Mark Tessler's highly praised, comprehensive, and balanced history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the earliest times to the presentupdated through the first years of the 21st centuryprovides a constructive framework for understanding recent developments and assessing the prospects for future peace. Drawing upon a wide array of documents and on research by Palestinians, Israelis, and others, Tessler assesses the conflict on both the Israelis' and the Palestinians' terms. New chapters in this expanded edition elucidate the Oslo peace process, including the reasons for its failure, and the political dynamics in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza at a critical time of transition.
About the Author
Mark Tessler is Samuel J. Elderveld Collegiate Professor of Political Science, Director of the International Institute, and Vice Provost for International Affairs at the University of Michigan. He is author (with Ann Lesch) of Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinians: From Camp David to Intifada (IUP, 1989), co-editor of Democracy, War, and Peace in the Middle East (IUP, 1995), and editor of Area Studies and Social Science: Strategies for Understanding Middle East Politics (IUP, 1999).
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A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
By Mark Tessler
Indiana University PressCopyright © 2009 Mark Tessler
All rights reserved.
Jewish History and the Emergence of Modern Political Zionism
Early History and Foundations of Nationhood
It is inadequate to describe the Jews as a religious group in the modern-day sense of the term. Like Muslims, they are more appropriately regarded as a national community of believers. The Jews' sense of peoplehood is extremely well developed, inextricably bound up with their collective historical experience, with the Land of Israel where they built their ancient kingdoms, and with the sociological and political content of their law.
All of these elements defining the bonds of Jewish peoplehood are made sacred in the eyes of the true believer by the Divine origins attributed to them. The Jewish people considers itself to have been chosen by God, indeed to be the people chosen to receive the Holy Testament. Moreover, the role chosen for the Jewish people is not merely to receive the word of God and thereafter to proclaim His existence and transmit His commandments. It is also to found a society and a polity in which men and women will live in a fashion pleasing to the Creator. It is in this sense, too, that believing Jews regard themselves as the chosen people, selected not only to be God's messenger but also, as the orthodox among them say, to be a light unto the nations. Finally, Jewish doctrine asserts that God has granted His chosen people dominion over the Land of Israel, Eretz Yisrael, in order that they possess a country in which to construct their commonwealth based on His law. Located in the territory today known as Palestine, and known to the ancients as the Land of Canaan, Eretz Yisrael is held to have been promised by God to the patriarch Abraham and his descendants. This promise was reaffirmed and implemented in the form of a solemn covenant between God and the Jews during the time of Moses.
The character of the Jewish people is thus defined both by the temporal aspects of its historical legacy and by a belief that the experience of the Jews is part of a larger Divine plan. The former involve a strong communal identity and the land and the law which in ancient times gave tangible expression to this national spirit, and which continued to shape Jewish thought even after the people of Israel had been driven into exile and dispersed. The latter is the conviction, held not only by devout Jews but also by the true believers of other religions which accept the Hebrew Bible, that the course of Jewish history has been shaped by God's promise of guidance and protection. Therefore, again, the Jews are more than a religious group. They are also a historically legitimated political community possessing many of the attributes associated with nationhood. This duality is well-described by James Parkes, who chooses the term "people" to define the collective consciousness of the Jews. He writes that their history is "that of a people inextricably interwoven with that of a religion. Neither can be told apart from the other.... It is best to describe them as a people."
Biblical record and archaeological evidence indicate that the Jews conquered and began to settle the land of Canaan during the thirteenth century before the Christian era (B.C.E.). Moses had given the Israelites political organization and led them out of Egypt, bringing them to the borders of the Promised Land. Then, under Joshua, they initiated a prolonged military campaign in which they gradually took control of the territory and made it their home. Most contemporary scholars believe that it took the Jews many decades to establish hegemony over Eretz Yisrael, and that even after it was secured and occupied, Canaanite enclaves remained for some time. Despite accounts in the Book of Joshua which suggest that the land was conquered in a single campaign, planned in advance by Moses and later Joshua, other Biblical testimony is consistent with those archaeological indications suggesting a struggle that lasted as much as a century. In any event, by the twelfth century B.C.E., the period of Judges, the Jews were firmly established in ancient Palestine, and the area of their control included substantial tracts of territory on both sides of the Jordan River. Map 1.1 shows the extent of Israelite control during the century following the conquest. It also indicates the particular region inhabited by each of the original twelve Israelite tribes.
The Israelite political community developed steadily, marked by the growth of national consciousness and the emergence of national institutions and reaching its apogee during the period of monarchical rule under David and Solomon. The establishment of the monarchy, which took shape in the latter half of the eleventh century B.C.E. under Samuel and Saul, modified existing patterns of political organization. Prior to this period, leaders had held temporary mandates and were regarded as thoroughly submissive to the will of God. Now, however, although David and Solomon were both devout and God-fearing leaders, they assumed vastly increased powers and presented themselves as more than simple intermediaries between God and His people. According to one scholar, it is as if Jahweh, the Hebrew God, had "delegated some of his powers to a man. As representative of God to the people, and of the people to God, the king partook of the Divine majesty."
