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1948: The First Arab-Israeli War

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  472 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
This history of the foundational war in the Arab-Israeli conflict is groundbreaking, objective, and deeply revisionist. A riveting account of the military engagements, it also focuses on the war's political dimensions. Benny Morris probes the motives and aims of the protagonists on the basis of newly opened Israeli and Western documentation. The Arab side—where the archive ...more
Hardcover, 524 pages
Published April 21st 2008 by Yale University Press (first published January 17th 1991)
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Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent read, although sometimes heavier in quantitative military details than I would have personally liked. This is not a shortcoming of the book, but rather a lack of knowledge and interest on the part of the reader, as I was most interested in the political aspects of the 1948 war, as opposed to detailed information about every individual skirmish.

One of my favorite chapters of this book was the final conclusions chapter, where Morris urges Arabs and Palestinians to do the nece
Dowl Phin
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
I first read The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe, one of the "Israeli New Historians" who looked at the archived materials from Cabinet meetings, politician diaries, Israel Defence Force orders etc... after they were eventually released forty years after 1948. I read Pappe following the a challenge by an politically anti-Israel Jewish friend of mine who teaches in Philosophy at UNSW.

I found Pappe's book painful as he outlined the atrocities committed by Israel - even though I was mi
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Excellent and well written. Though full with military details, the book also covers the political and geostrategic background which I am more interested in. Also, and that is important in a subject like this (and in historical accounts as a whole) is that the book isn't biased to any of the sides.
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
A broad, nuanced and well-written history of the 1948 war.Most of the book is a straightforward military history, and Morris ably covers the excesses and blunders of all sides.

Morris ably covers the strategic aspects, and suggests that the war was all but inevitable. Morris argues that the Israelis won due to better preparation, planning, motivation and logistics, as well as international sympathy. The Arab nations, on the other hand, were wracked by infighting and often seemed to prefer rhetor
Alex Goldstein
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Понравилось. Ясное, четкое изложение, выглядит объективным - насколько это возможно, хотя взгляд на события скорее со стороны евреев.
Некоторые интересные моменты:
-в 36-39 годах палестинские арабы устроили восстание против англичан, были безжалостно разгромлены и раздавлены - лидеры изгнаны или арестованы, оружие изъято, самых активных участников поубивали и т.д. Поэтому когда пришел 47/48 год, у них значительная часть энергии и ресурсов уже была растрачена.
- война четко делится на 2 этапа - до 1
Raymond Thomas
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Excellent examination of the causes and course of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War from an unbiased source. Critical examination of the motivations, actions, and decisions of all sides involved in the conflict. Details some of the darker aspects of the war and the reasons for their existence.

Additionally, I would like to add that the author does a brilliant job pointing out the frankly ridiculous position the Arab governments put themselves into when reacting to the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Israeli sta
TR Peterson
Morris does a good job of exploring the various battles of the 1948 war in minute detail including excellent maps which make the troop movements, take overs and losses easy to follow, even for someone who is unfamiliar with the terrain.[return][return]He explores the reasons for the defeat of the armies of the surrounding Arab states, which include poor preparation, a lack of coherent ideology and lack of arms as opposed to the Yishuv which was literally fighting for its life.[return][return]It ...more
Jun 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Though dry in parts, this history of Israel's War of Independece is a must read for anyone interested in the history of the modern Middle East. It is by far the most balanced (yet not revisionist) history on the subject I have read. In retrospect, all sides (both state and non-state actors) acted according to their interests, not according to the popular myths of both the Jewish and Arab sides. No more, no less.

I could have used better maps throughout, but the maps that were provided allowed fo
This book covers the history of the first Arab-Israeli war, with great detail given for how the war was conducted, the events of it, and how the Israelis managed to succeed in winning the war itself. This focuses on the lead-up to war from the Civil War that had been going on before, and discusses the various fronts.
Oct 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
A very insightful read which raises many intriguing questions in mind. Generally the book is very easy to read but contains a lot of details that may make it incoherent and sometimes tedious.
Andreas Schmidt
Bisogna dare atto all'autore, gode di estrema professionalità. Forse un po' troppa, e questo è il motivo principale per cui questo testo è difficilmente digeribile; una serie di fatti dopo l'altro, senza dare possibilità al lettore di assimilarli (in fondo, lo storico che deve divulgare, deve rendere il testo interessane, non proporgli il fatto in sé). Malgrado la storia del sionismo non sia tra i miei argomenti preferiti (visto che al massimo riesco a ricordarmi Ben-Gurion, Dayan Moshe e Ariel ...more
Yogev Rabl
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book, but I do feel that it is a shorten version of 'Righteous Victims' that Morris wrote several years earlier
Noah Dropkin
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a very good history of the 1948 Israel War of Independence. It's really three "books" in one.

