The anthology can be a very useful tool in presenting the Arab Israeli conflict. Compilations of other historian’s works can make convincing arguments from a particular point of view, especially when the subject is abundant in historical material. The anthology helps to organize and categorize an historiography of the most complex and provocative of histories. One of the most provoking histories of the twentieth century is that which has raged between Palestinians and Israelis over who has rightful possession of the country of Israel, once called Palestine. With no end in sight, the Arab-Israeli conflict is arguably the most contentious battle for national dominance in the history of the modern world. A consideration of the Arab-Israeli conflict’s origins is essential for understanding why the two sides seem so intractable. The anthology is a perfect vehicle for studying the crucial issues that define the conflict’s beginning.

At first glance the Arab-Israeli conflict began with the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. At that time the surrounding Arab States launched an unprovoked war in an attempt to prevent the Jewish state from emerging. To the surprise of many observers the Arabs were defeated in that war, while losing precious land to the Zionists. Bitter and disillusioned with their performance, the Arab states refused to negotiate any sort of peace. Consequently an armistice was imposed and the military hostilities came to an end. Thus, the Arab-Israeli conflict was born. Or was it?  Indeed, an argument can be made that the conflict did not begin until the 1948 war. However, just as substantial an argument can be made that the 1948 war marked a significant turning point in the history of the conflict, but it was not the beginning.

The Arab-Israeli conflict can be broken down into three periods of history in which the historiography can be studied more easily. The three stages range from 1882 until the end of the First World War, from the end of World War I until the birth of Israel in 1948 and from that time until the present.[1] The purpose of this paper is to present an anthological cross section of the historiography of the origins of the conflict up to the end of World War I.

Most of the history, at least from the anti-Zionist side, comes from the third stage. It is of some interest that Arab writers wrote remarkably little in English during the first two periods of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The first recognized anti-Zionist scholarly work in English was not published until 1938 when George Antonius wrote The Arab Awakening in response to the Peel Commission’s recommendation to partition Palestine into two states, one Arab, and one Jewish.[2]

Consequently, most of the scholarship comes from the latest period. Beginning with a spate of British historians in the 1950s, anti-Zionist scholarship became for the first time intellectually competitive with pro-Zionist historiography.[3]

Because the history is modern, many of the historians are participants. Therefore, theses, hypotheses, and conclusions tend to reflect special interests.[4] The question has to be asked, does this distort the craft? Impartiality is lost, and with it, a scholarly detachment from the field. Although the absence of impartiality is a problem for the historical perspective, this is probably not unique to most recordings of recent history. The Irish rebellion against England, Cypress and Turkey, the Balkin conflict are all examples of modern histories where the historians have the opportunity to become partisans for one side or the other. The combative nature among people, politicians, and nations tends to spill over into the scholarly community. Within the Arab-Israeli conflict scholars are not immune to the normal wave of passions and political biases that have gripped this conflict for more than one-hundred years. Often, the conclusions of these historians are so far apart with one another, it becomes necessary to separate the history into categories in order to simplify the organizational process of historical observation. That requires a labeling or distinction of historians placed into a particular biased group. The two distinct sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict break down more or less along the standard political lines, pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist forces. [5]

Almost all Muslim writers and a significant number of European and American writers follow the anti-Zionist point of view. This view in varying degrees posits that the State of Israel was a monumental international mistake. Israel’s existence is a burden to the Middle East and to the world at large. Therefore, the Jewish State must at the very least be contained and at most be dismantled altogether, replaced by an indigenous Arab government pressuring Israeli Jews to leave for other parts of the world or stay with some diminished status not unlike the minority status of centuries passed.

An example of a major work in this field would be From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem until 1948, edited by Walid Khalidi, Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1971.[6] Khalidi has put together this anthology to discuss the punishing aspects of Zionism, its use of unfair tactics “according to a two fold strategy of propaganda and implementation…carefully orchestrated and dominated by a single ultimate political goal: the establishment of a Jewish State.”[7] Eighty articles extracted from books, journals, and memoirs of people who might not be historians but all have some expertise on Palestine. Not all of Khalidi’s selections are ardent anti-Zionists, and Khalidi makes a point of letting the reader know that. True, Khalidi employ’s Zionist thinkers such as David Ben Gurion, Stephen S. Wise, and Abba Eban. But as his anthology implies, Zionist thinkers serve to show the unfair advantage Zionism had over the indigenous Arabs in the region. For example, Ben Gurion’s contribution to Khalidi’s work enumerates the growth of Jewish defense, and the British complicity in that act. In other words, Khalidi uses Ben Gurion to argue that the British were really on the side of the Zionists and not on the side of the Arabs as conventional history as posited.[8]

Khalidi argues in his introduction that the Arab-Israeli conflict developed because of the naturally deceptive nature of Zionism.

