|Topicality is never an issue where Israel and the Palestinians are concerned. The arguments--not to mention bloodshed--over Jewish and Muslim nationhood and land rights have been going on for centuries and, whatever the best intentions of the current peace process, they will probably go on for centuries to come. Both parties fanatically believe they have an inalienable historical right to statehood on the land in question and both regard Jerusalem as a holy city. As befits the disenfranchised, the Palestinians are slightly more open to a negotiated settlement, but the Israelis remain intransigent about handing over any but the most inhospitable of scrubland and the impasse remains. In the battle between the bullets and the ballot box, the bullets are winning hands-down.|
Tom Segev is one of Israel's most notable historians and journalists--one of the few to strive for any sense of objectivity in his writings--so a new book by him is always worth waiting for. One Palestine, Complete is a detailed account of Palestine under British rule from 1917 to 1948, the critical period in the modern history of the region that led up to the creation of the state of Israel. Segev begins by carefully detailing Britain's well-known inconsistencies in dealing with both the Jews and the Arabs--to both of whom it had appeared to promise, if not the world, at least the country after independence was granted--and goes on to make a convincing case that because Palestine fell into the category of an emotional rather than self-interested colonial possession, the Brits hoped the situation would unwind to everyone's advantage.
Where Segev departs from the historical norm is in his assertions that whatever the British may have said to the Palestinians, their actions were uncompromisingly pro-Zionist from the start. This, he claims, was done out of the mistaken, anti-Semitic belief that the Jews controlled business and turned the wheels of history, rather than from a recognition of the rightness of their cause. Be this as it may, it is at best a partial explanation. Before WorldÂ WarÂ II, Britain was on the verge of handing over Palestine to the Arabs, and Segev completely downplays the impact of Western war guilt over the Holocaust that led to a huge growth in support for an independent Israeli state at the expense of Palestinian rights.
Even so, One Palestine, Complete offers a thoughtful and dramatic account of the evolution of two nationalist movements that seem destined never to be reconciled. With a past like this, what hope is there for the future? --John Crace, Amazon.co.uk