- ISBN13: 9780300151121
- Condition: NEW
- Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.
This history of the foundational war in the Arab-Israeli conflict is groundbreaking, objective, and deeply revisionist. A riveting account of the military engagements, it also focuses on the war’s political dimensions. Benny Morris probes the motives and aims of the protagonists on the basis of newly opened Israeli and Western documentation. The Arab side—where the archives are still closed—is illuminated with the help of intelligence and diplomatic materials.
Morris stresses the jihadi character of the two-stage Arab assault on the Jewish community in Palestine. Throughout, he examines the dialectic between the war’s military and political developments and highlights the military impetus in the creation of the refugee problem, which was a by-product of the disintegration of Palestinian Arab society. The book thoroughly investigates the role of the Great Powers—Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union—in shaping the conflict and its tentative termination in 1949. Morris looks both at high politics and general staff decision-making processes and at the nitty-gritty of combat in the successive battles that resulted in the emergence of the State of Israel and the humiliation of the Arab world, a humiliation that underlies the continued Arab antagonism toward Israel.
5 thoughts on “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War”
I was tremendously disappointed by that book. While author did a lot of research and provides interesting details, he ignores and never mentions any fact that contradicts his view of events which place most of the blame on Jews for war crimes and expulsion of Palestinians Arabs.
Author does not state clearly when information is a confirmed fact, rumors or unconfirmed witness accounts which he admits only a few paragraphs latter were found not correct. It is not easy to separate what happens from author opinion.
Book is great read as point of view material, but almost worthless as attempt to understand what have happened in 1948
Rating: 1 / 5
Together with Ilan Pappe and Tom Segev, Benny Morris belongs to a growing number of Israeli scholars called “the new historians”. If Israeli historians in the past were pro Zionist to the point of engaging in propaganda, the new historians try to reverse the trend, up to being anti Israeli. (By the way, there are no “new Arab historians” in the Palestinian society).
Benny Morris (as other members of the group) uses the same old materials as “old historians”, albeit with a twist. The material consists mainly of Zionist and British archives, daily newspapers, quotes from British officials and prominent Palestinian figures, etc. What the new historians fail to do (and Benny Morris is no exception) is to bring new evidence, unknown so far. Not a single new document is produced.
What readers might expect from any new scholar engaged in research of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, is reveling new Arab documents, military plans and political articles. These may shed a new light on the eventful days that led to the establishment of Israel. What we get instead is Morris’s personal interpretation of the events. As such, this book is no better then others written before.
Rating: 3 / 5
I bought “1948” through the mail and did so with a bit of trepidation because of the author’s reputation as a “new historian” (in other words, a revisionist). Too often, revisionist history amounts to left-wing attacks on the West.
But having read 1948, I didn’t get the impression that the author was challenging his country’s legitimacy at all. Instead, I think he was giving an honest account of the fighting that broke out in 1947 and which didn’t end until 1949.
What does “honesty” in the case of “1948” amount to? It recognizes:
-The fact that the Yishuv was not heavily overwhelmingly outnumbered and out-gunned by the Arabs. Far from it, the Yishuv was far better organized and ready for war than the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab states ever were.
-The fact that the Israelis did engage in what could be called “ethnic cleansing” but which was of a sort that was morally defensible since the Palestinians had flatly refused to accept peaceful partition of Israel and would have “cleansed” their Jewish neighbors if they had won the conflict.
-The fact that the Arab nations bewailing the plight of the Palestinians drove out their own native Jewish populations.
-The fact that both the Israelis and the Arabs and Palestinians committed war crimes in the course of the fighting, but the Israelis committed more (but only because being the victors put them in a position where they had more opportunities to commit them).
That final point is something people ought to keep in mind when considering the terrible situation of the Palestinian people. Had they been the winners and not the losers in the 1947-1949 conflict, they would have cheerfully expelled the Jews that they perceived as interlopers in their midst. So if they are “victims,” they aren’t quite the innocent victims that the Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s.
