The Making Of The Arab-Israeli Conflict: 1947-1951, by Ilan Pappé
If you want to read what a pro-Arab source has to say about the start of the Arab-Israeli conflict, this book will provide that. Now, admittedly, my own views of the Arab-Israeli conflict are highly pro-Israeli, and as someone who is fully aware of the other side of the story that this book does not tell very well, I can say that there are definitely some areas that this book fails in, most notably in how it seeks to paint the Israeli’s efforts at dealing with the Arabs in conquered territory during the Israeli War of Independence as a form of ethnic cleansing while completely avoiding mentioning the ethnic cleansing that the Arabs themselves had done in areas like Hebron in the period before independence. This sort of biased reportage masked as revisionist history is a hallmark of this book and others like it, and demonstrates that the author is more interested in trying to score points against Israeli and justify a pretty terrible Arab position than to seriously and honestly deal with the large amount of blame that Arabs have for the catastrophe that befell the Palestinians in the aftermath of Israeli’s independence and successful military efforts in 1947-1951. As such, while this book is certainly useful in seeing how others view this period, it is certainly not a good book or one that can be recommended as a source of history.
This book is almost 300 pages long in terms of reading material and it takes up ten chapters. The author begins with a preface and then a preface to the paperback edition and then an introduction that seeks to frame the Arab-Israeli conflict in terms of the changes that resulted from increased Jewish settlement in the promised land. After that the author begins with diplomatic battles at the UN before independence (1) as well as the civil war in Israel over power and territory (2). The author gives a highly biased picture of the making of the refugee problem (3) and then discusses the general lack of preparation that the Arab side made for war (4) despite their aggressive goal of driving the Israelis into the sea. After that the author discusses Bernadotte’s goal of creating a comprehensive peace (5) and the Israeli struggle to overturn the anti-Israeli bias of this UN effort (and many later ones) (6). After that the author discusses the various armistice agreements that Israeli made after victory (7) and the establishment of the Palestine Conciliation Commission to mediate a more lasting peace (8). Finally, the book ends with a discussion of the abortive Lausanne Conference (9) and the “final” quest for peace that ultimately failed (10), after which there are conclusions, notes, and an index.
Is this book worth reading? It is under very limited circumstances, for example, if you want to see the Arab side of the picture and you are fond of diplomatic history and want to see the first of many failed summit attempts where Israel and the Arab states (Palestinians themselves) had goals that could not be met, and where the Israeli goal of having Arabs accept the borders from the wars that the Arabs themselves began by attacking Israeli upon its independence is far more reasonable than anything the Arabs have been able to desire in exchange. Even in a pro-Arab account like this one the lack of acceptance of the Arabs about reality and their refusal to engage in fair dealing are frustrating to read. One can only imagine the frustration of Israelis trying to be reasonable and moderate in the face of such unreasonableness, all the more troubling because it is in fact the Arab street that pushes their governments in more extreme directions than they might want to do being realists themselves. All of this makes it something to be praised rather than lamented that there is not more democracy in the Middle East, seeing as the Arabs obviously can’t handle the truth.