Commentary Magazine


Was Zionism Unjust?

The case of “The New Historians vs. The State of Israel” can, it would appear, be considered closed. Not that a jury of scholars has returned with a verdict. The plaintiffs have simply dropped the main charges.

Such, at any rate, is the rather surprising impression one gets from three bulky new books: Benny Morris’s Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-19991; Avi Shlaim’s The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World2 ; and, in Hebrew, Tom Segev’s The Days of the Poppies: Palestine Under the British.

Morris, Shlaim, and Segev have all figured prominently in a school of Left-leaning, post-Zionist Israeli historians that has over the last two decades, at times with the help of newly opened Israeli archives, published an extensive literature of “revisionist” books, articles, and monographs challenging the conventional “Zionist narrative” of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Israel, these “new historians” have argued, far from being the valiant creation of a deserving people, was “besmirched by original sin” (the phrase is Morris’s). Or, more precisely, by a concatenation of sins, its establishment made possible by the dispossession of a Palestinian people deliberately driven into exile; its so-called defensive wars having been premeditated acts of aggression committed by militarily superior forces; its unyielding policies toward the Arab world meant to forestall a peace that would prevent the Jewish state from expanding territorially and from imposing a siege mentality on its own citizens. In the bitter argument over right and wrong in the Middle East, the Jews, so it seemed, were less right than the Arabs, the Arabs more wronged than the Jews.

Although originating in academia, the debate over the “new history” has been taken up extensively by the media in Israel and abroad. Supporters have praised its objectivity, freed from the restraints of Zionist myth and nationalist clichés. Critics have accused it of systematically falsifying the past with the not-so-hidden agenda of delegitimizing Israel itself. Yet until now, while yielding numerous studies of specific issues and episodes, the “new history” has produced no comprehensive survey of its subject, which has made it difficult to summarize its conclusions. Morris, Shlaim, and Segev’s new books lay these before us.

And what do we find? That the devil, as the Hebrew expression goes, is not so fearsome. All three books, certainly, present a version of history that is far from the accepted Zionist one. All three contend that Zionism inflicted great harm on an Arab world that had little choice but to react to it as it did. All accuse Zionist and Israeli leaders of obduracy and insensitivity toward the Arabs. All blame them for missing numerous opportunities for greater Jewish-Arab dialogue and understanding. All hold them at least partly responsible for every outbreak of hostilities between Jews and Arabs in this century. And all concede, whether openly or between the lines, that, short of abandoning the very attempt to create and maintain a Jewish state in Palestine, more conciliatory leaders with more conciliatory policies would not have made any difference.

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Avi Shlaim is the harshest of the three in his judgments of Israel. His new book, a history of Arab-Israeli relations from the establishment of Israel to the present, follows an earlier study, Collusion Across the Jordan (1988). There, Shlaim contended that in Israel’s 1948-49 War of Independence, the military confrontation between Israel’s Haganah and Transjordan’s Arab Legion was largely a ruse, its stationary front the result of a secret pact between Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Transjordan’s British-backed King Abdullah to go through the motions of fighting while carving up Palestine behind the backs of the Palestinian Arabs.

Given the bitter battles fought along that front, Shlaim’s was never an easy thesis to defend, and he has largely retreated from it in The Iron Wall. True, he still believes that Abdullah’s “objective in sending his army into Palestine was not to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state but to make himself the master of the Arab part of Palestine.” But since the “Arab part of Palestine” as defined by the 1947 UN partition resolution included salients that the Arab Legion fought hard for and lost, and others that it had to fight hard to retain, this hardly suggests “collusion.”

In general, Shlaim’s anti-Israel rhetoric clashes with his historian’s respect for the facts. In one breath he can sneer at the “conventional Zionist version [that] portrays the 1948 war as a simple, bipolar, no-holds-barred struggle between a monolithic Arab adversary and a tiny Israel,” and in the next admit:

The desperate plight and heroism of the Jewish fighters are not in question. . . . It is true that the military experts of the Arab League had worked out a unified plan for the invasion. . . . The inability of the Arabs to coordinate their diplomatic and military plans was in no small measure responsible for the disaster that overwhelmed them.

