Friday, 13 October 2017

Voices from Palestine 1890s-1948 - A Book Review

Normally when I review a book I put the title in the title of the post, but in this case the subtitle was more useful. The book is entitled 'A senseless, squalid war' by Norman Rose, and the quotes are in the title. The book is about the British Mandate of Palestine and how and why it ended. I thought that as the issue of Israel/Palestine comes up on the Right more than I think it deserves, that some might find this book helpful.

Norman Rose was a Historian at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and was employed there when he wrote this book. The book is a good read and well written, normally easy to follow and informative. It deals with a roughly 50 year period starting in the 1890's when Jewish immigration to Palestine starts to become a political issue. It ends with the British leaving Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel. What makes this book useful is that it clearly explains the sequence of events and how the issues grew from small to large. There are many personal accounts of events and thoughts which provides a greater insight.

The book looks at the three sided conflict, military, political, economic and demographic from the Arab, Jewish and British sides. On the cover is a quote from a book review in the Spectator newspaper 'Eloquent, comprehensive and even-handed, Truly excellent.' I mostly agree, but it is not quite as even handed as the reviewer thinks. It seems to me that the book is fairer to the Jews, then to the British and finally to the Arabs. But that has it's advantageous as it reveals quite clearly the internal divisions within the Jewish camp. It is not dismissive of the Arabs and it does talk about Jewish tactics and excesses. As a history I think it is quite well done and worthwhile for anyone looking for a popular history of the beginnings of the Israel/Palestine problem.

But as I was thinking about this review, it occurred to me that the way the Jews and the Arabs approached things, is very much how Liberals and Conservative approach issues. The Jews were always ready to talk, in fact they often pushed for talks to legitimize their position. Something Liberals do all the time. The Arabs however were so certain that their cause was right that they often refused to talk, which made them look like they were the cause of the problem, even though they were not. Something Conservatives do. While the Jews were always ready to talk, to practically anyone, they never compromised on anything important. And any compromise they did make was used as a bargaining chip in later negotiations. This is such a Liberal thing to do. The Arabs also never compromised on anything important, but they were sold out by Arabs who sold land to the Jews and who refused to stand up to any threat. In fact one of the reasons the Arabs lost was because so much of their leadership was more concerned with their own welfare than with their peoples. Sound familiar?

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