The Guardian’s Ian Black recently reviewed Avi Shlaim’s Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions and Refutations. In a detailed account of the key episodes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Black recognises that “Avi Shlaim has been a significant figure on this treacherous territory for 20 years – in part, perhaps, because his professorial perch in Oxford is far from the frontlines of the Middle East; in part because his own identity as an Iraqi-born Israeli Jew helps to bridge the divide between bitter enemies.”
Black writes “Shlaim’s fundamental position runs like a steel core through this collection of essays and reviews: the creation of Israel in 1948 represented “a terrible injustice” for the Palestinians, whose homeland was erased from the map. But that injustice sits alongside another one: the hideous persecution of the Jews – “a people . . . like any other [with] a natural right to self-determination” – culminating in the Nazi genocide.” However, as Black acknowledges, this is not just a history book, but a tool for understanding the future prospects of the Israeli-Palestinian region:
Shlaim quotes the still-relevant words of Moshe Dayan, “Our American friends give us money, arms and advice,” the general quipped. “We take the money, we take the arms but we decline the advice.” Barack Obama might well reflect on that as he contemplates his failure, so far at least, to persuade Netanyahu even to freeze settlements, let alone surrender the remaining territories Israel has now occupied for over 40 years.