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Title : A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time
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ISBN : 9780375711329
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 1296 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time Reviews

  • Gary
    2019-01-16 11:10

    It is very difficult to accurately and comprehensively analyse this work.The fact is that Sachar go's out of his way to be even-handed, which leads to a dilemma in itself.The truth is that one cannot be objective in a conflict where it is clear to any fair-minded and honest observer who the agressors are and always have been: The Jews peacefully returned to their ancient land, and for nearly a century the Arabs have been trying to drive them into the sea.There are times when I am uncomfortable with the author's particularly unfair treatment of the Jewish freedom fighters- the Irgun and Lechi- whom he labels as 'terrorists'.At the same time, he honestly appraises the history of the situation as he see's it, and does not like the malevolent 'new historians' and revisionists, like Chomsky, Finkelstein, Said, Lenni Brenner and Israel Shahak, go back and rewrite history to suit their own destructive and malicious agenda against Israel.This is an honest appraisal, in which the author strives to be fair.Though his commentary is not always to my liking, he sticks to the facts, except in cases like the so-called massacre of Deir Yassin, where he has accepted the 'official' version' of events, despite clear evidence that there had been no deliberate killing of Arab civillians by the Jews.The author begins by outlining the beginnings of the Zionist movement, the work of pioneers such as Moshe Hess, Leo Pinsker, Moses Montefiore, Achad Ha'am, Theodore Herzl, Chaim Weizmann and Vladimir Jabotinsky. He describes their strugles to adapt to harsh terrain, in the land which had flourished two thousand years before, when their ancestors lived there.He describes how sucessive waves of Jews returning to the Land of Israel, struggled to adapt, often, to the homeland that was being restored.He writes of the purchase by the Jews from Arab absentee landlords. The book describes the revival of the Hebrew language, thanks to the efforts of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, and of the the long tradition of discrimination and dhimmni status of the Jews, in the Holy Land, and Arab countries under Islamic domination.We learn of the origins of Communist hostility to Zionism and the Israeli people, of the originally warm attitude to Zionism by forward thinking Arab leaders such as King Feisal of Syria, and the bloody pogroms by Arabs on Jewish communities in the Land of Israel in 1920, 1921, 1929 and 1936-1939.The truth is that a very large part of the Arab hostility to Zionism, and the returning Jews originated in the fear among the Arab aristocracy in the Holy Land, and elsewhere in neighbouring lands, that the egalitarian spirit of the Jews, the democracy and emphasis, on social justice and democracy would influence the Arab masses, and therefore threaten the powerbases of the Arab elites.We read of Hitler's ally and Jew-hater Mufti Haj Amin el Husseini, one of the original founders of Islamic jihad against the Jewish people, and his impassioned preaching of venom and genocide against the Jews.Much of the Arab hostility and agression towards the Jews of the then named 'Palestine' was encouraged by intense propaganda directed at the Arabs by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, this at a time when hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees where fleeing from Nazi Germany to the Holy Land.The book also highlights the Balfour Declaration and how the British later reneged, under Arab pressure, on the promises to the Jewish people of restoration to their ancient land.Many of the British actively assited the Arabs against the Jews, and the British blocked the netry of hundreds of thousands of Jews, attempting to enter 'Palestine' as an escape from Hitler's infernos.The book discusses the persecution of Jews in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt, and their mass expulsion from these countries after they fled from the Arab states, with nothing more than the clothes on their backs from the countries they had lived in for centuries.The book describes the miraculous survival of the Jews of Israel, during the Second World War, and their victories against overwhelming odds in the War of Independence, the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War.The book describes how before the Six Day War, the Arabs had surrounded Israel ,and openly issued hideous threats of genocide against all the Jews of Israel, forcing Israel to fire the first shots in order to survive(after Nasser had closed the Straights of Tiran) , and of the decades of infiltrations into Israel of marauding Arab terror bands killing Israeli men, women and children, including the massacres of Jewish children at Kiryat Shmona and Ma'alot, by the terrorists of the 'Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine'. And we also read of the cowardly attack by Arab states on Israel, that started the Yom Kippur War, and the unpreparedness of Israel's leadership that was scared to strike first for fear of upsetting world opinion.This was a tragic mistake that imperilled the Israeli nation, and led to many unnecesary deaths of Israelis.The book also describes the other triumphs of Israel: the absorbtion of millions of Jews, the struggles of the Oriental Jews (Jews from North Africa and the Middle East)for equality, the admirable building up of Israel's welfare state, and the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann in the early 1960's.He also reflect on the conflicts within Israeli society and, contrary to the allegations by an earlier reviewer, focuses much on the issues of Israeli Arabs.The trial of Eichmann brought home the horrors of the holocaust, and the lessons derived by the holocaust, by emphasizing the dangers inherent towards a Jewish minority living among a non-Jewish majority, and the need for an ingathering of Jews from all parts of the world in a homeland of their own.During a break in the court sessions of Israel's thirteenth Independence day, David Ben-Gurion referred to the Eichmnn trial in a speech:"Here for the first time in Jewish history, historical justice is being done by the sovereign Jewish people. For many generations it was we who suffered, who were tortured, who were killed-and were judged...for the first time, Israel is judging the killers of the Jewish people...and let us bear in mind that only the independence of Israel could create the necesary conditions for the historic act of justice".Never again can catastrophy allowed to overtake the Jewish people, and the Jewish people subjected to genocide, especially not in their own homeland.In a hostile world, much of which wants Israel destroyed, Israel must and will survive...with the help of the Allmighty