(Zionism) beclouds the strategy of dispossession (as is illustrated by Western acquiescence in the Israeli Anschluss of Jerusalem after 1967). It aims at confusing its Arab victims. But above all it taps the vast reservoirs of mass emotion, not only among Jewish, but also of Western Christian audiences. [9]


“Propaganda and implementation” secured the promise of the Balfour Declaration. By  1917, Zionism had transformed itself into an “ominous mode of action threatening the existence of the Palestine Arabs.”[10]

Underpinning the entire Zionist venture in Palestine is a myth which is the theme of Part I of this anthology. Stripped down to its barest essentials this myth may be presented as the two sides of a coin. The obverse carries the overriding Right of Return deriving from Divine Promise. The reverse carries implicitly or even explicitly, the dismissal of the millennia-old “Arab” presence in Palestine.[11]


The central theme of Khalidi’s anthology is the “Palestine tragedy.” To that end Khalidi includes works which show the collective “intrinsic worth and the contribution they make to the understanding of the central theme of the Palestine tragedy.”[12]

In order to show this during the first stage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Khalidi presents six articles that deal with that time period. However, he also delivers a number of articles preceding those six that cover the history of the land over the previous three thousand years. Since Zionism is a recent phenomenon the question needs to be asked, what does ancient Palestine and the biblical Israelite kingdom have to do the modern Arab-Israeli conflict?

Khalidi does not give a satisfactory answer to that question forcing the reader to speculate based on the selections that are included.[13]

Of the six articles about the first period of the conflict he introduces them with an article from Elmer Berger, a long time American anti-Zionist. This serves Khalidi’s propaganda purposes well as he points out in his introduction “at least 30 of the 80 items which make up this anthology are by Jews.”[14] The six articles are designed to expose several issues. (1) The four principles of the Basle program which in no way consider the people already living on the land of Palestine. (2) A letter to the mayor of Jerusalem from Theador Herzl begging  Ottoman acceptance of the Zionist movement. (3) An apology for why the English might find Zionism good for the empire. The subject of the piece is the massive Jewish immigration at the turn of the century into England because of persecutions in the East, suggesting that Zionism was a good way to get rid of so many Jewish immigrants. 4) A strong anti-Zionist tract apologizing for the shameful defeat of Arab forces in the ’48 war. Almost fifty years before it happened, the piece sets up a young David Ben-Gurion in 1907 as the military architect of that defeat. (5) Britain’s motives in the Middle East in the second decade of the twentieth century, and (6) Edwin Montagu’s anti-Zionism. When taken as a collection these tracts compliment one another building a case that Zionism was not a worthwhile endeavor in the Middle East. Herzl’s pleadings, the English solving two problems. Kahlidi’s  masterful use of political symmetry, using an anti-Zionist collection of writings, complimented by Herzl’s undignified pleadings bookended by Berger and Montagu,  two of the most famous anti-Zionist Jews of the twentieth century, indeed shows how carefully he selected the writings for this book.

Ever since Antonius published The Arab Awakening as a defense of the anti-Zionist position in 1938, anti-Zionists have been using the regional political situation to best decide when to publish their works.[15] Khalidi published his work during one of the most dangerous periods of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Set between two major wars, Israel and Egypt were battling in a war of attrition in the Sinai and the Palestinian Liberation Organization was running terror operations inside Israel while simultaneously drawing the international community into their plight by hijacking airplanes on a regular basis. Less than twenty years later during another dangerous time,the first Intifada, another significant anti-Zionist anthology was published,   The Reference Shelf: The Palestinian Problem, Andrew C. Kimmens ed., New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1989. 

Kimmens, like Khalidi, uses Zionist works interspersed with anti-Zionist writings to provide contrast and to help make the case for his thesis.

Every conflict has its history, and this book attempts to outline the one which has as its basis the Palestinians burning sense of having been wronged—by their former Jewish neighbors, by their friends among the neighboring Arab countries, by the superpowers, by the United Nations. Internationally assisted Jewish immigration into Palestine, which began around the turn of the century, helped fan nascent flames of disaffection. British support for the political aims of Zionism and the failure of internationally agreed-upon plans for partition between the communities led to mortal fear among the Palestinians that their rights were being flouted in full view of the world. The imposition by force of the state of Israel led to a large-scale exodus of Palestinians from their homeland, which turned into a rout during and after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Forty years of life in the appalling squalor of refugee camps have produced only extreme bitterness and a desire for revenge among the displaced along with, among the Israelis, a querulous sense of being unable to put right a terrible wrong.[16]


Kimmens’ work covers mostly the second period of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but within that period of study, some of the most important issues of the first period are raised. Especially noted are the final years of the first period of the conflict, which may be the most crucial of this entire history. World War I, brought about three significant agreements affecting the Middle East in separate but profound ways, the Sikes-Picot agreement, the McMahon-Hussein letters, an perhaps the most enduring, the Balfour Declaration.

