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1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War Hardcover – Apr 21 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 21 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300126964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300126969
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 17 x 4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 921 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #384,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Format: Hardcover
Having read 1967 by Tom Segev (another good book), I wanted to get a better overall feel for the initial years of Israel statehood. I found the book well-written, a good quantum but not boring details, and over-all enjoyable reading. Would have like to see a few more pictures of some of the key people and maybe a few more well placed maps in order to follow some of the action (there are some maps in the book but being unfamiliar with the towns and villages, a picture is worth a thousand words...). Definitely would recommend the book and found it provided the background history I was looking for.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 48 reviews
69 of 74 people found the following review helpful
The most important book on 1948 April 29 2008
By Seth J. Frantzman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In tackling the controversial and important, but gigantic, subject of the 1948 war, the Nakba, the Israeli was of independence, Mr. Morris has come full circle from his original study The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (Cambridge Middle East Library). This journey was a process that has already involved one revision of that celebrated thesis on the Palestinian refugees. Undoubtedly it was inevitable that this book had to be written in order not only to show the context and the military side of 1948 but also to show the Jewish side, the fate of Jewish areas conquered by Arabs, the fate of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, and the agency, the decisions, made by Arab leaders and local Arabs that led to the war.

There have been other stand alone studies of the war by Gelber, Palestine 1948: War, Escape And The Emergence Of The Palestinian Refugee Problem and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and War in Palestine, 1948: Strategy and Diplomacy (Israeli History, Politics, and Society). But each has had its own weaknesses, either because it concentrates on the military aspects or because it is terribly biased.

Here, at last, is a full account that is not biased and is not overly focused on the military side and does not take for granted the conclusion that the Zionists would prevail and therefore all their actions should be judged as if they knew the results beforehand. Morris also sheds light on the fate of Christian Arab villages in the war and the many nuances of the war, including the very controversial issues of massacres and 'ethnic-cleansing'.

This book is a tour de force, a masterpiece of writing that should be read by anyone interested in the conflict, the Middle East, Israel, the Palestinians or the Holy Land. It strips away the clichés of 'conceived in sin' and the old narratives of right and wrong and heroism and suffering and presents a balanced historical view based on archival sources.

The organization of the book is first class. It is chronological and divides the war by phases, especially the civil war between November 29th, 1947 and May 15th, 1948. It gives the reader a complete understanding of the military situation and how the Jewish forces, which were composed originally of an underground militia and several smaller units, was able to gain mastery over not only Arab militias but also Arab armies that were supplied with modern European weaponry. How they overcame both the air forces, artillery and armour that was thrown at them and how they succeeded, using interior lines, to actually bring the war into the Sinai and Lebanon.

Seth J. Frantzman
50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
A Vital Work on the 1948 Israeli-Arab War May 5 2008
By Eric Maroney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In 1948 Benny Morris shows himself to be a first-rate historian with an accurate and detailed command of the events leading up to the first Arab Israeli War and the war itself. The book is primarily the military history of the conflict, and Morris is a well informed chronicler of military engagements. Morris, also considered one of the grandfathers of the "revisionist" school of Israeli historiography, here shows that he is not afraid to document both Jewish/Israel and Palestinian/Arab excesses and missteps in the war, opportunities missed or failed to be exploited. By and large Morris is very sympathetic to the Zionist enterprise in the Holy Land in this book. He views war in 1948 as inevitable given the demographic/strategic situation in Palestine since the arrival of the first Zionist settlers in the 1880s. This is in keeping with some of his more recent utterances about the Israeli Arab/Palestinian conflict. Given the pressure the Yishuv and early state of Israel were under, he states, conflict was unavoidable. In 1948 Morris seeks to show that calls for jihad against the Jews in Palestine was no mere bluster; that it was just as powerful (if not more so) source of Arab ire against Israel as the rising sense of Arab nationalism following WWII. It is here, I suppose, where Morris makes his most original contribution to the study of the 1948 war.
53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Beginning of the Cycle April 27 2008
By Keith A. Comess - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Benny Morris, considered by many to be the"Dean" of Israeli Middle Eastern historians, is noted for "revisionist" works on the genesis of the Palestinian Arab refugee issue and rewriting of Israeli historical hagiography. This book, a comprehensive history of the dual-phase 1947-1948 war (civil war between Jews and Arabs antedating Partition, followed by invasion by a constellation of Arab professional militaries and various ad hoc militias) reviews the entire enterprise from both a military and political perspective.

The book can be divided into three segments: 1). an introductory section, which places in context the, 2). major middle-section, which exhaustively deals with military affairs and, 3). a summary/conclusion section, which presents the author's perspectives based on presently available evidence. As Arab archives have not been opened to researchers as of the 2008 publication date, this work cannot be considered "definitive", but certainly holds this status as of now.

There is one major shortcoming of this book: the lack of maps. The barrage of detail on virtually every military and paramilitary engagement becomes confusing and frustrating, as the reader cannot readily follow the strategy and tactics elaborated in the text. Further, many of the maps have inadequate legends, rendering the majority of them difficult to understand.