In plain English, the “Zionist narrative” had it right: the Arabs set out to destroy the new Jewish state in 1948 and might well have succeeded had it not been for their own incompetence and Jewish valor.

Ben-Gurion, though treated with respect as a cunning statesman, is The Iron Wall’s main villain. Portrayed as an intransigent hard-liner who sought to whip up tensions with the Arabs, he is repeatedly contrasted with the more moderate and “flexible” Moshe Sharett, his foreign minister and temporary replacement in 1954-55. And yet, when it comes to Ben-Gurion’s strategic vision, Shlaim can write: “On the broad terms of a settlement with the Arabs, there was no real difference between Sharett and Ben-Gurion. Both men believed that a settlement should be based on the status quo.” In other words, the would-be territorial expansionists in these years were not the Israelis but the Arabs, who insisted (with varying degrees of Western support) that Israel give up territory as a precondition for peace talks.

Indeed, Shlaim, who acknowledges that Ben-Gurion’s peace feelers toward Egypt in the early 50’s were consistently turned down by Nasser until Israel joined Britain and France in the 1956 Sinai campaign, is able to point to a grand total of two cases between 1948 and the 1978 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in which, so he claims, Israel torpedoed a chance for peace. The first involved the corrupt and perhaps mentally unbalanced Syrian strongman Colonel Husni Zaim, who seized power in Damascus in early 1949 and secretly suggested to Ben-Gurion a settlement based on Israel’s ceding to Syria half the Sea of Galilee—a large lake, entirely Israel’s by the partition plan and on its side of the international border, that was (and still is) the country’s main source of water.

Ben-Gurion rejected the offer; Zaim was overthrown four months later by a coup; and Shlaim, though believing that “if an opportunity for a break-through had been missed, the responsibility must be attributed . . . to Israel,” never contends that negotiations with Zaim would have succeeded or that an agreement with him would have been respected by his more belligerent successors. Incidentally, he also fails to explain by what logic someone of his views, according to which contemporary Israel’s claims to even an inch of the former Syrian Golan Heights are inadmissible, should view as reasonable a Syrian demand for half the Sea of Galilee.

The second case was in 1971, four years after both the Six-Day war (which Shlaim concedes Israel neither sought nor planned for) and the famous “three no’s”—to peace with, negotiations with, or recognition of Israel—issued by Arab leaders gathered in Khartoum. In that year, Nasser’s successor Anwar Sadat proposed a nonbelligerency pact in return for an Israeli withdrawal into Sinai from the banks of the Suez Canal. Both Shlaim and Benny Morris consider Prime Minister Golda Meir’s refusal to take this idea seriously a fateful mistake that led to the Yom Kippur war. Most likely they are right; but since they confess to having been anticipated in this opinion by close associates of Meir like her generally hawkish defense minister Moshe Dayan and her ambassador to Washington Yitzhak Rabin, the incident as described by them testifies to nothing more sinister than her overconfidence and bad judgment. Meir, they concede, would have been happy to sit down to full peace talks with any Arab leader ready to join her.

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Like Shlaim, Benny Morris, whose earlier major study was The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (1987), also tends to make sweeping criticisms of Israel that are then qualified to the point of unspoken retraction. Thus, he can both write that, between 1948 and 1956 (after which, he admits, such a gesture would have been useless), “Israel’s leaders simply refused to contemplate a [single] concession of territory or water to achieve peace . . . they were remarkably single-minded and rigid” and confess at the same time: “It is unclear whether, had Israel been more forthcoming, the Arab leaders would have followed through.” Like Shlaim, that is, he identifies as the main feature of Israel’s “rigidity” between 1948 and 1967 the fact that, a small vulnerable country surrounded by far larger enemies, it did not agree in advance to surrender precious land.

