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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for Anyone Interested in the Conflict
Books on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict tend to reflect the prejudices of the author more than they show what actually occured. However this book, although not perfect, is the closest thing I have read to a balanced account of the conflict.

This book is a fairly comprehensive diplomatic summary of the conflict that covers the period before the...
Published on 14 Aug 2006 by Wally

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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars exhaustive but exhausting
Other reviewers have listed the strengths of this book so I will refrain from repeating their comments here. Suffice as to say Shlaim's research is impeccable and he challenges many myths central to the founding of the State of Israel and the claims of many 'mainsteam' Middle East commentaries. Particularly impressive are his early chapters dealing with the dispossession...
Published on 4 Jan 2004 by steven garside


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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for Anyone Interested in the Conflict, 14 Aug 2006
By 
This review is from: The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Paperback)
Books on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict tend to reflect the prejudices of the author more than they show what actually occured. However this book, although not perfect, is the closest thing I have read to a balanced account of the conflict.

This book is a fairly comprehensive diplomatic summary of the conflict that covers the period before the foundation of the state of Israel through to the election of Ehud Barak as Isarel's prime minister. Shlaim is an Israeli-Jew who believes in a two state solution to the conflict, and this comes across in his writing. He criticises both Israel and the Arab states when they squandered opportunities to achieve the solution Shlaim would prefer to see.

There are books which focus on specific aspects of the conflict which are perhaps more useful to understanding the conflict than this, but this is probably the best account currently available which covers the all the Arab-Israeli wars. However while you should definitely read this book, there are a few things which you should be aware of.

This book is primarily a diplomatic history of Israel. This means it goes into great detail on Israel's foreign policy. This means that it can sometimes get bogged down in the details of negotiations. It also means that it focuses more on pre-war and post-war diplomacy more than on the actual wars themselves.

The books main flaw however is that it views the conflict largely based on Israel's viewpoint. Shlaim is sometimes supportive of Israel, and often critical, but his focus is generally Israel. Since this is a diplomatic history, and the Palestinians are without a state, they recieve little attention.

Due, perhaps, to his personal views on the best outcome of the conflict, Shlaim is not as critical as he should be of the Oslo process. He ends the book hopeful about the "peace process" and Barak, though subsequent events have showed this optimism to be misplaced.