Rating: 5 / 5
More than 60 years after Israel’s War of Independence, passions regarding its conduct and outcome are running higher than ever. Benny Morris has done historical research an invaluable service in writing this book that clarifies the background, conduct and outcome of this critical military conflict that has had such revolutionary effects on not only the Middle East, but also the whole world. Morris was considered 20 years ago a “revisionist historian” in Israel because he overturned some popular myths in Israel that were propagated due to inordinate feelings of inferiority and lack of confidence. This made him a darling of post-Zionist and anti-Zionist circles. However, in writings of his that he was made since then, he has shown himself a stauch supporter of the Zionist enterprise and has angered those same anti-Israel circles. In spite of the fact that he is so controversial his book has the ring of truth about it. What convinced me of this is the fact that he used only contemporary records and documents of the period as his sources and he did not use interviews, biographies, and reminiscences that came out years later and which are inevitably distorted due to peoples’ attempts to justify their decisions, to cover up embarrassing facts and simply forgetfulness. A good example is the efforts by Israel-bashing charlatan historians like Ilan Pappe to claim that the Zionists had a malevolent plan to expel all the Arabs from Palestine since before the war broke out. Morris clearly shows that this could not be the case, since large Arab populations were left in place, particularly in the Galilee section of northern Israel and that the Israeli Arab population has grown and prospered under Israeli rule. However, it must be pointed out that “population exchanges” were NOT considered “shocking” in the time period that the war occurred…..similar things had been done between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s, the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe after World War II, and the creation by a Muslims of a ethnic/religiously sectarian state in India led to something like 1 million deaths and 10 million refugess, yet no one wants to reverse that outcome that like those who support the Palestinian “Right of Return”. Morris makes clear that it was the Arabs who started the war and who attacked the Jews with the expressed intent of “driving them into the sea” (Morris provides ample evidence of this as expressed not only to their own population but to Westerners as well). This increased the Jewish fighters motivation to hit the Arabs before they could wipe out the Jews.
Morris clearly explains the general strategic flow of the war, something that is missing from earlier books on the subject and he shows the decision making by the leaders that led to this. The book does lack some of the “color” of previous histories (e.g. Dan Kurzman’s “Genesis 1948”)that give stories of individuals who participated in the war and specific small-scale engagements but the book does not suffer from this at all . He points out that the war had two distinct phases, the first being the “Civil War” which broke out immediately upon the adoption by the UN of the 1947 Partition Resolution. This was between local Palestinian armed groups with the addition of foreign Arab volunteers and the Jewish armed groups, primarily the Hagana, ETZEL (Irgun) and LEHI (Sternist) fighters. Morris points out that although the Arabs had years to prepare for the struggle, they were totally incapable of mounting a coherent fight. He notes that Palestinians from one town or village were rarely willing to go to fight for another town, and that Palestinians from the large towns such as Shechem (Nablus) and Hevron that were not involved in the fighting did not send many fighters to help their “brother” Palestinians. Morris says that this is a major indication that the concept of “Palestinian national identity” didn’t exist then. The Jews quickly blunted the Arab offensive and turned around and went on the offensive themselves. The second phase was the organized invasion by the neighboring Arab state upon the declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. Morris shows that as far as manpower was concerned, both sides were evenly matched, but that the Arab side had far more firepower, particularly tanks, artillery and aircraft. In spite of this, the Arab states fought a poorly run, uncoordinated war and they also quickly found themselves on the defensive, eventually begging for a cease-fire. Still, the Jews had something like 5800 killed out of a population of 600,000, including a quarter who were civilians. In spite of the fact that both sides claimed that there were atrocities against civilians, Morris notes that this war had far fewer atrocities against civilians that have had much more recent wars such as those involved in the break-up of Yugoslavia or the Sudanese civil wars.
One of the most important things Morris brings in the book is the clear evidence that the Arab side would not consider making real peace with Israel, that the view the existence of any Jewish state of any size as unbearable humiliation that refutes the Muslims’ right, as they see it, to control the Middle East, and eventually the world, and that Arab attitudes today have not changed in any significant way, in spite of the exitence of “peace agreements” between Israel and Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinians. These peace agreements are viewed by the Arabs merely as temporary cease-fires made in order to allow the Arabs to strengthen themselves pending a resumption of hostilities.
Morris ends the book on something of a pessimistic note, saying that although Israel won the war in 1948 and also subsequent wars, its future is still far from assured, but I don’t agree with it. However, for there to be a change in Arab attitutes it is first mandatory that Jews and non-Jews who live in Israel or support it to understand the truth of what happened and to reject the false views of people like Ilan Pappe and various anti-Israel propagandists. Once the truth is known and spread to others, Israel can take a firmer stand on its rights and to make it clear that it will not grovel to the Arabs and make endless concessions to try to pacify those who will not be passified. Only a strong stand by Israel will make the Arabs realize that Israel is here to stay, and the eventually, a modus-vivendi, if not formal peace, can be achieved. Reading Morris’ book is the first step in the this direction.
Rating: 5 / 5
Despite the preponderance of news about the Middle East and the rich historical ties of the Christian West to its Judaic roots, few know much about what transpired at the beginning of the modern Jewish state of Israel. Many will find it surprising that such a momentous event was relatively minor in military terms, as compared to other 20th Century wars.
Benny Morris provides most of the key details of the battles fought, decisions weighed and implications that have transpired over the last 60 years. He tries hard to present a balanced view, difficult as that might be given his heritage and lack of access to Arab sources. Overall, he succeeds in shedding light on the context, the facts and most importantly, the mindsets of those who were involved at the time. The conclusions he reaches also ring true: the Arab world is still haunted by the defeat of 1948 at the deepest level, the Israeli triumph remains incomplete and the war has never really ended for either side.
Rating: 4 / 5