Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999

Benny Morris, Author Alfred A. Knopf $40 (768p) ISBN 978-0-679-42120-7
Like Avi Shlaim (see above), Morris is a revisionist historian working to deflate the heroic-romantic Zionist view of Israeli history. A professor of history at Israel's Ben-Gurion University, Morris (The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem) offers readers a more scholarly, rigorous book than either Shlaim or the authors of The Fifty Years War (see above). He also takes a longer and a deeper view, detailing relations between Israel and the Arabs since the beginning of the modern Zionist movement in the late 19th century and digging beneath politics and diplomacy to get at the broader social and cultural history of Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews. One of his central points is that the very success of Israel as a state has allowed the Palestinians to appropriate the identity of history's victims--an identity once central to Israelis' view of themselves. Morris makes very clear how Israel's military and economic successes have slowly forced most of the Arab world to accept a Jewish state. At the same time, he notes the irony that the triumph of Zionism helped create a distinct Palestinian national identity that didn't previously exist. His view of Zionism is almost detached as he documents its successes. He has no trouble calling Zionism a ""colonizing"" movement, but he doesn't strongly condemn it for being so. His harsh judgment that a ""fragmented, venal political elite"" retarded the Palestinian cause does not make him deny the merits of the cause. Crisply written, balanced and comprehensive, this is an indispensable work of history. History Book Club alternate selection. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999
Release date: 09/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 800 pages - 978-0-679-74475-7
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