The first book is a summary of events leading up to the war. This beginning section is outstanding; a great synopsis of events that took place in Palestine prior to 1948. From this part we learn that some basic differences between the Palestinian population and the Jewish population set the stage for not only would happen in 1948 but perhaps presaged everything to this day. The Jewish Yishuv esta
Adam Glantz
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
True to his gadfly form, Benny Morris' book on the 1948 war is bound to upset doctrinaire adherents of moral positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Committed Zionists will be put off by Morris' demolition of the notion that Israel adhered to a "purity of arms" code. Though there was no abstract master plan to depopulate Israeli territory of Arabs, the Haganah/IDF permanently exiled entire villages when it made brute military sense, even when the inhabitants were reasonably friendly and willing ...more
Gerhard Venter
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
It would be unfair to expect a balanced view of the 1948 Israeli-Arab war from a Jewish author, and I picked up the book specifically to get the Israeli point of view. What I got, instead, was a pretty even-handed treatment of the events. Morris makes no attempt to disguise the often brutal way the Haganah, the forerunner of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) went about clearing Arab villages of their inhabitants, and making sure they can never return. In my opinion, present-day Palestinian narrati ...more
May 17, 2011 rated it liked it
A detailed account of the battles fought from late 1947 through early 1949 that began to define the Israeli state. The lack of cooperation amongst the Arab nations and the Palestinians combined with the Israeli planning and fight for their lives led to the outcome that was. Interesting read but a little too detailed for someone interested in the big picture and not so into which units and divisions faced off against this and that division and/or army. The Egyptians, for the most part, fought in ...more
Christopher St
Jun 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-owned, israel
The only reason I don't give this book 5 stars is because there are lengthy sections laboring over the tactical details of the war which are simply not very entertaining. Unfortunately, as I have learned, the more thorough and unbiased the historical account, demerits are issued in the entertainment category.

However, this book earns 5 stars from me in all other areas. I consider myself an 'intermediate' in the realm of Israel/Palestine, having read a fair bit on the topic in the last year. I pu
Andrew Pessin
Oct 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Five stars for thoroughness -- battle by battle, tank by tank, twenty-five pounder by twenty-five pounder, dead person by dead person, this is about EVERYTHING you want to know about the war. But it also has plenty of analysis and interpretation and gives you a very good sense, basically, of why it all happened, who's to blame, how to understand the atrocities, where the refugees came from, who's to blame for THAT, and so on. A nice bit, if small at the end, about the almost identical number of ...more
Bob Duke
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Anything about the Arab Israeli conflict is always depressing reading. No matter which side of the divide you find yourself this is a worthwhile read. Benny Morris is an Israeli historian who counts himself as being on the left of Israeli politics as he supports a two state solution. It is most likely that people who support the Palestinians will find a lot of this book very objectionable. The Arab armies entering Palestine after the end of the mandate were sent there not so much the for the ben ...more
Jan 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The most interesting bit of this book was not the overly detailed accounts of specific battles, but rather why the Arab/Muslim world reacted so strongly (e.g., refused to even consider a Jewish state). The 'street' as Morris termed it, essentially forced the hands of what were, at the time, extremely weak leaders in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. This book does not give a good idea of why this happened.

It is excellent at providing a detailed accounting of the specific events that have left us wh
May 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-history
This is one of the more balanced accounts of the first Arab Israeli war you'll find.

Morris may be an Israeli but he is very critical of Israel.

Morris is the Historian that wrote The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, exposing Israels part in the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem.

Since the Second Intifada of 2000, Morris seems to have turned his attention to exposing aspects of Palestinian and Arab responsibility for their plight.

This culminates in a fairly balanced wor
Oct 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The important quality for a researcher of recent history is impartiality. One is looking for an author that is true to the historical evidence, does not omit facts that contradict the narrative he is trying to depict, and justifies every claim that he makes (meaning that he does not base his perspective on obscure presuppositions).
If this is what you seek - look no further.
Though an Israeli, Benny Morris has a history of unearthing unpleasant truths (that is, unpleasant to Israelis) regarding th
Mar 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Provided interesting and critical details on a subject of significant importance to me and on an issue vital to establishing the truth on a disputed historical subject still affecting the world today. If not having lived in Israel and/or if not having solid knowledge of the basics, this book is not for the average or casual reader. Very detailed, well supported, and credible; a book you can trust-- the author does not draw conclusions or provide his opinions or bias. The reader gets the facts ne ...more
Luke Crawford
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, I read this around the time I read "The Lions's gate" and "The Boats of Cherbourg" and a handful of other books written in the same style.

