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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate
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on 19 February 2013
Why were we in Palestine? To keep the French out. There followed the carpetbaggers - and the shockwaves of WW1 are with us yet. I'm an absolute sucker for books about this surreal tranche of mid-Eastern muddle*, and for a 500-page doorstop this is a rollicking read (AD Gordon 'a kind of local Tolstoy'? Jerusalem 'an international sandbox'?) underpinned by a wondrous web of documentation (thirty references for the ten-page intro alone). Not only has Segev walked the walk, he makes a humane and genial host

The fluent, by and large dependable translation (though you don't increase something 'by tenfold' any more than you enlarge it 'by twice') is the work of the unsung - and all-round good guy - Haim Watzman. Thomas Macaulay appears in the index as Samuel Macaulay, a venial sin

* Israeli-American Ari Sherman wrote a fine account, Mandate Days, from a British perspective, and there's also a book by a wonderful Anglo-Israeli woman writer whose name escapes me for the moment (Isobel somebody?)
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on 27 March 2010
...which was never as one-dimensional as either Zionists or their enemies seem to want to portray it. Overall, the British favoured the Zionists in their plans to take over Palestine and turn it into a Jewish state. In fact, it's pretty clear that without the British, Zionism would have been an interesting footnote in the history of Palestine. But lots of Brits on the ground didn't like the Zionists and went to some lengths to favour the Palestinian Arabs. The book is generally sympathetic to the latter, but doesn't attempt to hide some of the more unpleasant aspects of the opposition to Jewish immigration. It's not surprising that the Arabs didn't want Jews who planned to take over their country, and had plans to 'transfer' them away, to immigrate. It's not surprising that they lined up with other people around the world who were also enemies of Jews - most obviously the Nazis. It's not even surprising that the resistance to Zionism was occasionally violent and bloody - though for the most part the Arabs were too incompetent, divided, and weak to make any difference in their resistance.

For completeness it might have been good to hear more about the forces driving the Jews to emigrate. Of course, not all of them wanted to go to Palestine, and not all of the ones that ended up there were Zionists - at least not in their motivations to go to Palestine. But the material conditions that gave rise to Zionism as a mass movement among Jews, particularly in Eastern and Central Europe, are absent from this book - not suprisingly, because it's about Palestine.

A good answer to the questions about what happened in the past and how Israel was created; not necessarily helpful in saying where we go from here, though that's not what it's supposed to be.