Furthermore, while Morris’s The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (on the whole a well-documented and fair-minded book) has often been cited against Israel as evidence that it deliberately stampeded the Palestinians into flight in 1948, in some cases by the commission of atrocities, Morris’s conclusions in Righteous Victims are quite cautious. The worst of these atrocities, the Irgun’s massacre of Arab villagers in Deir Yassin, he writes in partial acceptance of the Irgun version, was not premeditated, and resulted in far fewer dead than the commonly accepted figure; and although

Ben-Gurion clearly wanted as few Arabs as possible to remain in the Jewish state, there was no systematic expulsion policy. . . . The principal cause of the mass flight of April-June [1948, the period in which most of the refugees left] was Jewish military attack, or fears of such attack. . . . In some areas Arab commanders ordered the villagers to evacuate to clear the ground for military purposes or to prevent surrender. . . . Flight proved to be contagious. The fall of, and flight from, the big cities—principally Haifa and Jaffa—radiated pessimism and despair to surrounding villages. In the countryside flight by one clan led to that of neighboring clans, and flight from one village to flight from neighboring villages. . . . The exodus was, overall, the result of a cumulative process and a set of causes.

In short, most of the Arab refugees fled because there was a war going on around them, not because they were ethnically cleansed.

And the 1948 war itself? “An inevitability,” says Tom Segev, whose The Days of the Poppies concludes with it:

Everyone [on both the Arab and Jewish side] realized that the UN partition plan could not possibly be carried out. The boundary between the [proposed Arab and Jewish] states was long, tortuous, and indefensible; the Jewish state was supposed to include half a million Arabs, slightly more than the number of its Jews. . . . Nor was there any reason to believe that the internationalization of Jerusalem could work. No one believed in the UN map. Everyone knew there would be a war.

In fact, writes Segev, whose previous book, The Seventh Million (1993), accused Zionist leaders in Palestine of indifference to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the 1948 war had become inevitable long before this:

Once the Zionist enterprise got under way in Palestine with the aim of establishing an independent state with a Jewish majority, war was unavoidable. Everything pointed to the likelihood of its being a long, drawn-out war, with no clear end.

Neither Shlaim nor Morris disputes this. The very title of Shlaim’s book reinforces Segev’s point, being taken from an essay by the conservative Zionist leader Ze’evjabotinsky, who wrote in 1923:

A voluntary agreement [with the Arabs] is unthinkable. Consequently, those who look upon such an agreement as the sine qua non of Zionism, may well say non now and bid farewell to Zionism. Zionist colonization must either be abandoned or continued against the will of the native population. It can only be furthered and developed [by] an Iron Wall that cannot be broken by them.

To which Shlaim adds:

Labor Zionists were reluctant to admit that military force would be necessary if the Zionist movement was to achieve its objectives. Jabotinsky faced up to this fact fairly and squarely.

The bottom line? Three foremost “new historians” agree that the only way to have avoided nearly a century of conflict with the Arabs over Palestine was for Jews never to have gone there with national aims in the first place. The only original sin Israel was conceived in was the sin of the Zionist dream itself.

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Not that Morris, Shlaim, and Segev’s list of Zionism and Israel’s wrongdoings is a short one. It includes such varied charges as that Zionist land purchases under the British Mandate led to the eviction and pauperization of Arab peasants; that even in the Mandate period, Zionist leaders believed that Palestine’s Arab population would have to be “transferred” to other countries; that Israel forcibly expelled some Palestinians from towns and villages in 1948; that ruthless Israeli military measures in the early 50’s against Arab “infiltrators,” most of them refugees seeking to return to or salvage lost property, killed and wounded large numbers of unarmed people; that in these same years high Israeli politicians and army officers pushed unsuccessfully for a second round of fighting to redraw Israel’s borders; that the Israeli army murdered Egyptian prisoners of war in both 1956 and 1967; and so forth.

These charges are largely true and largely unflattering, though some are mitigated by the research of the “new historians” themselves. (Thus, Morris puts the total number of Arabs forced from their land by Jewish agricultural settlement in the Mandate period at “several thousand families”—hardly a massive phenomenon.) Most have always been public knowledge, if often knowledge lurking in shadows that Israel’s “old historians” shied from investigating. Some raise hard questions.

