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Deism versus Islam
Palestine 1948: War, Escape and the Emergence of the Palestinian Refugee Problem
by Yoav Gelber
Brighton, England: Sussex Academic Press, 2001. 399 pp. $75
Middle East Quarterly Winter 2002
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
There have been flashier histories of Israel's war of independence and
longer ones, but none as well informed, more sensible, and more compelling
than Gelber's magisterial account. Making full use of the archives and
blending them into a lively account, he provides enough specifics to make
the hostilities come alive without ever bogging down in detail.
dismisses with grace and ease the "particularly irritating" work of the
self-styled New Historians, which he finds "one-sided and incomplete." The
book's only defect is being published in a limited edition and at a vastly
too-high price; let's hope an inexpensive paperback follows soon.
Gelber argues that the first phase of the war began just one day after the
United Nations decision to partition Palestine on November 29, 1947 and
continued through to the British retreat on May 15, 1948. During that
half-year, a civil war took place within the boundaries of Mandatory
Palestine, with the British not willing to expend lives to stop it.
Zionists won this round with an ease that astounded them almost as much as
the Arabs, an ease which Gelber attributes not to their greater martial
abilities but to the vast infrastructural superiority they enjoyed.
He also makes the interesting point that the voluntary Arab flight from the
contested areas fit into a cultural pattern; historically by-standers to
the wars of their rulers, the farmers and townspeople escaped the
hostilities temporary, then returned when the fighting ended. But Zionists
came out of a Europe context in which abandoning the land was tantamount
to forfeiting it.
The second round began with the Arab armies' invasion on May 15. Those
armies were almost as ill-prepared for fighting as the Palestinians had
been and, like them, were soundly defeated, with shuddering consequences
for all the regimes involved. But don't be satisfied with this potted
version - read the full version Gelber so capably recounts in Palestine
Excerpts from Will Durant's The Age of Faith Pages 162-186 Pub. 1950
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