  • Ryan
    2019-01-03 16:28

    At one point in this sprawling history, Sachar suggests one root of the Arab/Israeli conflict is that early Zionist settlers in Palestine simply forgot to take serious notice of the Arabs already living on the land, and never reckoned with them until it was too late. This is an error Sachar is eager to repeat in his narrative history of the birth and troubled life of Israel. That flaw aside, "A History of Israel" is an indispensable primer on the history of the country from Herzl to the Second Lebanese War. Israel itself becomes a living and growing character in this book, with all its strengths, complications, triumphs and misdeeds.

  • Walter
    2018-12-20 11:38

    Reading this book is like asking someone for some water, and then having your house flooded. I tried to stick with this book, but it's so verbose and minutely detailed, that in the end one is unable to pull out, or care about, the important details. While I am confident that this is the definitive source on the subject, the text is barely readable. It's worthwhile as a reference book, little more.

  • Richard
    2018-12-26 09:26

    Essential for anyone trying to form intelligent opinions about the Middle East, Israel, and our world today.

  • Sarah
    2019-01-08 11:18

    Not the easiest of reads, but a very thorough, clear, and fair treatment of the history of Israel.

  • Czarny Pies
    2018-12-23 16:10

    I am giving this book four stars because I do not know the subject well enough to be sure that the author's judgements are sound in all areas. I would not be surprised if in fact this book merited an additional star because it is indeed very impressive. The strength of this book is its one weakness, it is extremely detailed and thus very long. For many readers who are only marginally interested in the topic, Sachar's work may in fact be too long. However, it is very rewarding for perseverant reader. The book is extremely well researched with consistently fair-handed analysis.While he stops short of saying that it is God's will that Israel exist and prosper, Sachar clearly loves the Jewish Homeland. This gives him the courage to criticize Israel's leaders whenever he believes they merit it, which in fact proves to be quite often. Sachar's views are largely consistent with those of most North American liberals. Israel's founders simply did not anticipate that their presence would be resented by their arab neighbours. By the time they discovered the truth, the problem was too big to be easily solved. Whenever the Israelis have tried to make amends, they have been kicked in the teeth. Sachar also has strong criticism of Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon and other recent political leaders in Israel. He suspects they are only too happy when their proffered hand is met with violence because it permits them to respond with aggression and seize more land. Keep in mind however that the strength of Sachar's book is not the large thesis but the wealth of detail. You will learn a great deal about Israel from this book and will be glad you read it even if you disagree violently with Sachar's conclusions.Sachar is very comprehensive. He covers the development of Israeli industry, their commercial relations with Europe, the nation's early problems with an unprofessional civil service. the issue of chronic political corruption and the incredible difficulties in creating a governing coalition in the Knesset. He explains how each wave of immigration brought with it different cultural values and fresh challenges for the political classes. Sachar loves the recent Russian immigrants who brought with them entrepreneurial skills and an intense dislike of the Orthodox rabbis both of which Sachar felt were desperately needed by Israel. Sachar is not an historian of the Christian, Muslim and Druze arabs. Consequently he refrains from any analysis of the Palestinians other than to note that they live in conditions of physical depravation and humiliation which has contributed to the periodic outbursts of violence against the Israeli occupation. The weakest parts of this book are those covering the nineteenth century. Here Sachar exhaustively analyzes the various currents of Western European Zionist thought (Herzl et al.) while showing scarcely any interest in the early settlements. Having recently read Simon Schama's Two Rothschild's and the Land of Israel which provides a very good history of the founding of the agricultural colonies, I believe they deserved more emphasis that they received in Sachar's book.In his rather less satisfactory survey history of Israel that I read three or four years ago Martin Gilbert describes Howard Sachar as being the leading historian Israel. I am now grateful to Martin Gilbert for having nudged me in the direction of his wonderful book by Sachar.

