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Israel & Palestine Hardcover – 21 Sep 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (21 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844673669
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844673667
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 665,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

In one movingly acknowledged respect, Shlaim has remained remarkably consistent over many years. -- Donald Macintyre, The Independent 'One of the best and most illuminating accounts of Arab-Israeli relations in years.' --Foreign Affairs

Provides even the hardened student with some new perspectives.. A valuable collection. --The Economist

Erudite work. -- Will Podmore, Tribune Not often today do we find historians who are this honest and this bleak and this able for some reason, I think here of T. S. Eliot s essays to express truth so simply. --Robert Fisk, Independent

About the Author

AVI SHLAIM is a Fellow of St. Anthony's College and a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2006. His books include Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace; War and Peace in the Middle East: A Concise History; and The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. He lives in Oxford.

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 56 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on 22 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at Oxford University, is the author of The iron wall, the best book on Israel's relations with its neighbours. This erudite work is a collection of articles that were originally published in the Journal of Palestine Studies and the London Review of Books.

Part 1 comprises ten articles on the 1948 war and after, Part 2 ten articles on the Oslo Accord of September 1993 and beyond, Part 3 five articles on the breakdown of the peace process, and Part 4 five articles looking at the current situation from various perspectives. He identifies three main watersheds, each the subject of heated debate: the founding of Israel, the 6-Day war of June 1967 and the Oslo Accord.

Israeli governments usually oppose a Palestinian state and a return to its 1967 borders, even though, as Shlaim argues, ending the occupation of the West Bank would enhance Israel's security. The Oslo Accord, negotiated by Israelis and Palestinians, with virtually no US or EU involvement, was a great step forward towards creating a Palestinian state. But tragically Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his successor Ehud Olmert wrecked the Accord, as Shlaim shows.

Shlaim recognises that the Iraq war had `no solid basis in international law' and that the invasion did not help to resolve the Israel/Palestine conflict or promote democracy in the Middle East. You don't end one illegal occupation by starting another.

Shlaim argues that Israel's brutal military occupation of Gaza was `deliberate de-development'. The USA and the EU helped the Israeli state by imposing sanctions on Gaza, not on the occupier but on the occupied.
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19 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Antoine Elias Raffoul on 13 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a great collection of fascinating articles from a learned and respected historian. It is precisely the reasons why I feel let down by Professor Shlaim naive treatment of the Nakba and by his conviction that the 1967 borders are the internationally recognised borders for Israel. He does not say why? He simply expects the reader to accept that argument without question. It is because of such light-hearted treatment of such a sensitive issue, that the Palestine-Israel question remains unanswered in this book. Professor Shlaim, moreover, states categorically that the two state solution remains the only solution to the problem. This raises another big question: How? Again, this book leaves this crucial question unanswered.
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20 of 79 people found the following review helpful By bk_readr on 17 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Shlaim believes that "job of the historian is to judge". This seems, alas, to entail some noticeable shoe-horning of reality to fit the requirements of ideological fashion and convenience.

There are some interesting passages here, but Shlaim's slightly facile and romantic positions are all too easy to take from the safe distance of Oxford, where Fatah's constitution can be read with agreeable detachment "Article (12): Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.
Article (19) ... this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated."

(There can be little responsible doubt about what "complete liberation of Palestine" or "eradication of 'Zionist' ... cultural existence" would concretely entail under an Islamic state, or even under a secular majoritarian hegemony, if such a thing could actually be achieved).

Generally, there is a too strong a sense of distortion of the historiographic project by an anxiety to conform to the uncomplicated ideological preferences of some of his northern european hosts. These are not perspectives that would ever be seen as more than fashionable posturing by an electorate in Israel, particularly by the 40% or more whose families have concrete experience of living in Arab countries before the Jewish nakba began in 1948, generating, by the 1970s, even more Jewish Arab refugees than Palestinian refugees.