Was there, for example, any moral justification for expelling Palestinians in 1948? It can be argued that if Israel had not drastically reduced its Arab population at the time, it would have confronted an unmanageable Arab minority even in the first years of its existence. It can also be observed that Israel’s leaders could not have imagined that the expellees, rather than being decently resettled by their host countries like tens of millions of other refugees in this century, would be made to rot permanently in ramshackle camps. It is difficult, though, to feel comfortable with such arguments.

Still, not only do the facts need to be faced, there is everything to be said for Israel’s facing them. A society that knows its past is better prepared for the future. It is likely, for example, that the behavior of the Israeli army during the intifada, in the early stages of which in particular it behaved with unnecessary brutality, might have been more restrained if not for the myth known in Hebrew as tohar ha-neshek, “the purity of arms”—that is, the notion, taught to several generations of Israelis, that their soldiers never did and never could use their weapons unworthily. An Israel more aware that a Jewish soldier was as capable of excess as a non-Jewish one might have sent off its young men to face provocative Palestinian demonstrators and stone throwers with less confidence in their instincts and stricter guidance and supervision.

An Israel that put less credence in a legendary purity would also have found its belief in itself less shaken by the intifada. Faced with TV shots of soldiers run amok, many Israelis assumed that something had gone terribly wrong with a society that never would have allowed such things in the past; in reality, what was wrong was a situation that this society had no idea how to handle. This is the other danger of myths: not only the irrational actions they sometimes induce but the irrational reactions produced by them when punctured. A “Zionist narrative” in which the Jews are always in the right will inevitably spawn a counternarrative that the disillusioned will swallow whole.

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This was one reason that Jabotinsky, whose honesty Shlaim so admires, was exasperated by the Labor Zionist contention, repeated at every opportunity in the early years of the Mandate, that Palestine’s Arab masses had no reason to oppose Jewish settlement, which could only bring them untold benefits, and that their anti-Zionism was a misunderstanding fomented by the Arab upper classes and by a British policy of divide-and-rule. To be taken in by such a fairy tale, Jabotinsky believed, was not only to let down one’s guard against the anti-Jewish reaction that was bound to come, it was to set oneself up for a mental and emotional plunge. In the short run, the realization that Palestine’s Arabs had every reason to resist Jewish settlement might engender a feeling of despair; yet “this despair,” Jabotinsky told his audience,

will in the end bear fruit; for the illusion in which you placed your trust is dead. . . . A nation that is likened to an old woman, a feeble-minded nation, bows its head and says: “If I lose the illusion, I have lost my country.” But a nation of builders . . . lifts up its head and says: “The illusion is dead, long live the truth.”

Jabotinsky may have had a higher opinion of both the world’s and the Jews’ capacity for truth than was merited. Without the illusion that a Jewish majority in Palestine could be established peacefully, many Zionists would have refused to settle there; without it, there would have been no Balfour Declaration, and no international support for Zionism. In this sense, the real naïf was Jabotinsky himself. Nor did he sufficiently take into account a Jewish moral perspective that, shaped by the biblical prophets and an age-old habit of self-blame, tended to interpret the existence of violent enemies as a sign of Jewish failure.

And yet Jabotinsky was right about one thing: without a deep-seated belief in the intrinsic justice—what he himself called the “sacred truth”—of the demand for a Jewish home in the land of Israel, the case for Zionism collapses. Let this case become a matter of bookkeeping—so much Jewish suffering versus so much Arab suffering, so much Jewish blame versus so much Arab blame—and the Jews automatically lose, since nothing done to them by Palestine’s Arabs can remotely justify the latter’s dispossession. Although human history may be one long chronicle of tribal and national land grabs, there is nothing particularly admirable about any of them, and as Ruth Wisse trenchantly observes in her book If I Am Not for Myself. . . . The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews (1993), to offer “the admirability of Jewish achievement as evidence of Jewish national legitimacy is a fatal mixture, since it appears to make the legitimacy contingent on the admirability.”

Conversely, accept the intrinsic justice of Zionism and it is possible to investigate the most unsavory chapters from Israel’s past without Jewish national legitimacy being challenged in the least. Even the “new historians,” as I have said, turn out then, however inadvertently, to be on Israel’s side.