  • Tom
    2018-12-21 11:14

    Incredibly comprehensive. At 1100 pages, it was quite a commitment.

  • Adam Glantz
    2019-01-09 16:12

    -Though it had earlier antecedents, modern Zionism arose from the antisemitic reaction following Russian Czar Alexander II's assassination, which frustrated the aspirations of assimilationist Jewish liberals. Living in a dense and traditional Jewish milieu, Eastern Jews sought a Jewish cultural transformation that was absent from the Zionism of Western Jewries, who remained liberal and assimilationist. This came to a head in the dispute between Chaim Weizmann and Louis Brandeis; in some ways, the division lives on in the conflict between secular and religious Jews in modern Israel.-The piecemeal settlement of Ottoman Palestine by idealistic Zionists was a failure. Like the pietistic settlers who preceded them, Zionists were forced to fall back upon the charity of wealthy Jews, particularly Edmond de Rothschild. Jewish labor was at a disadvantage, as Arab labor was cheaper and more experienced. This obstacle would ultimately be overcome by acquiring land for exclusive Jewish exploitation (through the Jewish National Fund) and through collective settlements.-Sachar focuses heavily on the biography of Theodore Herzl, whose bold attempt to secure diplomatic backing for the creation of a Jewish state was a failure, but which captured the imagination of his contemporaries and created a movement. Herzl's political Zionism always evoked criticism from the more culturally-minded Zionists, and it fell dormant after his death until the unique circumstances of Britain during World War One suddenly revived it.-Many early-twentieth century British elites were sympathetic to Zionism, but the Balfour Declaration was essentially a response to British policy needs: to use Jewish influence to keep the provisional Russian government and the United States in the war, and then to use Jewish self-determination as a rationale for a post-war British presence in the region. Britain also made contradictory promises to the other Allies and to the region's Arabs.-Sachar feels that Mandate era tensions between Jews and Arabs might have ultimately been reconciled on the basis of economic self-interest, but intervening political conflicts doomed this. Internally, there was the struggle between the prominent Husseini and Nashishibi clans, which saw the former use increasingly radical appeals to nationalism as a way to outbid the latter. For their part, the Jews did not work very hard to reconcile Zionism with Arab grievances. Externally, frustrations after the failure of an Arab nationalist state in Syria catalyzed conflict in Palestine, as did the propaganda of revisionist Germany and Italy in the inter-war era. -British administrators were often pro-Arab, seeing Jewish immigration and the Jewish purchase of land for exclusive use by Jewish labor as irritating the Arabs, though Sachar points out that Jewish economic activity helped all the Mandate's inhabitants in absolute terms, even spurring Arab migration from other territories. From an early point, the British set limits on the Zionist enterprise, limiting immigration and excluding Transjordan from Jewish settlement. Periodic Arab riots led to British reassessments, which Sachar considers to be a case of rewarding violence. Hoping to pacify the area as a world war became more likely, Britain effectively renounced the Balfour Declaration through the 1939 White Paper. This change by Britain caused Zionist resentment and inspired Jewish terrorism.-Zionism gradually created mechanisms of self-government, but was formally ambivalent about sovereignty until the Biltmore Program during World War Two. Sachar feels that immigration was the driver here, particularly in light of the Holocaust. Had the British been more accepting of the immigration of Jewish DPs from the beginning, the Zionists may not have ultimately pushed for full independence.-The UN General Assembly voted for partition of the Mandate between the Jews and Arabs, a plan originally considered by Britain during the interwar period and revived as the world witnessed the travails of Jewish DPs. In the US, the diplomatic establishment was unfavorable to Zionism, but Truman supported partition, apparently based upon his personal view of the justice of the case. The Soviet Union supported partition, too, in the attempt to weaken Britain's Arab clients. Sachar points out that Latin American countries held the balance of votes for partition and, like Truman, voted on the humanitarian merits of the case.-The neighboring Arab states had differing ambitions in Israel's War of Independence: Egypt wanted a buffer to protect the Suez Canal, Syria wanted to liberate an area it long viewed as its hinterland, Iraq wanted to control the coast that would be the terminus of its oil pipelines, etc. Similarly, the Palestinians were at odds, with Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini seeking to eliminate his rivals and countervail Hashemite claims. Hence, the Arabs could not adequately cooperate against Israel, despite their superiority in men and arms, and the collusion of the British. For the Jews, the earlier experiments in military organization (e.g., the Zion Mule Corps, the Jewish Legion, the Special Night Squads, Haganah, Palmach) and the high quality of their manpower paid off in this conflict.-Enduring Arab hostility to Israel is rooted in the psychological humiliation of being beaten by the Jews. Failing to accept this, the Arab states maintained a state of war and refused to resettle the resulting refugees from the conflict. The international community facilitated this by a slow approach to resolving the conflict from the beginning, starting with the Palestine Conciliation Commission.-Sachar feels Israel's system of proportional representation of parties in government has been suboptimal. It led to the early Socialist governments giving the religious parties exceptional power in the endeavor to keep ruling coalitions together. Sachar is critical of the Orthodox religionists' influence in Israeli politics. He discusses their largely successful efforts to define Jewish nationality policy in traditional Judaic terms, a debate that has huge ramifications for the Diaspora. Despite the unpopularity of Orthodoxy among many Israelis, they frequently chose secularism over any attempt to import a reformist Jewish alternative in religion.