The purely ideological section devoted to Benny Morris is diagnostic of Shlaim's predicament.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic work from Avi Shlaim 12 Nov. 2009
By Human who wants to learn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The major theme of Avi Shlaim's previous book, 'The Iron Wall', was that Israel has throughout its history readily resorted to military force rather than engaging in meaningful diplomacy. In Avi's 'Israel and Palestine' he analyzes four portions of history, including (as he calls them) 1948 and beyond, to Oslo and beyond, the breakdown of the peace process, and perspectives. What I found most appealing about this particular text was Avi's discussion and analysis of literature written by scholars, historical figures, as well as popular figures. This includes, but it not limited to, Nur Masalha, Ilan Pappe, Itamar Rabinovich, Benny Morris, Asher Susser, Ian Black, George and Douglas Ball, Fouad Ajami, Hanan Ashrawi, Meron Benvenisti, Colin Shindler, Moshe Arens, Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Bernard Wasserstein, Dennis Ross, Yossi Beilin, Norman Finkelstein, Bauch Kimmerling, and Edward Said. If some of these names are not familiar to you, I encourage you to look them up. You will uncover that Shlaim is striving to provide detailed scholarly accounts of each individual and their contributions to the interpretation of history with regard to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. And, as always, Shlaim's use of primary sources is extremely well done.

Please, anyone who wishes to understand the conflict, read and learn. Most people (including myself) are not capable of reading the primary literature. But at least analyze the work of those that dedicate their entire lives to history and scholarship.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
illuminating work on seemingly intractable situation 5 Dec. 2009
By A. Menon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It goes without saying that the situation of Israel and Palestine is one of the most contentious political, ethnic, social problems that brings out the extremes of emotions for even those with several degrees of separation from the problem. One can notice that from the reviews one encounters on literature for one group or another is praised emphatically by sympathizers and bashed by the opposition, usually irrespective of the content. That being said, moving onto this book, it is an important and illuminating read.

It is important to note that this book intends to be a fairly complete overview of the conflict, its origins and evolution. It focuses on some aspects more than others and is not a complete analysis of any particular point in time (in the sense of discussing opposition and rebuttals and re-rebuttals etc) but the book essentially assumes no prior knowledge. The author starts with the foundations of the formation of Israel, the motivations both from global political perspectives as well as zionist perspective and the local arab perspective. Avi starts out by describing the situation as one in which there were shaky foundations, with English politics being contradictory and eventually leading to a Jewish priority. This shakiness is attributed to foreign powers and their inconsistent approach rather than Israeli subversiveness. It is an important distinction that helps formulate the authors underlying belief which is that the state was founded for a people with from some veil of ignorance the strongest requirement for a sovereign state at the expense of an existing population. In essence, foreign powers had an obligation to the jewish movement, but acted with disregard for the rights of the local population which were subordinated in a choice that the choosers had no right to make. That was the injustice and its foundations are not necessarily the fault of the parties now involved.

The book then follows in chronology discussing the history and in particular the territorial exchanges that accompanied various wars and the politicians and their perspectives and perceived biases. This seems to offend many readers as I'm sure many believe these characters to be quite different from the way described, but the author does not make claims without well documented evidence. The author is very thorough in describing a strategy and subsequently using many examples of its manifestation. It could be argued that it is one sided, but everyone's perspective has a conclusion to draw, and irrespective if that is agreed, the most important thing is the evidence used and this author is thorough in backing up his claims. The momentum of foreign sympathy is focused on and the changing of the global community attitude after the speech delivered in Madrid written by Dr Hanan Ashrawi. The position of the US and its often failure to act as an independent arbitrator depending on the presidency is discussed. The author describes the US position as one that has the tendency to turn to short term politics and US sovereign interests rather than a well balanced intermediary position. This has the repercussions of not providing the needed push at times to pressure the Israeli side. I think this is an important issue that the author addresses, by the nature of the situation Israel is in the position of power, it might be in isolation in the region etc, but at its local bargaining table with the Palestinians, it clearly has more ability to encroach on land, inflict damage etc... The importance of foreign intermediaries to try to balance the existing balance of power is important as a solution that is one crafted out of relative military strength rather than based on more utilitarian or human rights based justice will likely spark future problems. If there is a solution to be had, it is important that it be as close to even handed as possible or it can end up being ineffective if perceived injustice remains status quo. For this reason, he believes the US needs to be firmer when more even handed solutions are being worked on.

