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The Siege: The Saga of Israel and Zionism [Hardcover]

Conor Cruise O'Brien
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb 1986
A courageous, dramatic telling of the Jewish homeland's extraordinary story, from the birth of Zionism and its founders on.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Feb 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671600443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671600440
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16 x 5.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 347,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By M. D Roberts VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
This is an extremely well written, authoritative and impressive book that traces the history of Zionism from it's very origins to the establishment of the State of Israel and to the time that the book was written in 1986.
This secular work reveals the remarkable insight of a trained historian and a former diplomat/politician whose knowledge and experience pertaining to this subject radiates from the pages of this study.
Rarely has a book so eloquently documented how the State of Israel has been subjected to a "siege" ever since its founding day. Even the hostility of the UN towards the Jewish State is so vividly felt in the contents of this work. A book which begins with an autobiographical description of how the writer sat as the Irish delegate at the UN at a time when such delegates were positioned alphabetically... managing to find himself between the delegates of Israel and Iraq!
The amount of detail in this book is breathtaking and will provide any reader with a deeper understanding of modern day Israel and the true history & underlying context of the Middle East conflict. A context which reveals that the Arab violence and hatred of the Jews was present long before the re-birth of Israel in 1948 and that this hatred of the Jews does not originate with the taking of the "West Bank" (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza during the 1967 war.
Indeed, the Palestinian issue is among many of the subjects investigated in this excellent book, which unfortunately was published shortly before the recent Palestinian intifadas began in 1987 & therefore is lacking in any reference to the current situation. However, the relevance and importance of this book cannot be understated. It's historical accuracy is amazingly sound and very readable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fairly decent account 20 May 2008
Format:Hardcover
A decent account of the conflict between Israel and the Arab world, from the rise of Zionism to the mid-1980s.
O Brien strives to create a fair and balanced account and explains 'The Siege' as being about the question as to whether Israel has the right to exist , preceded by the question: Do Jews have the right to exist?
he honestly appraises the history of the situation as he sees it, and does not like the malevolent 'new historians' and revisionists, like Chomsky, Finkelstein, Said, Lenni Brenner, Michael Neumann and Israel Shahak, go back and rewrite history to suit their own destructive and malicious agenda against Israel.
The fact is that O Brien go's out of his way to be even-handed, which leads to a dilemma in itself.

The truth is that one cannot be objective in a conflict where it is clear to any fair-minded and honest observer who the aggressors are and always have been: The Jews peacefully returned to their ancient land, and for nearly a century the Arabs have been trying to drive them into the sea.
That is the bottom line of this conflict: The Arabs want to sweep Israel's Jews into the sea and Israel's Jews do not want to be swept into the sea.
How can you resolve a conflict like that?

He quotes Chaim Weizmann in his moment of clarity that the genuine anti-Zionists can never be appeased by any diplomatic or political formula as the objection of anti-Semites to the Jews is that they exist and of anti-Zionists that Jews exist in the Holy Land.
O Brien covers well the origins of modern Zionism and the movements of refugees from pogroms and later Nazism to the Holy Land.
The Jewish population of the Land of Israel (then Britain's Palestine Mandate) had stood at about 84 000 in 1925 and had reached around 400 000 in 1937.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read 18 Feb 2009
Format:Hardcover
The previous reviewer aptly describes what 'The Siege' attempts, and in my opinion, succeeds in doing which is to catalogue the historical events which help us to understand the unique mind-set of the modern-day Israeli Nation and how her determination to survive is mis-judged as being 'aggressive' and 'detrimental to peace' in the Middle East.

