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Benny Morris is professor of history in the Middle East Studies Department of Ben-Gurion University, Israel. He is the leading figure among Israel's "New Historians," who over the past two decades have reshaped our understanding of the Israeli-Arab conflict. His books include Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001; Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956; and The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited.
Morris (history, Ben-Gurion Univ.) offers a study of Israel's war of independence, effectively debunking many of the myths surrounding it. He divides that war into phases: civil war between Palestinian Arabs and Jews, begun in November 1947, followed by a Pan-Arab (i.e., Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq) invasion in May 1948. The Arab defeat in the civil war resulted in hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs fleeing, most expecting to return behind a triumphant Arab invasion force. Although outnumbered, the Israelis had spent months after the UN partition resolution in 1947 preparing for war, while their opponents spent more time calling for jihad against the Jews, which naturally inspired Jewish fear of a second Holocaust. The Israelis had a unified command system, internal lines of communication, and the ideological fervor that came from defending their homes. The invaders (the author's term), meanwhile, lacked coherent leadership and a unified strategy, so by the fall of 1948 the Israelis had achieved local military supremacy. Morris disputes the assertion that Israel had an overall policy of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians. He meticulously documents the expulsions and atrocities that occurred on both sides. His work demonstrates that passion, not polemic, about this controversial era leads to good history. Recommended for all libraries.--Frederic Krome, Univ. of Cincinnati, Clermont Coll. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
"'Morris's account seems admirable, because he is unafraid of upsetting both camps... His commitment to the pursuit of historical truth deserves as much admiration as his dismay at Arab intransigence commands sympathy... Morris's book is no mere military narrative, but a crisp, vivid introduction to the historical tragedy of Palestine.' Max Hastings, Sunday Times 'Morris relates the story of his new book soberly and sombrely, evenhandedly and exhaustively... An authoritative and fair-minded account of an epochal and volatile event.' David Margolick, New York Times Book Review 'An ambitious, detailed and engaging portrait of the war itself - from its origins to its unresolved aftermath - that further shatters myths on both sides of the Israeli-Arab divide.' Glenn Frankel, Washington Post Book World"