Avi Shlaim and Benny Morris are both pioneer “new historians” of Israel who challenged some of the country’s most potent founding myths. Shlaim’s classic The Iron Wall – the one book everyone should read for a concise history of Israel’s relations with Arabs from 1947 – showed, among much else, how consistently Israel pursued the imperative of negotiating from military strength, and the diplomatic opportunities it missed in the process. Morris, in The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, became the first Israeli historian to drive, in the words of Shlaim himself in this book, “a coach and horses through the claim that the Palestinians left Palestine of their own accord or on orders from their leaders.”
But there the similarity ends. Other than in one movingly acknowledged respect, Shlaim has remained remarkably consistent over many years. The angriest of this richly varied and often entertaining collection of essays (including a vigorous critique of Morris) is on last winter’s 22-day onslaught on Gaza, which concludes that it is “difficult to resist the conclusion that [Israel] has become a rogue state”.
Read the full review here.
Shlaim and Jacqueline Rose are both members of Independent Jewish Voices, a group of Jews in Britain from diverse backgrounds, occupations and affiliations who have in common a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights. Visit the Independent Jewish Voices website.