Lots of brilliant detail and anecdotes - a great book.
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on 12 February 2001
For more than thirty years the British ruled Palestine. Having entered Jerusalem in November 1917 in the wake of the campaign against the joint Ottoman-German forces, they left it in May 1948 in the mist of the Jewish-Arab war and the Zionist terrorist campaign that resulted in the foundation of the State of Israel and the destruction of the Palestinian Arab society. In the mean time the British fulfilled the plead made to the Zionism movement in 1917 by Lord Balfour and laid the foundation of the Jewish state the Zionists have dreamed of. The relationship between the local British administration, the British government in London, the Zionist Organization, and the Jewish population in Palestine was not always smooth but London kept its promise and did help the Zionists (their fellow Europeans) against the native Arab majority when they needed more support and protection. As a result the Jewish population of Palestine rose from less than 10% in 1919 to a bit more than 1/3 in 1948, it organized itself politically and militarily under the British umbrella, and prepared itself for the final show-down with the Arab population whose organization and leaders, never too strong or organized anyway, had been mostly destroyed in the suppression of the Arab revolt of 1936-39, and could at no point match the superior administrative organization, military efficiency and international public relations skills of the Zionists. This excelent book describes these events and traces the diplomatic and political discussions between the British and the Zionists during these tumultuous years. The book is not only extremely interesting and well written, but also very entertaining and lively, due to the author very competent use of a score of diaries, letters and other private documents to make the reader feel the mood of the times and the atmosphere surronding the historical events: Count Ballobar's (Spain's consul in Jerusalem in the last days of the Ottoman rule) and Al-Sakakini's diaries are particularly delighful. The only drawback is the somewhat misleading subtitle: the book is essentially about the Yishuv and the Zionist Organization under British rule, not about the Arabs, that, although treated with a commendable degree of fairness and understanding when they enter the narrative, they do so, in most of the cases, only in reaction against the Jews or the Administration. They are mainly part of the landscape and not a subject of the narrative in an equal footing with the other two partners in the struggle for Palestine. Apart from this minor detail, which has probably more to do with the subtitle of the english translation than with the original intention of the author, this is indeed a first rate book
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on 29 September 2016
There are a great many books out there on pre-Israel Palestine. Some are clearly pro-Zionist. some are clearly anti-Zionist and some try very hard but with great difficulty to be objective. I congratulate the latter especially on their courage at attempting any degree of impartiality.
Tom Segev's book 'One Palestine, Complete', unhappily does not seem to fall into any of these categories. It comes across as a directionless mishmash. I had no sense of reading anything new, original or even vaguely illuminating in it. I doubt sometimes that Mr Segev even realises or remembers he is Israeli. I think he has fallen into the shadows of Western anodyne liberal academia, or writing meaninglessness and thinking it meaningful, impartial and illuminating. If Israel didn't exist he would doubtless find something equally meaningless to write about Tibet, or Armenia or the Ukraine etc. They say 'no smoke without fire'. I should imagine he has invented by himself the fireless, passionless smoke producer.
Please read any book but a book by Tom Segev. Unless the reader is a Segev clone, there are plenty of passionate intelligent and much better written pro-and anti-Zionist books out there for an intelligent reader to get their teeth into and make up their own minds...
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on 18 October 2010
A superb account of the background to and implications of the British rule in Palestine 1917-1948. Completely unbiased in his appraisal, Segev doesn't shy away from either the Zionists own failings, the Arabs' misguided ineptitude, or the British accountability for the mess which is still obviously needing resolution in Israel-Palestine today. Very thorough and briliantly written. If you want a good understanding of how this lengthy conflict really began, this is the book to read.
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on 4 September 2008
Tom Segev's history of Palestine under the British Mandate utilises a number of diaries to chart the experiences of residents, political leaders and British administrators during the period 1917 to 1948. The book begins under the last days of Turkish rule and describes life as Allenby's forces approach Jerusalem. The very effective lobbying of Chaim Weitzmann in London and the effect of the Balfour Declaration from the government of Lloyd George, the establishment of the civilian British administration and the frantic activity of the main Zionist groups in Palestine are well related. The diary entries referred to above provide a very real local dimension to the history. The Jewish immigration and the establishment of a Jewish infrastructure, often with very real help from the British authorities, is contrasted with the lack of help or education offered to the Arab population; contrasting the implicit European versus 'native' approaches. The Arab Revolt of 1929 onwards, the creation of Tel Aviv and ultimately the effects of the Second World War are described with skill and clarity.

The acts of Jewish terrorism by Irgun (Etzel) and Haganah are mentioned but almost en passant. Here we have the general weakness of the narrative; the book is about the British and the Zionists, and the Arab presence is largely one dimensional despite some notable diary extracts. As so often happens, complete character profiles are given to many Jewish casualties whilst Arab losses are often just numbers. Unfortunately Segev also continues the idea that when the State of Israel was agreed at the UN many Arabs simply fled the country leaving it to the Jews. This is true, but many, many, more were driven from their towns and villages and died in the process. The long term planning and implementation of this co-ordinated and forced ejection is completely ignored. The book also appears to operate in a moral vacuum, in that whilst being very even handed in its description of events, it fails to address whether or not it can be right for an immigrant population to dispossess the indigenous Arabs of their land and country. An excellent and worthwhile read despite these criticisms.
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on 19 February 2017
The best book on the origins of the conflict in Israel. Objective, authoritative, compelling. Highly recommended.
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on 3 January 2017
Sorry not able to review,
,all items were a gift for a grandson, he was very pleased to receive them.
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on 25 December 2007
I thoroughly enjoyed this vivid journey through the lives and events of peoples lives in the Holy land prior to 1948. It looks in depth at Britains attempts to retain some form of order within a nation rotten to the core. Britains attempt to retain a facade of stability was relatively successful until Arab & Jewish terrorism took root after the 1936-39 Arab revolt and the arms race it began. A much needed book giving a good look at how the people lived in the political hot-potato of Palestine. I fervently recommend this welll written book.
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on 2 September 2016
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