However despite these complaints, this book is a must read. No one book is enough to understand the conflict, but this one is as good a starting point as you are likely to find.
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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars exhaustive but exhausting, 4 Jan 2004
By 
steven garside (manchester, greater manchester United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Paperback)
Other reviewers have listed the strengths of this book so I will refrain from repeating their comments here. Suffice as to say Shlaim's research is impeccable and he challenges many myths central to the founding of the State of Israel and the claims of many 'mainsteam' Middle East commentaries. Particularly impressive are his early chapters dealing with the dispossession of the Palestinians and the lost diplomatic opportunities resulting from Isreal's 'iron wall' stance towards the Arab states.
However, where I would dissent from other reviewers is that I found the book's momentum became bogged down in the second half in a thicket of irrelevant detail. Every single diplomatic initiative and exchange, great and small, is described exhaustively. The most insignificant aspects of meetings are noted e.g. chapter 11 even describes the dining arrangements at a meeting attended by King Hussein of Jordan and Shimon Peres, and who did the washing up!. The upshot of all this pointless and tiresome clutter is that Schlaim's promised central narrative - the destructive consequences of the 'iron wall' doctrine of revisionist Zionism - gets lost along the way. This fine work of scholarship clearly would have benefited from improved editing. With footnotes it runs to over 640 pages.
Another major problem with the book is that its narrow diplomatic focus makes the Palestinians as 'a people', largely invisible players. Readers wanting a more rounded socio-economic approach, or one which deals with political events 'on the ground' would be advised to look to Edward Said, Ilan Pappe, Noam Chomsky or Baruch Kimmerling and Joel Migdal's work.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Objective, fair-minded, just., 2 April 2001
This review is from: The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Paperback)
A truly amasing book by a sincere objective and intellectually sound historian. Avi Shlaim succeeds where so many other authors on the subject have gone so tragically wrong.
He gives a sound, comprehensive analysis of the creation of the state of Israel within a historic and political context. But he goes further than that. He presents his views and criticises where necessary both the Israelite politicians and the state.
The use of language is understandable and simple. This enables the reader to focus on the content rather than the unneccessary long/complicated language used by many historians.
I recommend this book strongly to anyone who wants to find out more about Israel and the Arab World. Edward W. Said was absolutely right in saying that this book is a:
"A milestone in modern scholorship of the Middle East"
He couldnt have got it more right than this!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, well-researched, 13 July 2014
This review is from: The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Paperback)
Excellent book, well-researched and well-written. Useful both to the less and more knowledgeable on the subject.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive book on the Arab-Isaeli conflict., 1 July 2001
This review is from: The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Paperback)
Avi Schlaim's 'The Iron Wall' traces the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict from the very birth of the Zionist movement to the present day. An incredibly honest, fair and detailed history of the conflict is brought to life through Schlaim's writing. Every Israeli and Arab should read this book to understand just how often their respective leaders have allowed blinding ideology and dogmatic nationalism stand in the way of peace in the region. This book turned every one of my personal preconception of the politics of the region on its head. If you are interested in reading your first book on the Israeli-Arab conflict, this surely must be the one. Ziad Nassar
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent diplomatic history, 15 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Paperback)
Avi Shlaim has written a great book about the myths and realities of Israel's relationships with it's Arab neighbours governments.He's had access to many archives and shows that many mistakes were made by Israeli leaders in their analyses and responses to the Arab world.He also makes clear that crimes and mistakes were plentiful on bothe sides of the Arab-Israel dispute,there are no goodies or baddies in this history.
The strength of the book-the focus on diplomacy-is also it's weakness.As the Palestinians didn't have a government,and their organisations such as the PLO didn't have diplomatic ties with Israel till 1992,the first and most important casualties of the Arab-Israel conflict are largely invisible till the latter part of the book,ie until after 1970.
Still,well worth a read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Arab-Israeli conflict, 5 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Paperback)
An excellent thoroughly readable account of events leading to the inception of the state of Israel and subsequent problems.I approached this from the standpoint of the general reader and now feel much better informed about the complexities of the issues involved in this chronically turbulent region. As a Jew who did national service in Israel the author does not shy away from criticism of the Zionist cause where he feels it appropriate. I highly recommend this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbiased history of Arab/Israeli relations, 9 Nov 2010
This review is from: The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Paperback)
The Iron Wall is a thoroughly well researched and well written review of the history of relations between the relatively recent State of Israel and all her Arab neighbours. Published in 2000, a similarly readable book by Avi Shlaim of the last decade would be most welcome. Written by a Jew living and working in the UK, it is unbiased and very balanced. Having visited Israel/Palestine a number of times, I recommend it to my friends who want an honest overview of 20th century developments in the field of Arab/Israeli relations.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I have on the conflict, 15 Jun 2010
By 
Chris Bird (Shropshire UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Paperback)
Written by an Israeli Historian the book attenmpts to describe the history of Israel since the second world war. It succeeds brilliantly and I feel should be read by any one with an interst in the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, interesting, unbiased but occasionally goes into too many small details, 28 May 2009
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This review is from: The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (Paperback)
This is a clear but precise, well-written, interesting and (as far as anyone can be) unbiased history of the entire Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflict from the first Zionist settlement in the British Mandate of Palestine to 1999.

In some chapters towards the middle of the book it goes into far too many small details though, which will probably make it much harder for other historians to criticise it, but made parts of the book very slow going for me.

Throughout most of the book Shlaim avoids any temptation to judge his own country's government on different standards from its opponents.

It only falls down (and only very slightly) in its coverage of the Labor government of Yitzakh Rabin and the election of the Barak government and becomes slightly distorted by the author's preference for the Labor party over Likud . However even here Shlaim presents the basic facts without fear or favour, only making his evaluation of Rabin's offer of Palestinian autonomy without real soveriegnty or a viable state more positive than it deserves to be.

Shlaim rightly condemns Peres' 'Operation Grapes of Wrath' as a moral, military and political failure (though a less ambiguous phrase would be 'war crime against civilians).

Despite these minor flaws i would recommend any book by Avi Shlaim to anyone wanting an interesting, well written and unbiased account of the Israel-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
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The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World
The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World by Avi Shlaim (Paperback - 12 Feb 2001)
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