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But how, in the intellectual war being waged between Zionism and post-Zionism in Israel today, are Israelis to be convinced of this justice? Certainly not by reading the “new historians” themselves. When it comes to Zionism’s origins and ambitions, Shlaim and Morris are studiously neutral; Segev, whose style is anecdotal, simply begins in medias res with the British entry into Palestine.

Nor is convincing Israelis of the justice of Zionism the proper duty of the historian. It is the duty of the Israeli educator and educational system.

This system, it so happens, has been much in the news lately. As opposed to the usual order of things, the news did not first break in Israel and spread to the international media, but rather started with a front-page article in the August 14 New York Times, headlined “Israel’s History Textbooks Replace Myths With Facts,” by the paper’s Jerusalem correspondent Ethan Bronner.

“The start of this school year,” Bronner wrote, describing the trickle-down effect of the “new history” on Israeli pedagogy, “marks a quiet revolution in the teaching of Israeli history to most Israeli pupils. New, officially approved textbooks make plain that many of the most common Israeli beliefs are as much myth as fact.”

As instances of this trend, Bronner pointed to several new texts introduced this year into the ninth-grade curriculum, in which students study 20th-century world and Jewish history. “School-children,” he wrote,

have long been taught that the Jews have always been surrounded by enemies and that their victory over five Arab states in the 1948 War of Independence was a near miracle of David-and-Goliath proportions. . . . [But] the new books say that it was the Israelis who had the military edge in the War of Independence [and] that many Palestinians left their land because they were afraid, and in some cases expelled by Israeli soldiers. The books freely use the word “Palestinian” to refer to a people and a nationalist movement, unheard of in the previous texts. They refer to the Arabic name for the 1948 war—the nakbah, or catastrophe—and they ask the pupils to put themselves in the Arabs’ shoes and consider how they would have felt about Zionism. Finally, the books no longer separate Jewish and Israeli history from events around the world but weave them into a single tapestry. . . . “Only ten years ago much of this was taboo,” reflected Eyal Naveh, a history professor at Tel Aviv University and the author of one of the new ninth-grade textbooks. “We were not mature enough to look at these controversial problems. Now we can deal with this the way Americans deal with the Indians and black enslavement. We are getting rid of certain myths.”

On the face of it, Bronner’s revelations—fed to him, it would seem, by a source in Israel’s ministry of education—seem less than world-shaking. They may reflect changes in emphasis, but the only “miracle” claimed by the old “Zionist narrative” for 1948 was that a Jewish “military edge” was achieved, not that victory was won without such an edge; and the word “Palestinian,” along with the knowledge that its bearers have their own political leadership and point of view, is not exactly a novelty in Israeli life. If students are now told that these Palestinians left their land because they were afraid and “in some cases” expelled—well, war is something to be afraid of, and “in some cases” does not mean in most cases.

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A first glance at the textbooks themselves confirms this impression. Here (in my translation) is Naveh’s The Twentieth Century on the events of 1948:

Immediately after the partition resolution, the “state in progress” had to fight for its life. The British . . . could not (or did not want to) prevent Arab attacks. . . . In the bloody war between Palestine’s Arabs and its Jewish community, the Arabs enjoyed a demographic and topographic advantage. . . . The turning point proved to be the organizational and technological superiority of the Jewish community, which functioned as a full-fledged state. The Arab inhabitants of the country began a mass flight and were already, for all practical purposes, defeated. . . . The War of Independence expanded Israel’s borders beyond those of the partition resolution and, recognized by the international community, they stayed in place until 1967.

All this seems harmless enough. Indeed, for all Naveh’s brave talk to Ethan Bronner, his book does not refer even once to a partial Israeli responsibility for the refugee problem. For that, one has to go to the ministry of education itself, or rather to its “Pedagogic Authority,” whose new textbook, A World of Change, has this to say:

In the course of [the April-May offensive] masses of Palestinians left their homes. The reasons for this were varied and differed from place to place. In some cases it was the desire to get away from the fighting and the panic that set in upon hearing reports of Arab defeats and rumors of impending Jewish massacres. There were also some places where the Jewish fighting forces carried out expulsions. Families rapidly packed their belongings and were made to leave.