Now, to be clear, Morris also largely writes from a western/Israeli perspective, but he does go out of his way to give some information, some context from the other sides, and I think doing so makes the situation rather more interesting, and gives you some interesting knowledge of the historical context.
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-reads
This is one of the most illuminating book on the war in 1948. Politics from both sides, and some of the other countries involved. I thought it was one of the best book I have read on this period of the establishment of the State of Israel.
To me it was riveting and I could hardly put it down. The battles and reasons for the Israeli actions in the war and the Palestinians reactions.
To me it was a very balanced book on this period of time.
Sep 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: test
Although the exhaustive details of battles and minor skirmishes can get tiring, the chapters on the lead up to the conflict, the depth of coverage on atrocities on both sides (but especially on the Israeli side, which he argues were larger and more frequent primarily due to lack of opportunity of the other side to carry out similar massacres), and the long term consequences for even minor events was truly impressive.
Sep 05, 2008 rated it liked it
As usual in this region, the history is complex. Made me realize my understanding is pretty superficial. For example, long before the creation of Israel (after the Second World War), the Jews were buying property from the Arabs in the region to create a homeland. Far too complex to comment adequately. I didn't finish the book (another hold at the library) but it would be worth going back to. Made me realize how much I don't know ;-)
May 26, 2015 rated it liked it
As we humans can't ever be free of our biases it is only obvious to factor in author's biases while reading it. Book slightly gives a tiny to Jewish approach and tonality but the military battles are covered in extensive detail. For me the most interesting part of the internal dynamics, motivations and agendas of the Arab side - specially at the UN - which this book describes beautifully. A good read.
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ib
الرائع بالكتاب التفاصيل الصغيرة التي ذكرها الكاتب عن كل معركة.
والسيء، هو وصف الكاتب لحرب ال ١٩٤٨ بالحرب الأهلية، التي تدخل بها العرب وهم لا علاقة لهم بها.
وصف الحرب الأهلية، الذي لا يتوافق مع أحداث حرب ال ١٩٤٨ إسوء ما يمكن أن يفعله مؤرخ يعتبر نفسه يريد إعادة كتابة تاريخ بلده.
هو يعيد كتابة تاريخ إسرائيل، بقول نفس الأمور التي تداولوها لسنين، والأن يضعها بقالب مختلف، وتحت إسم المؤرخين الجدد!
This a very interesting read and very well sourced, however I disagree with some of his conclusions in the final chapter, and at times he seems to get bogged down in minutiae, but overall a great read.
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Benny Morris is professor of history in the Middle East Studies department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in the city of Be'er Sheva, Israel. He is a key member of the group of Israeli historians known as the "New Historians".
More about Benny Morris...
“Thus, in the course of the civil war the Palestinian Arabs, besides killing the odd prisoner of war, committed only two large massacres-involving forty workers in the Haifa oil refinery and about iso surrendering or unarmed Haganah men in Kfar `Etzion (a massacre in which Jordanian Legionnaires participated-though other Legionnaires at the site prevented atrocities). Some commentators add a third "massacre," the destruction of the convoy of doctors and nurses to Mount Scopus in Jerusalem in mid-April 1948, but this was actually a battle, involving Haganah and Palestine Arab militiamen, though it included, or was followed by, the mass killing of the occupants of a Jewish bus, most of whom were unarmed medical personnel.
The Arab regular armies committed few atrocities and no large-scale massacres of POWs and civilians in the conventional war-even though they conquered the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and a number of rural settlements, including Atarot and Neve Ya`akov near Jerusalem, and Nitzanim, Gezer, and Mishmar Hayarden elsewhere.
The Israelis' collective memory of fighters characterized by "purity of arms" is also undermined by the evidence of rapes committed in conquered towns and villages. About a dozen cases-in Jaffa, Acre, and so on-are reported
in the available contemporary documentation and, given Arab diffidence about reporting such incidents and the”
“Alec Kirkbride later graphically described the events in Amman on 18 July:

"A couple of thousand Palestinian men swept up the hill toward the main [palace] entrance... screaming abuse and demanding that the lost towns should be reconquered at once... The king[of Jordan] appeared at the top of the main steps of the building; he was a short dignified figure wearing white robes and headdress. He paused for a moment, surveying the seething mob before, then walked down the steps to push his way through the line of guardsmen into the thick of the demonstrators. He went up to a prominent individual, who was shouting at the top of his voice, and dealt him a violent blow to the side of the head with the flat of his hand. The recipient of the blow stopped yelling... and the king could be heard roaring: 'so you want to fight the Jews, do you? Very well, there is a recruiting office for the army at the back of my house... go there and enlist! The rest of you, get the hell down the hillside!'

Most of the crowd got the hell down the hillside, indeed...”
More quotes…