Palestine: A Personal History

Overview

“[Sabbagh’s] memoir offers a vital yet unfamiliar perspective on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a heartfelt, judicious invitation to dialogue.” —Publishers Weekly

Palestinians feature regularly in news headlines, but their country is much less known. In this humane and deeply compelling book, Karl Sabbagh traces Palestine and Palestinians from their roots in the mélange of tribes, ethnic groups, and religions that have populated the region for centuries, and ...

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Palestine: History of a Lost Nation

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Overview

“[Sabbagh’s] memoir offers a vital yet unfamiliar perspective on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a heartfelt, judicious invitation to dialogue.” —Publishers Weekly

Palestinians feature regularly in news headlines, but their country is much less known. In this humane and deeply compelling book, Karl Sabbagh traces Palestine and Palestinians from their roots in the mélange of tribes, ethnic groups, and religions that have populated the region for centuries, and describes how, as a result of the interplay of global power politics, the majority of Palestinians were expelled from their home to make way for the new Jewish state of Israel. Palestine: A Personal History offers a sympathetic portrait of the country’s rich heritage as well as evidence of the long-standing harmony between Arabs (Muslim and Christian) and the small indigenous Jewish population in Palestine.  Karl Sabbagh has written both a transporting narrative and a meditation on a region that remains a flashpoint of conflict—a story of how past choices and actions reverberate in the present day.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sabbagh, a writer and television producer of English and Palestinian descent, combines his family history and the political history of Palestine, tracing what he forcefully argues is the much misunderstood story of the resistance and dispossession of 700,000 Arab Palestinians in the face of a European-centered Zionist movement. Sabbagh has a colorful family past to draw on, as the son of Isa Sabbagh, a well-known voice on the BBC's Arab Service in the 1940s and a direct descendant of Ibrahim Sabbagh, unsavory chief minister to Daher al-Omar, a local 18th-century ruler labeled "First King of Palestine." But the personal narrative serves a larger purpose: to underscore the continuity of a predominantly Arab Palestinian presence and culture going back centuries (in contrast to Zionism's biblical claims to the same land). While the narrative also uncovers a century of ill treatment and injustice meted out to Palestinians, Sabbagh emphasizes the long-standing harmony between Arabs (Muslim and Christian) and the small indigenous Jewish population in Palestine, including many acts of solidarity amid growing tensions. Carefully researched and engaging, his memoir offers a vital yet unfamiliar perspective on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a heartfelt, judicious invitation to dialogue. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT - Janet Julian
The author, the son of a Palestinian father and a British mother, weaves his family's history into that of Palestine. His heritage can be traced back as far as 1700, comprising nine generations. During WW II, his father Khalil became famous throughout the Middle East as the voice of the BBC's new Arabic Service. Karl's parents divorced a few years after his birth, so he was raised in London, unaware of his Palestinian connections. He is now a British author, journalist, and television producer. One of the author's goals is "to show that the foundation of the State of Israel perpetrated an enormous injustice again the Palestinians." He maintains that the hostility between Israelis and Palestinians is the product of the last 80 years, rather than any traditional enmity, and that the two sides should find a just settlement to their disputes. Sabbagh offers a history of the land beginning in the 1700s, moving through the Ottoman governments, the British in the 19th century, Zionist claims to Palestine, hostile acts on both sides, and expulsion of the Palestinians, beginning in 1948, from a land that was 90% Arab. Sabbagh makes a cogent case for justice for the Palestinians and encourages a dialogue to that end. This book deserves a careful reading. Reviewer: Janet Julian
Library Journal
Son of a British mother and a Palestinian father, London-bred journalist Sabbagh investigates his Middle East family roots to help clarify violence. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sabbagh (A Rum Affair, 2000, etc.) argues that, before 1948, Palestine was not an empty desert just waiting for Jewish settlement. It was home to thriving Palestinian communities. From the earliest moments of the Zionist movement, charges Sabbagh, Zionists have claimed that Palestine was virtually uninhabited before Jews returned in the early 1900s. To the contrary, "Palestine was a small but complex society," comprising a highly-educated middle class, agricultural workers and peasants. Including many stories about his own family, Sabbagh traces Palestinian history since the 18th century, and he amply chronicles the violence that unsurprisingly erupted between Jews and Palestinians in the years after the Balfour Declaration. Few Westerners come off well. FDR, for example, is quoted as proposing that "we" simply move one Arab family out for every Jewish family moved into Palestine: "There are a lot of places to which you could move the Arabs. All you have to do is drill a well, because there is this large underground water supply, and we can move the Arabs to places where they can really live." Most fascinating is Sabbagh's analysis of late-19th- and early-20th-century travelers' reports, which, when they gestured toward Palestinians at all, portrayed them as uncivilized nomads. Explicitly invoking Edward Said, Sabbagh contends that Westerners' depictions of Palestine were marred by Orientalism and cannot be taken at face value. In establishing that Palestinians constituted Palestine's majority population before 1948, Sabbagh draws from a diverse array of sources, including many Western, Jewish and Israeli accounts. But the author devotes insufficient energy to explaining why Palestinianopposition to increasing Jewish settlement was so ineffective, and he fails to fully establish that the myth of an empty Palestine has much purchase today. A powerful and often graceful polemic that leaves some questions unanswered.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802143501
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/21/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 960,025
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Illustrations     ix
Acknowledgements     xii
Prologue     1
Ancient Palestine     11
'The First King of Palestine'     26
Daher's Decline     39
Palestine in the Nineteenth Century     52
Travellers' Tales     69
Bible Stories     83
Balfour and Friends     97
A Letter to Lord Rothschild     108
Picking up the Peace     123
Mandate     138
Into the 1920s     153
Hostile Acts     169
Commissions Galore     183
Peel and Partition     198
'Lion-cub of Arabdom'     216
Love and War     229
Displaced Persons     241
UNSCOP and Robbers     252
The UN Vote, 29 November 1947     265
The End of History     275
Palestine Lost     294
Epilogue     317
Further Reading     327
Notes     330
Index     351
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Very informative portrait of Palestine