-Israel gave its Arab citizens more rights and a greater standard of living than found in neighboring Arab countries. But the Arabs judged fairness not against the yardstick of conditions in other countries, but against the rights and achievements enjoyed by Jews in Israel. This made land sequestration and military rule bitterly resented. To a similar degree, poor Jewish refugees from Islamic lands were enraged by the dominance of Jews of European origin.-According to Sachar, the roots of the 1956 (Suez) war lay with Nasser's Egypt. With economic development stalled, Nasser redirected his country's attention to foreign affairs, aiding Palestinian fedayeen in their attacks over the Gaza border, arming Algerian rebels against France, and acquiring weapons from the Soviet Union. With a common foe, Israel and France became strategic partners, and Israel was thereby drawn into French (and by extension, British) planning during the Suez Crisis. Israel performed well in the war, but faced diplomatic isolation through being opposed by both the Soviets and the Americans. -After the 1956 war, Israel had to vacate the Sinai and Gaza without a formal guarantee of its borders and its maritime rights, something that was likely impossible in light of Cold War rivalries, and it was unable to use the Suez Canal. But many of the larger seafaring powers accepted Israel's right to innocent maritime passage through the Straits of Tiran, and this and the presence of UNEF led to a decade's worth of stability and enhanced Israel's economy. Israel's success convinced the US and Britain that Israel was a going concern.-After a stage of extreme rationing, Israel based its rapid economic growth on importing capital, primarily from three sources: West German Holocaust reparations payments (esp. Shilumim), state aid from the United States, and assistance from western Jewry. The opening of the Straits of Tiran gave Israel access to sea trade, thereby stimulating its economy and leading to fruitful diplomatic relations with newly independent states, particularly in Africa. Israel also engaged in major public works, particularly bringing excess water from the Jordan to irrigate the Negev.-In the plastic arts, Israel was divided between exploiting foreign styles brought from the Diaspora and exploring a "rooted" style following archaeological discoveries of the Israelite past. In literature, the Arab community's output became more nationalistic following the rise of Nasser. For Jews, the literary style originally continued the pre-state patterns of sensitivity to Diaspora Judaic values and exhortations to Zionist self-sacrifice. Following independence, the "Palmach generation" of writers emerged, showing pragmatic ambivalence toward the Diaspora and Zionism, and guilt toward the dispossessed Arabs. With the Eichmann Trial and the Six Day War, this latter grouping would re-discover its Jewish identity.-The root of the 1967 war was political instability in Syria, leading to saber-rattling against Israel. Hoping to prove indispensable to its regional clients, the Soviet Union alerted Nasser of a possible Israeli attack on Syria. When Egypt mobilized, it ordered the UNEF to vacate Egyptian territory and began restricting Israeli movement through the Straits of Tiran. Attempts at diplomatic redress came to naught; Sachar belittles UN Secretary-General U Thant as "the little Burmese" and is unimpressed with Abba Eban's diplomacy. Arab propaganda was inflammatory and states across the region prepared for war.-At first, Israel appeared to be in disarray; Levi Eshkol was uninspiring and Yitzhak Rabin had a nervous breakdown. Then, with Moshe Dayan as Minister of Defense, the Israeli air force preemptively annihilated the Arab air forces and Israeli armor achieved rapid success in the Sinai. After reopening the Straits of Tiran and approaching the Suez Canal, Israel ejected Jordan from the West Bank and Syria from the Golan Heights. Israeli air power, training, and initiative were decisive. As the Arab states were hesitant to admit the debacle, the Soviet Union was late in trying to contain the damage diplomatically.-The various parties read UN Security Council Resolution 242 in different draft languages and emphasized different parts of it. The Arab and socialist countries perceived it as calling for Israel's withdrawal from all the territories it conquered in June 1967, and they underscored the need for a resolution of the refugee issue. Israel read it as calling for withdrawing from "territories" with no definite article, i.e., not necessarily all of the lands taken in 1967, and highlighted the guarantee of peace and security for all the region's states.-After the war, Israel began rapidly integrating the territories, though it initially tried to limit its demographic footprint. Improvement of the economy in the West Bank and Gaza countered the appeal of insurgent movements like Fatah (which had absorbed the original PLO) and provided Israel with a surrogate "common market". The Palestinians had a residual, though declining, loyalty to Jordan and didn't consider the possibility of independent statehood at first. For his part, having lost a lot of territory, King Hussein might have agreed to a settlement with Israel, but he couldn't face the isolation of being the only Arab state to do so. Thus, Israel began creating "facts" by establishing settlements in the occupied lands; this was supported by a trans-partisan group of enthusiasts.-Egypt and Syria were immediately re-supplied by the Soviet Union and Nasser began artillery and commando attacks (the War of Attrition) along the Suez Canal to force Israel to his terms. Israel responded by hardening its fortifications along the Canal (the Bar-Lev Line) and conducting aerial attacks on integral Egypt. In consequence, the Soviets supplied missile crews and pilots to Egypt. Though originally pushing Israel for a preliminary evacuation of territory via the Rogers Plan, the growing Soviet involvement induced the US to shift to fully backing Israel's military effort. After Sadat came to power, his dissatisfaction with the price of Soviet support induced him to dismiss Soviet advisers from Egypt. Sachar sees this as vindicating the Israeli approach.-After his diplomatic efforts came to naught, Sadat began planning with Assad for a war against Israel. The Soviets were still willing to help, partly because Israel was embarrassing them over the issue of Soviet Jews. In contrast to previous wars, the Arabs kept their intentions secret. A combination of intelligence blunders and assumptions of superiority prevented the Israelis from taking action until the outset of the 1973 war.