Kimmens argues, that it was the Balfour Declaration, which initiated the Arab-Israeli conflict.[17] He presents several articles, which deal with the first period. Perhaps the most interesting is the very first selection in the book, “Jewish Nationalism and Arab Nationalism,” by Maxime Rodinson.   Rodinson is one of the foremost scholars of Islam and the Middle East in the world and is a credible choice for Kimmens to build his anthological thesis criticizing Zionism. However, if Kimmens was trying to ride on Rodinson’s prestige by leading off with his piece he made a fundamental error in doing so. This particular piece is an essay, and contains no footnotes. Rodinson makes several assertions that are difficult to support without footnotes leaving himself, and more importantly in this case Kimmens open to scholarly inquiry.

The use of names, dates and population figures need supportive evidence to be credible, especially in a contentious historiographical debate such as the Arab-Israeli conflict. [18]

Footnotes aside, Rodinson builds a thesis which argues that the Jews were not a nation at all and therefore have no inalienable right to claim national rights in Palestine or anywhere else. He points to the French Revolution as the beginning of the breakdown of any national connection that Jews might have entertained about Palestine before that time.

In this new world, religious communities no longer formed national or quasi-nations to which the individual was bound, whether by choice or by force, but had become hardly more than free associations much like political parties or chess clubs. [19]


Rodinson also dismisses out of hand, anti-Semitism as a cause that drove the Zionist movement convincing Herzl in particular to write Der Judenstaat, which transformed the Zionist movement from an obscure Jewish community issue to international status.

“Extremely violent verbally, political anti-Semitism provoked relatively little physical violence in Western Europe until the victory of Nazism.”[20]


The pro-Zionist argument posits that Jews have the same rights as any other people on Earth and therefore, a political entity within the latitudinal and longitudinal boundaries of the ancient Jewish homeland, since the Roman Empire known as Palestine, is an appropriate place for Jews to resurrect their culture, language and physical homeland. That view, embodied in the ideology of Zionism, seeks to continue to build the Jewish State so that the Jewish people can take their rightful place among the nations of man.

Diametrically opposite to the Arab point of view, Zionist mythology about the return of the Jews to their ancient home was difficult to argue against as Khalidi confirmed in From Haven to Conquest. Aside from the fundamental Christian connection to Zionism previously discussed, the Zionist enterprise also found allies among those enlightened European intellectuals and politicians. Nineteenth century European liberals welcomed Zionist ideology in the atmosphere of the advancement of European colonial projects during the early part of the twentieth century.

Pro-Zionist thinkers at the turn of the twentieth century left a fair amount of documentary material on which today’s historians refer to. The almost exclusive pro-Zionist historiography of the turn of the twentieth century provided a decided advantage toward support for the Zionist movement as World War I approached. The traditional view of support for Zionism and its goals continues today among Jewish and non-Jewish authors, although not unchallenged as it was during the time before World War I. This is in direct contrast to their Arab counterparts. The lack of Arab historiography defending their case against Zionism is strikingly similar to the lack of political anti-Zionism, which remained very quiet until the second period of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Because of the heavily weighted pro-Zionist thinking before World War I an argument could be made that the Balfour Declaration or something similar to it was inevitable.

Anthologies are good examples of scattered writings brought together by a competent editor to argue a specific point in history. As Khalidi’s work clearly indicates an anti-Zionist argument even though he includes certain Zionist thinkers in the blend, Jehuda Reinharz and Anita Shapira produced an anthology which shows the pro-Zionist argument, Essential Papers on Zionism, Jehuda Reinharz and Anita Shapira eds., New York: New York University Press, 1996.

Reinharz and Shapira present a series of articles, some penned by the editors themselves, however, most are from other historians in the field. Reinharz and Shapira posed the question how does Jewish nationalism relate to the Jewish religion? They offer a number of answers on various levels through the selected readings in the work. [21] They selected historians and commentators from both the Hebrew speaking and English speaking world which provides a good cross section of international Zionist thought. Reinharz and Shapira divide their work into five sections, which loosely follows a chronological history of the Zionist movement. (1) The National movement and Its Ideological Thought. (2) The Diaspora and Zion. (3) Zionist Trends in Eretz Israel—Ideology and Reality. (4) The Fateful Triangle: Jews, Arabs and the British. (5) Cultural Questions.

The  Essential Papers on Zionism takes an inward look at the Zionist movement.  Shapira alone wrote the introduction and believes that “when one considers the extreme odds and impossible starting conditions Zionism was faced with at its inception, it seems reasonable to assume that it will be remembered as one of the greater success stories among national movements in the twentieth century.”[22]

The first four sections are dedicated primarily with the time before World War I, up to and the immediate consequences and aftermath of the issuing of the Balfour Declaration. What is conspicuously absent from the writings is a perspective on the indigenous Arabs that lived in Palestine during the time before World War I.