David, who ruled until 960 B.C.E., greatly expanded and strengthened the Israelite kingdom. He had initially established his capital in Hebron, in the region of his own tribe, Judah, but within a few years he captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and made it the center of his growing empire. Soon the kingdom of the Jews stretched from the Red Sea in the south to what is today the southern part of Lebanon, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the east across the Jordan River to Ammon and Moab. In addition, David succeeded in bringing unity to his expanding empire, first gaining allegiance from tribal elders who had formerly resisted the authority of the monarchy and then undermining the power base of these once-independent leaders. Unity and the growth of monarchical power also fostered the emergence of new social groupings, including royal functionaries, government officials, priests, landowners, and merchants.
The kingdom continued to develop and remained united through the reign of Solomon, David's son, who presided over a period of comparative peace and governed the country until 930 B.C.E. Solomon's accomplishments included construction of the royal complex in Jerusalem, consisting of the palace and the Temple; expansion and fortification of many other cities; and creation of an integrated political system for governing the country's twelve administrative districts. He also established an elaborate network of political and commercial relationships with neighboring peoples, making treaties to enhance trade or security and sealing some of them through marriage to women from the ruling families of foreign states. Solomon's reign was marked by pomp and grandeur, and under his leadership Jerusalem became a great city, and Palestine an important country. There were also serious problems, however. Class divisions increased and became more important, with the wealthy benefiting from the growth of the state and its capital, while many common citizens were impoverished by heavy taxes levied to support the state's building program and the luxurious lifestyle of its elite.
The kingdom of the Jews split in two after Solomon's death. In the region of Judea, including Jerusalem and extending southward, the Davidic dynasty continued to hold power. Enjoying comparative stability, it claimed continuity with the past both because it represented the House of David and because the holy Temple of Jerusalem remained within its realm. In the north, however, in the region of Samaria, dissident tribal elements established a rival kingdom, the Kingdom of Israel, which was the larger and more populous of the two competing states, and which soon completely overshadowed the kingdom in Judea. After an initial period of intermittent warfare, commonalities of culture and history led to an alliance between the two Hebrew states, and thereafter the small southern kingdom was gradually transformed into a vassal of the larger one in the north. Israel's capital was at Shechem, the site of present-day Nablus. Among its first kings were Omri and his son, Ahab, who established stable and peaceful relations with neighboring powers and brought prosperity to the country. According to one historian, the dynasty became firmly rooted in the affections of the people, and "Ahab appeared to have regained the glory of the regal days of Solomon."
After several centuries of independence, the Jewish kingdoms in Samaria and Judea were both eventually conquered by powerful neighbors, the former in the last quarter of the eighth century B.C.E. and the latter in the second decade of the sixth century B.C.E. The Kingdom of Israel, which had for some time been distracted and weakened by internal dynastic rivalries, fell to the advancing Assyrian army in 722 B.C.E., after which Samaria was transformed into an Assyrian province and many of its Jewish inhabitants were driven into exile. The kingdom in Judea, called Judah after the tribe of David, did not immediately suffer the same fate; it preserved its independence in the face of the Assyrian challenge by accepting the status of a vassal state. Moreover, it later was able to invade and reoccupy a portion of those provinces in Samaria that had once been part of the Israelite empire and which were now ruled by the Assyrians. Nevertheless, Judah, too, was eventually overrun. During the early years of the sixth century B.C.E. it was besieged by the armies of Babylonia under Nebuchadnezzar. The defenders of Jerusalem were defeated and the city was destroyed in 586 B.C.E. Many Judean Jews were subsequently deported to Babylonia, and for the first time in more than four hundred years the ancient Middle East was without an independent Hebrew state.
The Babylonian conquest of Judah, and with it the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, brought to an end the first Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine and closed a critical chapter in the history of the Jewish people. For a time, at least, Palestine ceased to be the political center of Hebrew life. Although a majority of the Jews remained in Palestine following the loss of Israelite independence, the wealthiest and most cultured sectors of Hebrew society were removed to Babylonia, where they appear to have been treated well by local authorities, and where they soon established important centers of Jewish learning and legal scholarship. There was also during this period a flourishing Jewish community in Egypt, the other major empire of the age. This community, which existed prior to the fall of Judah, was also treated well by local officials and was appreciated in particular for its contribution to the commercial and economic life of the country. So far as the Jews remaining in Palestine are concerned, they were primarily peasants, and in the decades immediately following the destruction of Jerusalem they lived a precarious existence marked by poverty and insecurity.
Jewish life nonetheless slowly revived in Palestine, particularly after Cyrus conquered Babylon in 538 B.C.E. and incorporated its provinces into the newly created Persian Empire. Exiled Jews began to return to Palestine in that year, with 42,000 repatriated in an initial wave of immigration, and the Temple in Jerusalem was rebuilt between 520 and 515 B.C.E. Subsequent Persian kings, such as Darius and Artaxerxes I, for the most part supported the reconstruction of Jewish society in Palestine. The Hebrew leader Ezra was granted broad authority by the latter monarch and permitted to establish an administration based on Jewish law that regulated the life of Jews throughout the empire, beyond the borders of Judea and Samaria. Ezra also brought additional Jews back to Jerusalem. Several years later, Nehemiah, originally Artaxerxes' cup-bearer, was made governor of Judea by the Persian king and authorized to rebuild sections of Jerusalem, completing reconstruction of the city's walls in 455 B.C.E.
