war against Israel, Segev is silent. Nevermind that British general John Glubb commanded the Transjordanian army. Segev asks big very political questions: Why did the British conquer Palestine? Why did they commit in 1917 to establish a Jewish National Home? Why did they stay in Palestine? And why did they leave? But he derides official British papers as too tiresome and voluminous. He also effectively ignores the evidence and conclusions of historians like Howard Sachar (History of Israel); Efriam Karsh (Empires of the Sand); Elie Kedourie (In the Anglo-Arab Labyrinth; Chatham House Version); David Fromkin (A Peace to End All Peace) and Conor C. O'Brien (The Siege), to name a few. Rather, he bases his conclusions entirely on gleanings from diaries, personal letters, articles and books written by local Britons, Arabs and Jews, none previously consulted by historians--probably because they describe the social scene, not politics. The resultant fiction about Mandatory Palestine repeats the old Arnold Toynbee canard that Britain promised Palestine twice. (It didn't. See Karsh, Kedourie, Isaiah Friedman or Samuel Katz' Battleground.) And it gives no overriding sense that Britain's conquest of Palestine was part of a calculated political and military strategy to establish a land bridge between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. This was intended to enable rapid deployment of troops to the Gulf, defend the Empire's East Indian interests, protect against possible Russian invasion, and to be both an alternative to and a protection of the Suez Canal in Egypt. Segev briefly claims that "[The British] gave [Palestine] to the Zionists because they loved 'the Jews' even as they loathed them" and feared them. He claims that they were not guided by strategic considerations, "and there was no orderly decision-making process." (p. 33) This neither eliminates nor disproves the fact that the land bridge was the driver of British policy decisions. Also missing is the effect of Britain's 1939 White Paper, which slowed the immigration of Jews into Palestine, mandated by the League of Nation in 1922, to a trickle. Britain trapped Europe's Jews inside Nazi-controlled Europe, denying them their one viable escape hatch. Segev effectively suggests that the White Paper had no practical result, since even the quota established was not filled. This reading is quite problematic. The White Paper exponentially increased the difficulty to European Jews of getting immigration papers, as account after Holocaust survivor account attests, along with many esteemed Holocaust scholars and histories. David Wyman's Abandonment of the Jews, for example, shows that besides refusing to consider any plan to save Europe's Jews, the British deployed 100,000 troops and a large armada in Palestine and the Mediterranean to capture Jews who escaped the European hell--policies spelled out in the White Paper. Britain intended to limit Jewish immigration, and did so very effectively. Decades later, Britain opened Palestine Mandate and foreign office records. Historians discovered gaping holes. All British correspondences concerning wartime immigration into Palestine, among other items, had mysteriously disappeared. Other historians have concluded that British officials, mortified post fact

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2009

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