This presents two major historiographical contentions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. (1) Anti-Zionist historiography has complained that the Zionist movement was insensitive to the Arabs all ready living on the land at the beginning of Zionist colonization. (2) Much Zionist historiography is descriptively void of the growing problem with the Arab population especially during the first stage of the Arab-Israeli conflict as exampled by Reinharz and Shapira. This is part of the “Zionist myth” that Khalidi refers to in his introduction on pages xxvi and xxvii. Several of Khalidi’s anti-Zionist tracts in the course of From Haven to Conquest also make mention of Zionism’s neglect of the Arab population in its colonization process.[23]

Reinharz and Shapira do not shy away from the accusation as they tacitly admit that the anti-Zionist argument has validity on some level. They include an essay from Israel Kolatt who wrote that the Zionist movement did indeed exclude itself from the Arab population during the first period of the Arab-Israeli conflict not because it wanted to separate out of animus but because it was fearful of assimilation into the Arab culture. Kolatt argued that there was a fear that Jewish capital reaching the Arab sector might “accelerate its development.”

The Jewish community so dwarfed by the Arab population could conceivably be absorbed by Arab commercial success, ending any prospect for a national home.[24]

These considerations, in addition to others, more essential ones, led to the creation of economic and social barriers. The Jews and the Arabs who had been religiously separate now became further separated on a national level, both by the use of Hebrew language and the new content given to Hebrew education. The first decade of the century saw the implementation of an economic policy aimed at creating a closed Jewish economy in which accumulated capital would go to further internal expansion rather than flowing outward.[25]


Unlike Khalidi who used Zionists for his own purposes in his anthology, Reinharz and Shapira have the luxury of extracting from their own movement that which is critical of its history. Kolatt’s criticism of Jewish settlement life in Palestine is valid. Kolatt is quick to add several failed rapprochements between the Zionists and the Arab population of Palestine in the years before World War I. All were rebuffed either by the Arabs or by the Jews or by both.[26]

Although the political differences between From Haven and Conquest and The Essential Papers on Zionism are profoundly diametrically opposed to each other, there are some remarkable similarities between them. Twenty-five years separate the publication of these two works. It is noteworthy of the resemblance in their style, content and commitment to thesis through the writings they both included. They are both very long compilations with lengthy introductions. Something existential can almost be drawn from Khalidi and Reinharz and Shapira because they are so parallel in their approaches but so different in their diametrically opposite arguments.

Consider how both books begin their introductions.

The Palestine tragedy, for that is what it is, did not unfold in some obscure era of history, in an inaccessible frontier area of the world. It has been enacted in the twentieth century, within the life-span and the observation of thousands of Western Politicians, diplomats, administrators and soldiers, in a country, Palestine well within reach of modern means of communication.[27]

Since the movement’s inception, however, debate has persisted as to the legitimacy of Jewish nationalism, as well as its universalistic and particularistic implications, the Jewish context of Zionism and the extent to which Zionism is a natural outgrowth of Jewish history, and the moral imperatives inherent in the governance of a state. [28]


In these two statements lies the essence of the difference between anti-Zionist and pro-Zionist forces, whether in politics or academia. For Arab culture the Arab-Israeli conflict is a complaint, monolithic in its substance, forward and singularly direct in its accusation. For Jewish nationalism the question is multi-tiered. Not only do Zionists consider how legitimate they are to Arabs or anyone else, but to themselves, and the meaning of all this to their own history. Are Jews a nation with a secular history, or are they only a religion like other religions without a separate concept of “peoplehood?” And, if they are a people and a religion, what is their obligation to their own uniqueness and to the world from the secular workings of a Jewish State? Reinharz and Shapira touch on all these issues.

This might be the reason the two sides are so far apart and why the conflict seems so intractable. The two struggles are on entirely different planes. There is no bridge between the two perspectives, intellectually or otherwise, to give them some common ground to exist on. The historiography of both camps displays a division not unlike the political divisions that have existed at least as long as Israel has been a state.

Although The Palestine Problem begins at the beginning of the second period of the Arab-Israeli conflict there is still some important work on the first period. Kimmens attempts in this work to show in his opinion the most extreme and the most moderate of both sides, however, this work fails in that attempt. He does present extremes but they fail to cover a cohesive order so that the thesis is clear. Khalidi on the other hand, whose thesis is also anti-Zionist is quite successful at this technique.

For Jews who have the most at stake with these issues, there exists a wide range of ideological positions within the Zionist scholarship. This range of scholarship goes from the maximalist positions advocating the expulsion of all Arabs from Jewish controlled territory to those who agree with the most vehement anti-Zionist historians that Israel should be dismantled in favor of a majority Muslim government in Palestine and everything in between. Anti-Zionist historiography among Jews both inside and outside Palestine has played a major role in the way Zionism views itself over the previous one-hundred and twenty-five years.

