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on 27 May 2016
The book is a wonderful account of the 1948 war. It is very informative and a must read one. I really appreciate the way Benny Morris has accounted the beginning of the struggle to form the newly blossomed state of Israel.
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on 21 May 2011
I don't wish to begin my review by trashing the previous one so better to start by agreeing that 1948 is an excellent book, but not for the reasons stated of putting Israel in the dock. Just the opposite. The newly established israeli army fought a desperate battle to prevent arabs in Palestine from falling upon the jewish communities there and slaughtering them (10% of the army were killed during the war, definitely not fitting in with the usual mantra of israelis supposedly falling on the defenceless Palestine arab victims).
Haj Amin el Husseini the recognised leader of arabs in Palestine made no bones about this being a war of anihilation against the jews (he could be believed as he along with his top commanders had set up the Nazi Bosnian SS division that massacred thousands of jews and partisans alike:
[...]

likewise the head of the Arab League Azzam Pasha who said about the war, "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades".
[...]

Israel's defence forces might (like all other armies) have at times done some pretty unpleasant things in defending itself. But it was fighting firstly against murderous and uprovoked attacks by palestinian irregular forces and then against an invasion by 5 arab armies armed, supplied and in part led by officers of the British imperial army (The British Army never did have an investigation into its officers, nominally under the command of Jordan (under 'Jordanian' general Glubb Pasha) firing artillery point blank and indiscriminately into jewish civilian areas from the heights over Jerusalem).

Benny Morris being the consummate historian he is does not gloss over failings on the jewish side, but if any lesson is to be taken from this book, it is that despite the jews being attacked throughout the country from the moment the UN decided to partion Palestine (a pogrom took place in jerusalem the day after the Nov 30th 1947 decision and in the Jaffa area jews were taken off buses and slaughtered by Palestine arabs) even before the jewish state was established the Israelis did not reply until forced to do so in April 1948. The Haganah contented itself with its traditional policy of 'restraint' or 'Havalagah' which meant simply defending its towns and villages without counter-attacking.

This policy did not lead to moderation on the part of the arabs of Palestine but rather allowed them to think they could strangle Israel even before the British army left in May 1948. Increased attacks meant that the jewish areas of the city of Jerusalem were constantly being cut off along with its water supply. The supply route from Tel-Aviv was highly dangerous and many jews were killed in the convoys that brought food to Jerusalem. It should be remembered that before May 1948 the British army was responsible for security in Palestine yet it refused to protect the convoys and confiscated arms from the jewish guards trying to protect it. The results were hundreds of dead and wounded jews just on this route alone. The remains of attacked convoys can be seen along the road from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem to this day.

With one month left until the British sponsored arab armies invaded in May 1948 the Hagana finally went over to the attack in protecting its lines of supply that had until now been under constant attack from guerilla bands based in arab villages along the roads. This is often described as 'ethnic cleansing' nowadays but those who argue this can't explain the fact that after Israel's War of Independence it still had many hundreds of thousands of arab citizens who became Israelis with fulll rights. There are documented cases such as in Haifa whereby the representatives of Israel pleaded for the arab community to stay. That many didn't but went to Lebanon was their own mistake. In hoping they would return in the wake of victorious arab armies they instead now reside in the apartheid conditions in Lebanon where they at least until recently were not allowed to work, mix with or have services given to Lebanese citizens. The same applied to other areas that arabs from Palestine fled to.

The Jewish State however absorbed over 700,000 jews expelled from arab countries during 1948 onwards. Unlike many in the arab population of Palestine they had done nothing to deserve this treatment. Where do we ever hear of the plight of jewish refugees from arab countries and their rights?

Even the British mandatory authorities who were for the most part extremely indulgent towards the arabs of Palestine in 1936 waged a war of anihilation against the terror bands that had widened their attentions from killing jews to the British authorities. Terror begat terror and the British army did not pussy foot around. The arab terrorists were ruthlessly crushed. Villages that sheltered terrorists were blown up and terrorists executed on the spot.

So yes, I wholeheartedly recommend this book as for an unbiased reader will be able to understand why it was that Palestinians left Israel. Not because the jews had dastardly intentions but rather that many in the Palestine arab community had since at least the 1920's carried out a war of terror against the peaceful jewish community there. The arabs who didn't fight the jews are Israelis today.

Unlike most other books on this subject by polemicists such as Pappe and Shlaim etc you can read this book, absorb the wealth of detail (yes, provided by Israel as in the tradition of a democracy and unlike the arab countries they allow full access to their archives. I would dearly like to read material from the arab archives and wonder just why they are closed to researchers) and make up your own mind.
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on 3 August 2009
This is an absolutely brilliant piece of history, which completely changed my view of the Palestine/Israel situation. I confess I chose this book because it was written by an Israeli scholar, so I was very impressed indeed by the dispassion with which Benny Morris recounts the pre-history and history of the Arab/Israeli conflict. It is very clearly written and is obviously based on a thorough knowledge of the sources (though I guess most of these are Israeli). Not to put too fine a point on it, it puts Israel and its army firmly in the dock, but with no easy way out, given the nature of the surrounding, hostile countries. It underlines the supreme relevance of, but gives no encouragement to, the phrase "blessed are the peacemakers". A total must for anyone who wants to get as near to a dispassionate account as you are likely to get.
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on 18 September 2013
very well informed and relatively unbiased account of the period proffessor morris is also very readable and not too academic
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on 7 June 2014
Benny Morris provides a poor strategic look at the first Arab-Israeli war. Very few details of battles. The final chapter regarding conclusions and what may happen in the future was Zionist rubbish.
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on 3 October 2013
I don't review books I didn't read. I expect the book to be good
That is what I can write you just now
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