1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War by Benny Morris - review by David Cesarani

David Cesarani

The Root of Conflict

1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War


Yale University Press 524pp £19.99

Until the 1980s, the literature on Israel’s history was dominated by respectful biographies of the country’s founders and turgid multi-volume histories of central institutions such as the army and the kibbutzim. But the shock of the Yom Kippur War and the end of the Labour Party’s political hegemony primed a new generation to look more critically at the familiar record. The declassification of government documents pertaining to the early years of statehood provided plenty of material. Within a few years a clutch of revisionist histories appeared that attacked every sacred cow. The standard-bearer of the revisionists was Benny Morris, who dismissed pretty much everything written up to that point as ‘official history’.

Morris was born on a kibbutz in 1948 but his parents were from Britain and he gained his PhD from Cambridge. His writing bears the stamp of his origins and training. In contrast to much Israeli historiography, which is rooted in German or East European traditions and is overly theorised

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

Follow Literary Review on Twitter