Muslims remain almost exclusively anti-Zionist. In contrast to the Jewish community there remains very little debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Nothing displays these issues better than the anthology.  Considering the massive amount of literature written on the Arab-Isareli conflict, the anthology is the best and the most thorough way to present the historiography. The anthological format offers a wide perspective.  Historians all presenting the same bias or different biases argue a particular point of view as these editors have shown. Like an orchestra conductor the editor takes the various beliefs and backgrounds, and presents the material in a way which compliments his or her own thesis argument. Whether Zionist or anti-Zionist the anthological presentation of history gives a remarkable insight into the historians and their works past and present in a cohesive, constructive manner.

The anthologies used in this piece covered the entire conflict. Because this study concentrates on the first period of the conflict to 1918, the anthology, especially the ones set up in chronological order offer a simple straight forward approach to accessing the desired period of history. All three of the anthologies used in this piece more or less follow this format. Where as Khalidi and Reinharz and Shapira cover the entire history, Kimmens concentrates mostly on the second period of the conflict. Although, Kimmens’ reference in several of his entries to the first period allows the reader to extract useful and categorical information about the earlier period, and therefore gives The Palestinian Problem credibility in discussing the origins of the conflict.

The perspective gained on the two opposing viewpoints becomes perceptibly evident with an anthological format. Both Khalidi and Reinharz and Shapira collected diverse viewpoints in their works, which point out the clarity of the differences between the two sides. Anti-Zinionst  historiography understands Zionism perfectly. It condemns Zionism because of its perceived super-nationalist perspectives. Zionist historiography is also clear in its understanding of anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism seeks to stall, diminish, destroy, or contain Zionism. Zionism continues to struggle to understand itself introspectively and regards anti-Zionist criticism as only one element of its overall worldview.  As long as the two sides remain with these understandings the political, military and scholarly communities will remain incontrovertibly apart.









[1] 1882 marks the official date most historians refer to as the beginning of the Zionist colonization in Palestine. Jews had been returning to Palestine with political motives for at least two decades prior to 1882 but the Zionist movement recognizes that date for a number of reasons. The publication of Leon Pinsker’s “Auto emancipation” in 1881 which Zionist’s used as an official call to recolonize Palestine, the Russian riots in 1881 and 1882, sometimes called a “pogrom” which caused many Jews to flee the Pale of Russian influence, and the Bilu, a group of Zionists, who set the model for other Jews to come to Palestine, and set up colonies which eventually formed a collective movement called Kibbutz, vital to the growth and reestablishment of Palestine as a Jewish homeland.

[2] This was the first attempt by the Mandatory to partition Palestine. It failed because both parties, the Jews and Arabs both declined to accept the findings of the commission. However, this process set the stage for the second attempt at the partition of Palestine nine years later. It is hard to say how much influence Antonius’s book actually had on the events of 1938 and 1939. An argument could be made that it provoked the British into issuing the “White Paper” in 1939 which granted Arab wishes of restricting Jewish immigration into Palestine. Of course Antonius reissued his book in 1946 to try to prevent the partition of Palestine again but this time the Jews accepted partition and the State of Israel was born.

[3] Directly after the abolishment of the mandate and the establishment of the State of Israel British historians began to question Israel’s right to exist. Authors such as E. O’Balance, Sir Alec Kirkbride and Erskine Childers extremely vociferous condemnations during the early years of Israel’s existence reflected opinions gained from their experiences in pre-state Palestine as administrators, soldiers and diplomats. Remaining bitter after the experience these historians were driven by their personal first hand knowledge of Zionist resistance to England’s presence. Well into the 1970s these historians regarded Zionism as an enemy.

During that same time period, American anti-Zionism, embodied in the works of  E.F. Hutchinson and others are oddly close in circumstance to the British situation. Like the British, they were mostly soldiers or diplomats assigned to that part of the world during the 1950s when the United Nations was still playing a central role in trying to solve the overall conflict. Hutchinson for example, had unpleasant experiences with the young Israeli government and turned that unpleasantness into highly critical analyses of the international wisdom of supporting a Jewish State. He and others with similar experiences found no redeeming value in Zionism.

Although some anti-Zionist works were published in Arabic in the first and second stages of the conflict outlined earlier in this paper, Antonius is alone among Arab writers publishing in English during the second period. The historiography in English among Arab writers although not non-existent remains rather scarce before 1960. When they did begin to publish, these authors concentrated their arguments on the inability of the individual Arab to accept a Jewish State in Palestine no matter what degree of legality such a country would hold in the world community. The Arab argument stressed connection to the land as did the Zionists with the added feature of living on the land in perpetuity. The ultimate Arab question to the world was asked again and again in the Arab view of the existence of Israel. How could a people be disenfranchised from their historical homeland in lieu of a foreign nation with roots elsewhere?


[4] In his personal memoir, The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile, Fawaz Turki so elegantly described the business of the Arab-Israeli conflict historiography, “the historian can present a devastatingly convincing version of the Zionist/Israeli/Jewish (call it what you wish) claim in modern Palestine. Another historian , with equal reserves of diligence and partisan to our own claims and grievances, can come up with a perfectly valid and at the same time diametrically opposite view.”