  • Beth
    2019-01-03 12:25

    Left me with a much better idea of how the area ended up in its current state. A little too much detail within Israel and could have used a little more on international relationships (hard to understand why various countries were or were not selling Israel weapons at various times, for example). Chronology also a bit confusing, and really needs a language update in a few places.

  • Nostalgic
    2018-12-29 15:27

    The second edition of the book "A History of Israel" ends at Rabin's assassination (1995), but is otherwise one of the most comprehensive history books I have come across. I'm very pleased that I managed to finish it before going to visit Israel. For those who want a shorter read, I would suggest Daniel Gordis's "Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn."

  • Nahal
    2018-12-23 14:16

    I refuse to take the bits and pieces of information the news has to offer as my source of knowledge. What is the position of the Zionist people? What adversities have they suffered through and no matter what, does a religious group have the right to occupy land to establish their own country. This book won't answer all my questions but it will give me some of the foundation I need to help me find my own answers.

  • Do
    2019-01-13 15:21

    A very comprehensive history of the Zionist movement. Hard to read because of the extensive detail and because it doesn't always follow events chronologically. Helped me validate my views about the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

  • Samuel Wilbanks ugwumba
    2019-01-10 14:31

    This won't be an easy read-- 1k+ pages

  • Chriss W-t
    2018-12-26 11:13

    You really need to be concentrated to read this +1K pages book. Get your papers and pencils ready for notes. You also will need to know a bit of the Zionism history before starting this book.

  • Hasan Cosalev
    2018-12-23 13:15

    Very nice archive...

  • Richard Kravitz
    2018-12-22 14:13

    This was an extremely readable history of Israel.