1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War
1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War is a non-fiction work written by Israeli historian Benny Morris. It was published by Yale University Press in 2008. The author is otherwise known for multiple other books such as Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem and Righteous Victims, being a member of the group called the 'new historians' and the individual who most popularized the term.
Background and contents
The author remarked in an interview, "The left wing and the right wing will both find things to attack in the book". He added, "Anyone who wants can find things to bash the Arabs with" and "anyone who wants can find things to bash the Jews with" given that the "book has everything in it, because that's the nature of history: it is really quite intricate."
The book details the Israeli War of Independence from a primarily military perspective, though wading into the numerous complex cultural, political, and social issues involved. The 1948 Palestinian exodus from various areas as well as the latter Arab-Israeli conflict are delved into in the context of the initial fighting. Morris describes a multi-faceted struggle in which numerous war crimes occur, many committed by Jewish forces despite later apologia attempting to minimize such events. He writes, "In truth... the Jews committed far more atrocities than the Arabs and killed far more civilians and PoWs in deliberate acts of brutality in the course of 1948."
The character of the Arabic forces assaulting the Jewish communities is also described as having a highly ideological, Islamist nature. Morris views the 1948 bloodshed as having a broader sense of having a conflict between civilizations, with many soldiers seeing themselves as engaging in 'jihad'. However, he states that the disorganized, divided leadership of the Arabic forces provided military opportunities from their own ineptness that the Jewish militants seized; a simplistic 'David versus Goliath' narrative does not fit.
Reviews and responses
The Guardian published a supportive review by fellow historian Avi Shlaim. He wrote, "Morris subjects the conflicting national narratives of the 1948 war to rigorous scrutiny in the light of the evidence and he discards all the notions, however deeply cherished, that do not stand up to such scrutiny." While criticizing some of Morris' arguments, Shlaim praised the book as an "impressive achievement of original research and synthesis" and concluded that it provided a historical account "presented in a fluent and readable style".
An article published in the Middle East Quarterly interviewing the author and discussing the work stated that in 1948: History of the First Arab-Israeli War "even when difficult facts come up, Morris tries to preserve balance and composure."
- 2008 in literature
- Arab-Israeli conflict
- Army of Shadows
- The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
- History of Israel
- Israeli war of independence
- Palestinian exodus of 1948
- Palestinian refugee
- Shlaim, Avi (30 May 2008). "No sentiments in war". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2016.