[5] I do not want to give the impression that it is a simple matter of placing historians in one group or another. However it is necessary to understand that without these groupings the issue would become confusing and difficult to ascertain a sense of historical perspective for the reader. Furthermore, these groupings are not exclusive. There is at times overlapping from one group to the other that is often the result of other factors, which contribute to an historian’s view of the history of the conflict. For example, histories written in the 90s were strongly influenced by the Oslo Accords and the prospects for ending the conflict peaceably. Histories written in the 1960s and 1970s were influenced by Israel’s successes in the Six Day War. And, of course, until 1991, the Geo political cold War situation between the world’s great powers overshadowed all histories that were written about the Middle East.

[6] Khalidi p. xxiv. Khalidi argues that there are only two stages of the Arab-Israeli conflict citing the cut-off at the 1948 war. I disagree. I have argued briefly that there are at least three stages to this conflict and I would argue further that depending on how the historian looks at the history those three stages could be subdivided into several more.

[7] Khalidi, p. xxi.

[8] The Ben Gurion literature that Khalidi cited here is from sources describing Jewish counter moves to the Arab General Strike of 1936-1939. Violence against Jews was pervasive throughout Palestine and the Jews responded with several new innovative military techniques to go with the arms they procured. Some weapons indeed came from the British but most were bought from other sources that today we would call the Black Market.  Most British officials protested vehemently about giving any weapons to the Jews because of Jewish resistance to British occupation. One man, Orde Wingate, a British officer, was mostly responsible for those weapons. The actions the Jews took with those weapons were largely responsible for the end of the three-year violence. It was the use of those weapons, the tactics learned and implemented and the organized way the Jews went about defending their community  which forced Arab leaders to not only cease and desist their campaign against the Jewish community but the more prominent leaders like Fauzi Kaujki was forced to leave the country in fear of his life. This was the point of Ben Gurion’s total contribution to Khalidi’s work, not that the Zionists secured a few pistols from the British so that they could police themselves.

[9] Khalidi, p. xxvii. The second set of parentheses were added by the editor. A powerful inducement for certain influential Christian sects in the west, Zionist Jews found an ally among this group. Religious Christians wrote Zionist history with the tug of messianism, a potent force for religious Christians, the State of Israel was the harbinger to the “Second Coming of Christ.” What Khalidi  does not  say however, is that fundamentalist Christians also argued several secular reasons for supporting the idea of a sovereign Zionist presence in Palestine like, a western people in a non-western setting, spreading western ideas, and western culture. Today, the spread of western culture is viewed with contempt, but in the early 1900s this belief was thought to be good for everyone, the imperialist west as well as the peoples the west subjected to it.

[10] Khalidi, p. xxvii.

[11] Khalidi, p. xxvii.

[12] Khalidi  p. xxvi. Khalidi makes use of the term “Palestine tragedy” throughout his rather lengthy introduction. This is of particular interest since Khalidi published this work in 1971. It is in direct contrast to the pro-Zionist literature bombarding the market during that time in between the two wars, 1967 and 1973. Traditional Zionist thought obviously takes a different view of the last one-hundred and twenty years of Palestinian and Israeli history. What Khalidi calls  a “tragedy” is often characterized in pro-Zionist literature as a “miracle,” “divinely provident,” and “democratic.” This is a good example of partisanship. He is aware of Zionist propaganda spreading its ideology and combats it with making sure the reader does not forget throughout his work that what these writings point to is not a wondrous achievement  but a monumental human catastrophe.

[13] Along with Khalidi’s central theme what this does is capture the reader’s unsuspecting biases by showing how the two peoples originally lived in Palestine in a peaceful coexistence. It is only when the Jew becomes political and settles in the land on that premise that the Arab-Israeli conflict begins. This is especially troubling since he essentially uses the often-cited axiom by anti-Zionists that the ancient Canaanites were the descendents of the Palestinian Arabs. With three thousand years of migrating peoples, natural disasters, famine and drought it is highly unlikely that the indigenous people in the region at that time can in any way be traced to the Arab Palestinians of today. Moreover, the ancient Israelites absorbed most of the Canaanite tribes into their culture at the time of what is described in the Bible as the period of Judges. That would make the ancient Canaanites today’s Jews of which some would comprised today’s Israelis, not the Palestinians as Khalidi suggests. I would refer the reader to the work of William Dever of the University of Arizona for more on the Canaanite absorption into the Israelite kingdom.