Palestine became part of the Hellenistic world when Persia fell to Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.E. Despite the importance of this event for the ancient world generally, however, Jewish life was not greatly disturbed by the rise of Alexander's empire. On the one hand, Greek culture did not penetrate deeply into Eretz Yisrael, which retained its largely Semitic orientation. On the other, Hellenistic rulers tended to regard the Jews as a distinct national community deserving of autonomy. Judea was granted the status of a semi-independent territory, with Jerusalem its capital and the laws of the Holy Torah its constitution, and Jewish leaders were permitted to exercise authority over all the inhabitants of Judea.
Palestine passed to the Syrian-based Seleucid Empire at the beginning of the second century B.C.E., and within a few years the people of Judea were being oppressed by their new foreign rulers. Antiochus IV plundered the Temple in 169 B.C.E., as his armies passed through Jerusalem while returning from a campaign in Egypt, and the next year he occupied the city and punished its inhabitants. The observance of Jewish law and ritual was outlawed, and the Temple was made over into a shrine for the worship of Zeus. Antiochus also settled non-Jews in Jerusalem in order to further transform the character of Judea's capital.
The Jews rebelled under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, Judah the Hammer, scoring several decisive victories over the Seleucid armies and eventually regaining the independence they had lost more than four centuries earlier. Control over much of Jerusalem was regained in 164 B.C.E., and the Temple was purified and rededicated in that year, an event recalled in the annual celebration of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Several years later, Judah concluded a treaty with Rome, securing the latter's support for an independent Jewish polity in Judea; and though Judah himself was killed in battle shortly thereafter, guerrilla warfare continued, and in 142 B.C.E. the Seleucid king, Demitrius II, also recognized the independence of Judea. Thus was established the Second Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine.
In 140 B.C.E., an assembly convened in Jerusalem to approve the rule of Judah's sole surviving brother, Simon, thereby resurrecting the Israelite monarchy and establishing a new line of Judean kings, known as the Hasmoneans. Hasmonean leadership was marked by a fusion of political, religious, and military authority, as sanctioned by the Jerusalem assembly. The kingdom also grew stronger under the Hasmoneans, so that, with the growing disintegration of the Seleucid Empire, it was able to recapture Samaria and other parts of Eretz Yisrael lying outside Judea. At its zenith, it controlled almost as much territory as had the kingdom of David and Solomon more than eight centuries earlier.
Rome's entry into Palestine opened the concluding chapter in the history of ancient Israel, leading within a few years to the defeat of the Hasmonean state, which at the time had maintained its independence for barely three-quarters of a century. Roman armies under Pompey invaded Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E., capturing the city and, after a three-month siege, taking the area of the Temple Mount as well. The fall of the Israelite capital, made possible in part by internal conflicts that had broken out within the kingdom, also resulted in the loss of thousands of lives. The independence of Judea came to an end with this defeat and the territory thereafter became a province of the Roman Empire.
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Table of Contents
Preface to the Second Edition
A Note on Transliteration
Part I. Jews and Arabs Before the Conflict: The Congruent Origins of Modern Zionism and Arab Nationalism
1. Jewish History and the Emergence of Modern Political Zionism
2. Arab History and the Origins of Nationalism in the Arab World
Part II. Emergence and History of the Conflict to 1948
3. The Conflict Takes Shape
4. The Dual Society in Mandatory Palestine
Part III. Routinization of the Conflict, 1948-1967
5. The Palestinian Disaster and Basic Issues after 1948
6. Israel and the Arab States through June 1967
Part IV. The Palestinian Dimension Reemerges: From the June War through Camp David
7. Postwar Diplomacy and the Rise of the Palestine Resistance Movement
8. Israel, the Palestinians, and the Occupied Territories in the 1970s
Part V. The High Price of Stalemate and Futile Diplomacy in the 1980s
9. Violent Confrontations in the Early 1980s
10. Futile Diplomacy in the Mid-1980s
Part VI. Efforts to Break the Stalemate: From the Intifada through the Oslo Peace Process
11. The Intifada and Beyond
12. The Oslo Peace Process
Epilogue: The Post-Oslo Period
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
How this book treat the history of Israel/Palestine question is analysed through a PhD thesis that has been conducted under professor Ilan Pappe’s supervision in the European centre for Palestine Studies (ECPS). According to the results of the thesis, this book is the fourth most adopted textbook in the area of Israel/Palestine history in western universities. This academic investigation expose how the report of the question’s history in this book is undermined by a pro-Israeli bias or the way it resist it. For more information about this research you can consult with: https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/18334 An article is, also, published by Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies that contain the main results of that research : http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/hlps.2016.0142