The author describes Israeli local politics as often being at play as the ebb and flow of desire for peace. The domination of the right wing he sees as a dangerous evolution as their intention he does not believe to be peace, but essentially divide and conquer. One of the major themes is the discussions of peace are then followed with further settlement in areas that are supposed to be part of Palestinian settlement. For the author, these actions speak louder than words. He sees tit for tat between the sides as grossly overbearing on the Israeli side with its clear advantage, the author evidences this by the casualty rates of many multiples for the Palestinian side vs the Israeli side. The author believes the populations of both people are looking for peace and that there needs to be a formal division of the country to the Green line of 1967. The incrementalist settlement which is occurring undermines the situation and further entrenches both sides.

The authors positions stems from what he perceives as an original injustice that was decided by outside powers. What is done is done from that and what is important now is the well balanced application of human rights and and recognition of the human costs on the sides of the parties rather than the us versus them approach. The author sympathizes much more with the Palestinian side due to their much weaker position and their actions are to be expected given the evolution of the situation. He believes Israel needs to take a step back, recognize the human rights of the Palestinians, and act from that perspective for which he thinks a defining of 1967 borders and division of the country is the appropriate solution. The longer settlers keep moving "borders" the more entrenched people become and given the unevenness of power it is becoming a human rights crisis for Palestine. I would rate this 4.5 stars if I could, the reason for not rating 5 is that there are occasions when the author describes the same person a bit differently, for example, he is very favorable to Edward Said in the chapter on him and his approach, but argues against the same position he flatters later in the book. A few times examples like this emerge. Nonetheless the content of the book is well written, analysis is backed up with many examples and evidence. Whether the solution is the right one who know, but the approach and the perspective is very important to read. If more people had the sympathy of the author the solution would be much less intractable.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Fine study of the Israel/Palestine conflict 22 Dec. 2009
By William Podmore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at Oxford University, is the author of The iron wall, the best book on Israel's relations with its neighbours. This erudite work is a collection of articles that were originally published in the Journal of Palestine Studies and the London Review of Books.

Part 1 comprises ten articles on the 1948 war and after, Part 2 ten articles on the Oslo Accord of September 1993 and beyond, Part 3 five articles on the breakdown of the peace process, and Part 4 five articles looking at the current situation from various perspectives. He identifies three main watersheds, each the subject of heated debate: the founding of Israel, the 6-Day war of June 1967 and the Oslo Accord.

Israeli governments usually oppose a Palestinian state and a return to its 1967 borders, even though, as Shlaim argues, ending the occupation of the West Bank would enhance Israel's security. The Oslo Accord, negotiated by Israelis and Palestinians, with virtually no US or EU involvement, was a great step forward towards creating a Palestinian state. But tragically Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his successor Ehud Olmert wrecked the Accord, as Shlaim shows.

Shlaim recognises that the Iraq war had `no solid basis in international law' and that the invasion did not help to resolve the Israel/Palestine conflict or promote democracy in the Middle East. You don't end one illegal occupation by starting another.

Shlaim argues that Israel's brutal military occupation of Gaza was `deliberate de-development'. The USA and the EU helped the Israeli state by imposing sanctions on Gaza, not on the occupier but on the occupied. As Shlaim writes, "The development of local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination to Israel and to establish the economic underpinnings essential for real political independence."

In 2005-8, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire from Gaza; in 2005-7, the Israeli Defense Force killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. In November 2008, Israel broke the ceasefire which had held for four months. In its 22-day attack on Gaza, 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Bush and Blair backed the attack and opposed UN calls for a ceasefire.

Shlaim concludes, "A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism - the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Complex topic, Accessible text 3 Mar. 2013
By Beth Annette - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is my first serious reading foray on the Israeli Palestinian issue. As such, I do not feel I can confidently compare or contrast it to any other work. However, the writing was accessible; the issues were well outlined in the various sections. The subject matter is bleak. If anything, that was the challenge from this book to the reader, to continue to read a story with no positive end in sight.

The diversity of opinions and personalities included by the author grant a larger view of the issues than I have commonly met and brought a wide array of aspects to the issue. He demonstrates many of the reasons for the stubborn intransigence of the actors that seems to be inherent to the situation. Shlaim goes to pains to demonstrate the diversity, changing opinions and complexity of the solutions that have been brought to the table by various people and organizations since the beginning. The contextualization is, to me, the most useful characteristic of the book.
Thorough and nuanced literature review 12 Jan. 2015
By Dima Galkin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A thorough and nuanced review of recent literature related to the conflict between Israel and Palestine focused on ascertaining truth rather than proving either side's stance.
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