[14] Khalidi, p. xxiv. Rabbi Elmer Berger was one of the foremost anti-Zionists in Jewish America and remained so until the end of his life in the 1990s. He advocated the freedom of Jews in any country in which they were living. Zionism, he asserted, is an obstacle to Jews obtaining that freedom. Berger believed in Haskala, Jews becoming emancipated according to the philosophy of Moses Mendelsohn and aided by nineteenth century liberal ideals of a nationalist connection to whatever country Jews were living in. Zionism increased the chance of the  “dual loyalty” accusation. Berger believed that after many centuries of struggle, Western civilization, through the political changes in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was close to attaining the goal of freedom for all Jews.  Berger advocated that Zionism slowed or even reversed the process of emancipation. Ultimately, Berger concluded that Zionism did more to enslave the Jewish people than to liberate them and therefore, had to be defeated.


[15] Antonius published his work several times setting the precedent for anti-Zionist historians to publish influential works when they could do the most good politically. Antonius’ first publication in 1938 was on the heels of the Peel commission’s recommendation to partition Palestine into two states. For more on this refer to note two. He re-released his work in 1946 when the British once again were talking about partition and indeed sued for that solution and left Palestine in 1948 when the State of Israel was born. He re-released his work again in 1966 when the Syrians, Egyptians and Fedayeen escalated their attacks against Israel with Israel responding bullet for bullet. Less than a year later the Six Day War changed the face of the Middle East forever. In my opinion when an historian uses his work for this kind of political advantage this taints the historical credibility of his work.

[16] Kimmens, Palestinian Problem, p. 7

[17] Kimmens, Palestinian Problem p. 3. Kimmens titles his first section in the table of contents, The Origins of the Conflict: The Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate. We can assume that Kimmens and Khalidi disagree when the beginning of the conflict began. Although Khalidi never states when it began specifically he includes several articles taking place well before World War I indicating he believed that the conflict started earlier than Kimmen’s argues.

[18] Maxime Rodinson, “Jewish Nationalism and Arab Nationalism,”  as written in The Palestine Problem, Andrew C. Kimmens, ed., p. 16. “ Jews of many different origins had come to settle in the Holy Land, side by side with an already motley population. In 1880 they (the Jews) numbered some 24,000 of a total of perhaps 500,000 residents,” The population differences between Jews and non-Jews in Palestine are one the main issues argued by anti-Zionists in bringing their case to the world community. Understanding that Rodinson’s piece is an essay and as such does not use footnotes points to a common problem in this field. If Rodinson  however, had been forced to use footnotes he would have had a hard time supporting the figure of a total population of 500,000. Even the population of Syria, Palestine, and Jordan at that time barely came to that figure. Certainly the population in the disputed area of Zionist settlement was far lower than that. I will cite two studies here but there are many which will substantiate this argument. The Political  Economy of Population Counts in Ottoman Palestine: nablus, Circa 1850. Beshara B. Doumani International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1. (Feb., 1994), pp. 1-17. Doumani cites the population within the area west of the Jordan River, roughly modern Israel and the West Bank today, to be around 100,000-120,000 total before the end of the nineteenth century. See also, The Demographic Development of Palestine, 1850-1882  Alexander Scholch, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 17, No. 4. (Nov., 1985), pp. 485-505. Schloch’s study is on the whole of Syrio-Palestine which would cover today the modern countries of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. He concludes the population of that area, Muslims, Christians and Jews in 1880 was around 400,000.

For another period showing the same differing views about population figures of Jews and non-Jews in Palestine between the two camps see Mark Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 211. Arab population during the 1920s grew rapidly sparking historical review today. An argument has ensued between historians as to whether this population growth was due to natural increase or immigration. And, the answer is important politically to both sides because if most Arabs claiming Palestinian heritage were immigrants and not indigenous to the Land for hundreds of years as they claim, they might not have any more rights to Palestine as those Jews who immigrated there. Therefore, the anti-Zionist position argues hard for the natural increase phenomenon. Tessler revues the figures of two researchers. Janet Abu-Lughod and Fred Gottheil. Both researchers come up with different figures from the same data as follows:

According to one scholarly estimate, for example, based on an analysis of census data from 1922-1931 Arab immigration represented only 7 percent of the 1922-1931 Arab population growth, and only about 4 percent of the settled Arab population in the latter year had been born outside the country.  A few scholars and other observers have challenged these figures, contending that they are much too low. For example, making reference to the same census data, another analyst asserts that Arab immigration represented as much as 38.7 percent of the 1922-1931 Arab population growth and, consequently, the approximately 11.8 percent of the 1931 Arab population was foreign-born (Tessler, p. 211).


The figures used in this analysis come from Janet L Abu-Lughod, “The Demographic Transformation of Palestine,” in Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, ed. The Transformation of Palestine: Essays on the Origin and Development of the Arab-Israaeli Conflict. Evenston: Northwestern University Press, 1971. And also from Fred Gotheil, “Arab immigration into Pre-State Israel: 1922-1931.” See also Elie Kedurie and Sylvia G. Haim, eds., Palestine and Israel in the 19th and 20th Centuries. London: Frank Cass, 1982. These citations are found in Tessler’s notes P. 780.

