One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandateby Tom Segev, Haim Watzman
A panoramic and provocative history of life in Palestine during the three strife-torn but romantic decades when Britain ruled and the seeds of today's conflicts were sown
Tom Segev's acclaimed works, 1949 and The Seventh Million, overturned accepted views of the history of Israel. Now Segev explores the dramatic period before the creation of the/i>/i>/p>
A panoramic and provocative history of life in Palestine during the three strife-torn but romantic decades when Britain ruled and the seeds of today's conflicts were sown
Tom Segev's acclaimed works, 1949 and The Seventh Million, overturned accepted views of the history of Israel. Now Segev explores the dramatic period before the creation of the state, when Britain ruled over "one Palestine, complete" (as noted in the receipt signed by the High Commissioner) and when its 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 a wealth of untapped archival materials, Segev reconstructs a tumultuous era (1917 to 1948) of limitless possibilities and tragic missteps. He introduces the legendary figures--General Allenby, Lawrence of Arabia, David Ben-Gurion--as well as an array of pioneers, secret agents, diplomats, and fanatics. He tracks the steady advance of Jews and Arabs toward confrontation and with his hallmark originality puts forward a radical new argument: that the British, far from being pro-Arab, as commonly thought, consistently favored the Zionist position, and did so out of the mistaken--and anti-Semitic belief that Jews turned the wheels of history.
Rich in unforgettable characters, sensitive to all perspectives, One Palestine, Complete brilliantly depicts the decline of an empire, the birth of one nation, and the tragedy of another.
“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
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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.
Meet the Author
Tom Segev is a columnist for Ha'aretz, Israel's leading newspaper, and author of two now-classic works on the history of Israel, 1949: The First Israelis and The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust. He lives in Jerusalem.
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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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.
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.
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.
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
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