Having read this book many years ago, I would recommend it to those people who want to gain some insight into why Israel will always be in a state of 'siege'. How present day anti-Israeli rhetoric can be traced to a failing British Empire's reluctance to lose its power-base in 'Palestine' with disasterous repercussions to the present day. How 'Cold War' posturing of the USSR, China and the US was paramount to Israel's bid for Independence and ultimate survival. Overall, this is a must read for anyone interested in the making of a Nation and the central figures behind that nationhood.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book on the history of Israel 28 Dec 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
So how did Conor Cruise O'Brien, a born-and-bred Irishman, come to be writing a history of Israel? As he tells it, the United Nations used to seat its delegates alphabetically: and so he, representing Ireland, found himself sitting right between Israel and Iraq. This began his interest in the history of Israel, and his research eventually produced this fantastic book -- well-written, well-researched, and a pleasure to read. The subject matter itself is pretty interesting, and O'Brien has so many great turns-of-phrase that I found myself underlining as I went along. This book is highly recommended to anyone who wants to find out more about how Israel came to be.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Jewish History 16 Mar 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you only read one book to understand modern Israeli history, this one is it! O'Brien is fair and detailed, and a wonderful storyteller. The book tells the story of modern Israel with religious context but is primarily concerned with the individuals and state actors involved in the epic struggle to create the Jewish state. I read the book twice, partly because it was one of the primary texts for an Arab-Israeli relations class I took in graduate school, and because it was so good. This book provides the necessary details and history to allow a deep understanding of modern day Israel and place the ongoing conflict in the Middle East within historical context.
53 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From an unexpected corner. 6 Mar 2000
By sid1gen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
One of the best books on Israel and Zionism, this volume by Irish author Conor Cruise O'Brien deals with a poisonous subject in an intelligent manner, without avoiding taking sides, but attempting, and mostly succeeding, to understand all sides. Make no mistake, this is a pro-Israel book, and that is what I like about it. It manages to favor the Israelis in their struggle, but the author is an Irishman, so, at least, we won't have to listen to those who accuse anyone that takes a pro-Israel stance of being a Zionist. O'Brien does not see the Arabs with much benevolence, but it is difficult to blame him, given his knowledge of both Israelis and Arabs. His argument is plain from the title: the State of Israel has been subjected to a "siege" ever since its founding day, and, actually, the siege has been in operation from before. To the argument, so many times repeated that some people give it the quality of gospel, that before the creation of the modern State of Israel Arabs and Jews lived in harmony and Arabs didn't resent or hate their Jewish neighbors, O'Brien answers, through argument and solid foundations, that the resentment and hatred were there before World War I, and found expression in some of the most violent outbursts of mob action against the Jews ever seen. Of course not every one hated every one else, but the very powerful seed of dislike of the stranger, the dhimmi (second class subject in a Moslem land, always a non-Muslim, and increasingly a Jew, since Christians had powerful patrons in the nations of Europe) were already there, and so was their bitter fruit. Those who do not like Jews will skip this book, since the author manages to be non-Jewish but very much pro-Israel. However, those who want to know about the conflict, but do not want to read what they fear might be "propaganda" from either side, will find much of value in "The Siege." It has a clear slant, but that does not invalidate its information and the conclusions of the author.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant analysis of the history of Israel 30 Nov 2004
By Amore Roberto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is unfortunate that a book like this is no more available on print.

It is probably the best history of Israel I have read until now.

There are many ways in which you can write history: a factual and maybe emotionally charged description of events (Martin Gilbert), a militant history (Furio Colombo, Fiamma Nierenstein), a somewhat limited critical analysis of previous studies (sometimes presented under the name of revisionism - like - for Israel - the one of Zeev Sternhell).

This kind of history is different: it is mainly focused on the analysis of forces, equilibriums and strategies, some working some not, with an eminently diplomatic approach.

Because of the approach, attention is mainly focused on three arguments: the signals given by the parties involved, their ability to "read" the situation and the correct feedback.

Almost an essay on the so called logic of failure.

But the analysis can command a very special viewpoint, since it is restricted to the so called "Siege situation" in which options are limited, pressures strong and forces easily identifiable.

The result is a truly balanced appraisal of the history of Israel, that is not hiding anything but trying to present the many facets of the so called Siege, which the new nation has been forced to cope with.

So like in a real siege we are presented with the many parties: besieged, besiegers, friends and foes, and with the peculiar psychological and social consequences.

O'Brien is not using the siege theme as a way to blame one or the other party: the main concern is to assess the forces that are at work and to get rid of all rhetorical and unnecessary (pseudo-moral) over-structure. We're not presented with the heroic efforts of the Second and Third Aliah (truly heroic from my point of view) and nether with the blooming of desert by kibbutzim or larger than life portraits of Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan and Golda Meyr.

Far from this.

The best part of the book is no doubt the one dedicated to the Yom Kippur war: here O'Brien is at his best showing his consummate ability in unveiling the many forces at work and presenting a different but strongly built theory about how conflict was produced, a theory according to which both the Israeli and Egyptians were "played" by the machiavellian strategy of Kissinger in an unnecessary conflict.

One reason to read this book is obviously an interest for the history of Israel.

An other (at least for me), is the appreciation for the works and ideas of the author.

By O'Brien I had had the chance to read "The Long Affair - Thomas Jefferson and The French Revolution", a book in which, while not always agreeing with conclusions, I truly appreciated this method: not plain history, not pamphlet... but a carefully and detailed research (both in that and this book, it is amazing the amount of material and documents that have been taken into account), the constant analysis of options at hand (not just what happened but what could have happened if...) supported not by wishful thinking but by hard data - and not least appealing a certain tendency of the author to test his argument almost taking it to extreme consequences (in a sheer Popperian attitude).
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best accounts of this subject I have ever read!! 10 Oct 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this extremely easy (albeit long) to read book.
I marvel at O'brien's skill as a writer, researcher and author.
To me it read as a fascinating adventure story and was extremely meaningful. I wish it were still in print.
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