[19] Rodinson “Nationalism,” p. 9. It is interesting that Rodinson takes that view and traces it to the French Revolution. One could certainly argue that professor Rodinson is incorrect in this particular assessment. Most Zionist historians would argue that it is not assimilation that traces to the French Revolution, but Zionism itself. Instead Rodinson argues that any sense of nationalism that existed before the French Revolution naturally fell away in the Jewish community as a result of the events beginning in 1789. Most Zionist thinkers would argue the opposite, that Jewish nationalism actually gained its first spark of realism with the French Revolution. If one accepts the premise that the French Revolution began the era of nineteenth century European nationalism then it is entirely arguable that Zionism can be traced to that event. European Jews were strongly influenced by a series of forerunners, which created the atmosphere to build a Jewish nationalist movement coined as Zionism in the 1890s. Therefore, without the French Revolution most Zionists would argue that Zionism would have never been possible.

The “cultural assimilation” of the Jews that Rodinson is speaking of here really is traceable to the Jewish enlightenment, which actually grew out of the self-emancipation of Moses Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn, who began to explore the idea of Jewish emancipation in the early 1750s, gained his influence from the philosophes of the previous one hundred and fifty years. He took his cues from Locke, Rousseau and Hobbes, not Robespierre, Danton and the Estates General.  Beginning his work almost one-half century before the French Revolution, Mendelssohn died in 1782.  It is his writings in which European Jewish “assimilationists” traced their intellectual roots.

[20] Violent anti-Semitism was indeed on the rise during several different periods of nineteenth century Europe. The problem that Rodinson falls into here, as do many researchers, is that the Nazi Holocaust was so humanly devastating that persecutions of nineteenth century European Jews quite often are dismissed, or thought of as minor. In the Russian Pale Jews experienced some of the worst violence since the Crusades. In Western Europe to the extent that anti-Semitism was non-violent, it is presumptuous of Rodinson to make that claim and not take into account the countless humiliations that Jews were forced to live with on a daily basis from their Christian neighbors. Furthermore, to think that because these experiences were not violent Jews would not come to a conclusion that some kind of radical change must take place if they are ever to be free is shortsighted and insensitive.

[21] This is a debate, which has plagued Zionism from its beginnings. There are several positions on this complicated “Jewish” problem. One argues that Zionism is part of the Jewish religion and cannot be separated from it. Another distinctly separates itself from the Jewish religion, and insists that the State of Israel  should bare no influence from the Jewish religion. A third voice in the Jewish community is an anti-Zionist position. Zionism cannot take the place of Jewish ritual and therefore make no claim to “the Land of Israel.” Reinharz and Shapira are more or less in the second camp of this debate.

[22] Reinharz and Shapira, Zionism, p. 27. The “impossible starting conditions” Shapira is referring to in this quote are in large part due to the overwhelming opposition Zionism ultimately faced from the Arab world. This  produces an historical juxtaposition not found in most other historiographies. Most Zionists agree that Zionism is indeed a great success story however, those elements that mark it a success are the same elements that mark its failures, the largest of which is its failure to secure a peaceful relationship with the Arab world that surrounds it.

[23] One of the most often cited anti-Zionist proofs of this argument is Herzl’s words in one of his letters describing the colonization of European Jews to Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land.”

[24] Of course a fundamental separation was already in place due to a difference in language and religion. The Zionists must have been aware of these differences and calculated the risk of further alienating the Arab community. Max Nordeau spoke about the growing Arab discontent at the 1906 Zionist Congress.  This was the first official mention of a need to solve a potentially dangerous problem with the Arabs.

That Zionism completely ignored the Arabs of Palestine can be argued as a problem of different priorities between anti-Zionism and pro-Zionism. For pro-Zionist forces there are several aspects of historiography which need to be explored. For anti-Zionism , there is only one,  Zionist encroachment into Palestine. Without Zionism claiming colonization of  Palestine as its goal there would be no anti-Zionist movement. Pro-Zionist historians have recently released new works outlining the Zionist debate during the first and second periods of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the “the Arab problem” in Palestine. Works from adherents of Ahad Ha’Am and later Martin Buber excoriate the Zionist movement as early as 1891 on relations with the local Arabs. Books such as Zachary Lockman’s Comrades and Enemies, discusses Zionist attempts to unionize Arab and Jewish railroad workers to demand better wages and working conditions prior to 1930.

[25] Israel Kolatt, “The Zionist Movement and the Arabs,” from Reinharz and Shapira, Zionism, p.  620. See also Zionism and the Arab Question, Shmuel Almog, Jerusalem: The Historical Society of Israel and the Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 1983, pp. 1-34.

[26] Kolatt, “Movement and Arabs,” p. 624-625. Kolatt describes Victor Jacobson’s failure to convince the Arabs of Jewish benefits to the Arab Middle East and Nahum Sokolow’s failed reconciliation efforts with Palestinian Arabs in Damascus.

[27] Khalidi, Haven to Conquest, p. Xxi.

[28] Reinharz and Shapira, Zionism, p. 1.

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