    Karl Sabbagh, a writer and television producer, has produced a convincing refutation of the Zionists¿ biggest lie ¿ that they took over `a land without a people¿. As he recounts in detail, the Sabbagh family, like the vast majority of the Arab population, have lived in Palestine for more than 300 years. This fascinating book traces Palestine¿s history from 1900 to 1948 and examines the original injustice of the Zionists¿ theft of the land.<BR/><BR/>Over the last 400 years, documented evidence proves the continuing presence of Palestinian Arabs as a large majority in the territory of Palestine. 16th-century Ottoman censuses showed that Palestine had about 300,000 inhabitants, 90% of whom were Muslim Arabs.<BR/><BR/>But in the early 20th century, the British state gave crucial support to a tiny foreign political movement, Zionism, which wanted to colonise Palestine, claiming a right derived from a work of fiction. The Zionists always intended to uproot and expel the country¿s original inhabitants.<BR/><BR/>Yet during the First World War, the British state had also promised Palestine its independence. As the Foreign Office admitted, in a secret document, ¿With regard to Palestine, His Majesty¿s Government are committed by Sir H. McMahon¿s letter to the Sherif on the 24th October 1915, to its inclusion in the boundaries of Arab independence.¿<BR/><BR/>In spite of this promise, the British state, with the Balfour Declaration, gave away the Palestinian people¿s country to the Zionist movement. There is a long pro-Zionist tradition in the British ruling class, from Balfour to Brown, based presumably on the odd belief that the Zionists would serve the British ruling class¿s interests.<BR/><BR/>When the British state ran Palestine under the Mandate, it allowed ever-increasing Jewish immigration. After the Second World War, the Zionist movement attacked the Palestinian majority and dispossessed them. <BR/><BR/>The Zionists have maintained and extended their illegal occupation ever since, aggravating their original theft with constant aggressive wars. But of course they could never have gotten away with all this without the backing of the US and British states.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2007

    Missed opportunity or Fabricating Palestine

    Instead of being 'A Personal History', most of the book 'Palestine' laments the achievements of the Zionist movement and the re-establishment of the independent Jewish State. Those who can 'read between the lines' get the following picture: while the Jews were laying foundations of the Modern Israel by building new towns and Kibbuzim, the Christial Arabs were leaving the Middle East to South America or the USA for a better life there and the Muslim Arabs were organizing pogroms aganst the Jews to chase then out of Palestine. No wonder the Jews ended up with a sovereign State and the Arabs with terrorist organizations. Despite the sincere efforts by K.Sabbagh to fabricate ancient roots of Palestinian identity, it is not difficult to come to the conclusion that the Palestinian nation is of very recent origin, since it is a by-product of the Zionist movement. It was born to be a spearhead of the Arab struggle against the Jewish state. Nevertheless, K.Sabagh is not calling for the 'deconstruction' of the Jewish State, but for compensation to those innocent people who lost their property. That should have been a call for compensation to Arabs who fled Palestine as well as the Jews from the Muslim world who fled to Israel or Europe. To implement the just solution we must have a dialog based on unbiased picture of the past. The book 'Palestine', is, unfortunately,missing that target.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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