Morris attributes the Israeli military victories to a combination of better planning, better logistics, better preparation, better motivation, better training, fighting along "interior lines", internal cohesion in the form of communality of purpose and international sympathy. Surprisingly (at least for many readers) much of the initial political and military support came from the Soviet Union, later an ardent partisan of the Arab cause and foe of Israel. Czechoslovakian arms, supplementing those bought from international weapons dealers, helped turn the tide, in addition to the above factors. Conversely, lack of purpose, infighting, jockeying for advantage vis-a-vis rival regimes and cynical manipulation of Arab public opinion by Arab political elites did little to fashion a force capable of opposing the Jews. Heated rhetoric, in other words, did not serve as an adequate substitute for assiduous planning and training. Worse, innumerable inflammatory and "eliminationist" statements regarding the Jews tended to provoke, amplify and reinforce pre-existing reciprocal thoughts and statements in their enemies, hardening positions to the point of ossification; thus, the genesis of the current mess. The complexity of the situation is further enhanced by complicity of various Arabs in the acquisition of lands by the Jews. The branding of numerous Arabs as "traitors" by the mercurial Mufti of Jerusalem, Husseini, heightened internecine disputes, often with lethal consequences, not only for the "perpetrators", but also for the cause; this behavior continues to the present day.

As for presenting a "balanced" perspective on the "Middle East Problem", the author makes every effort to be scrupulously objective. Israeli military and paramilitary actions that resulted in war crimes against civilians were frankly acknowledged, as was the policy that underlay them, to wit, generally ad hoc, rather than the result of the product of Macheavellian scheming and malevolence. Whle Morris states that the Israelis committed more atrocities than did the Arabs, he notes that this was an accident of opportunity, rather than evidence of moral superiority of the Arabs and their fighters. His synopsis of the motivations of Zionist, British, Arab and Ottoman participants in the genesis of the modern Middle East is fair and bluntly accurate.

Certainly, one could conclude that the Zionist enterprise was not any more or less "fair" than the "Manifest Destiny" of the white invaders of the Americas (murdering, cheating, displacing and finally segregating the indigenous inhabitants into "reservations", where many continue to reside under rank and disgraceful conditions) or of the British in Australia, to cite but two examples. Similarly, the displacement of Arabs from their land is not much different from the massive population transfers that occurred after WW-II in, for example, the case of the German (civilian) expulsions from Poland and Czechoslovakia. Perhaps a better example would be the displacement/population exchange of millions of Hindus and Muslims during the Partition of India and Pakistan, which occurred around the same time (circa 1947). That division, accompanied by generally involuntary "repatriation" based on ethnic and religious affiliation, was accompanied by considerable violence, property damage/confiscation and left a residue of bitter inter-communal hatred, with intermittent terrorist attacks and threatened international war. These examples are not cited by Morris and are not offered by me as justifications; they merely illustrate a fundemental aspect of human nature.

In summary, this is an excellent history which would benefit from inclusion of more detailed maps to accompany the more important military engagements. It is objectively written, comprehensively referenced and the conclusions drawn by the author are buttressed by data and temperately drawn.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
An Accessible History of a War That Changed History May 9 2008
By Stuart M. Wilder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I approached this book with caution. I had not read any of Morris' prior books, fearful of his reputation (earned or not) for bashing the Israeli side without providing context for their actions. Though when I read history I already know how the story ends, I want something fresh, with context, and an attempt to give the losing side a chance to explain what it was thinking. To my delight, and to the benefit of those who like me devour serious histories written for scholars and non-scholars, Morris accomplishes this.

"1948" skillfully weaves together the political and military history of Israel's war of independence. The atrocities of war being what they are, he places those committed by Israelis, whose command was not always unified, against the Arabs' threats to destroy them Those threats remained largely (though far from completely) unfulfilled due to incompetence, and not a lack of desire. The Arab countries surrounding Israel had no interest in allowing the Arabs who lived in Mandate Palestine to form their own country, and the the Arabs who lived within the Mandate territory (whom we now call Palestinians) lacked the will to better their situation militarily, economically, educationally and politically. If they had succeeded in driving out the Jews, they would not have been Palestinians, but Egyptians, Syrians, and Jordanians. Their land would probably still be impoverished, disease ridden, and lacking any serious institutions of higher learning. They did not want a nation-- they just wanted the Jews to leave.

The men and women who formed modern Israel determined that they would be victims no more. Few gentiles complained when, wherever they lived, Jews' land, chattel and lives were stolen or destroyed. The Israelis' story, as told by Morris, is not always a comfortable one for Western sensibilities, but it holds up well compared to the birth of most other nations in the last one hundred years. That Morris could write a book that seems to contradict many of the theories he has put forward in the past is a credit to his intellectual honesty. That he can relate the tale in such an accessible package is to the history book reading public's benefit.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Bad format errors in digitizing 1948 for Kindle Jan. 9 2012
By GregoryRose - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The appalling formatting by Amazon of 1948 as a Kindle ebook is disgraceful in its omissions and sloppy in its errors.
Hyperlinks are mostly missing: there are none for the table of maps; there are none for the endnotes; and some hyperlinks even in the table of contents are erroneous. Every two paragraphs there are broken words, text mistakenly in superscript, misplaced mid-word hyphens, and suchlike.
Given that there is little price difference from the hard copy, the ebook should have its advantage in convenience for the reader. Yet when formatted so sloppily or with disdainful omissions, the reader is inconvenienced and cheated. 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War

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