A bit harder on the Jews perhaps, but not outrageous. If this is the most the “new history” has done to the classroom, even Zionists, it would seem, can accept it.

On second glance, though, there is something that strikes one about these books. It is their tone—cool, detached, “objective,” the same tone in which the student is asked to read about the rise of fascist Italy, the beginnings of the cold war, or the fall of the Soviet empire. The new books are not for or against anyone. They state, accurately enough, the bare facts. The Jews did this. The Arabs did that. Such was the outcome.

No doubt this is partly a consequence of the decision, programmatic in itself, to “weave” Jewish and world history together. A textbook needs unity, and one cannot perhaps expect it to crank up its emotional register every time it gets to the Jews after dealing in a neutral voice with other peoples. Still, the results give one pause.

Here is a classroom of thirteen- and fourteen-year-old Israeli boys and girls, studying (and very likely hearing) for the first time the story of their country’s beginnings—and what they hear and study tells them nothing of what the declaration of a Jewish state in 1948 meant to Jews in Israel and all over the world: nothing of the excitement, the tremendous emotion, the joy and the tears; nothing of the dizzying sense of a dream unbelievably come true; nothing of the fear that this dream might soon perish in yet another annihilation of Jews; nothing of its roots in history, of all Jewish history suddenly focused by the moment as though by a burning glass; nothing of the thoughts and feelings of the young men and women who went into battle bearing this history on their backs; nothing at all. It could have happened in China or on the moon.

There are many words missing here, the smallest of which is “we.” Nowhere is the ninth-grader reminded that he belongs to the people he is reading about, that he is flesh of their flesh and blood of their blood; nowhere that their story is his. He might have dropped from the moon himself. . . . But no, this is not entirely true. In a chapter on the Holocaust—one, interestingly, far longer than his chapter on the birth of Israel—Naveh writes: “As Jews, of course, we have a special relationship to the Holocaust.” Apparently, a similar relationship does not exist with the state of Israel.3

Nor, needless to say, is there anything in these pages about the justice of Zionism, although Naveh does take space to inform the student that this was a movement that represented “a minority of the Jewish people.”

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What can one say of such textbooks? That they do not attempt to create in the young Israeli the slightest identification with his people or his country? That they make no connection between this country and 3,000 years of Jewish history? That they do not explain in any meaningful way why it had to be taken from its former owners or why the Arab claim to it is not better than the Jewish one? All of the above are true.

This is the real damage inflicted on the new textbooks by the “new history” and the cultural trends it represents: not the demythicization of Israel’s past but its narrative objectification, to the point that Israelis become viewers situated outside it. Objectification is not the same as objectivity, a frame of mind that (as the “new historians” with their postmodernist leanings can affirm) is at best relative. Rather, it is a process of numbing and emotional divorce.

This is damnable, first of all in regard to the ninth-graders themselves. Many of them have older brothers who are fighting in Lebanon; nearly all of them will soon be serving in the army themselves; nor is there any guarantee that they will not have to fight one day, too. To educate them in such a manner, deprived of the faintest notion of what it is all ultimately about, is to let them down cruelly.

Beyond this, of course, it is to let down an entire society. It is to adopt the post-Zionist thesis that Israel should be a “normal” country that can live in and for the present entirely as (to use a favorite post-Zionist buzz-phrase) “a state of all its citizens”—that is, a state in which Jews and Arabs are equal not only politically but in their mutually nullifying interpretations of history. But are there such normal countries? Do history texts in American schools treat the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the Civil War, as if they and the ideas they represented had nothing to say to the American student?

The “Zionist narrative” has indeed been built partly on myths. Yet the idea that it cannot withstand the deconstruction of these myths is itself a myth of the “new history”—and one that Shlaim, Morris, and Segev’s books unintentionally expose. For if Zionism was intrinsically just, this was because its analysis of the Jewish situation, which held that without an independent homeland in Palestine the Jewish people had no life in our times, was correct and has nothing to fear from the historical truth, whether this comes from the “new historians” or the old.

What needs to be feared is a Jewish people that forgets who it is. The Palestine conflict was inevitable, Tom Segev writes in The Days of the Poppies, because Palestine was too small to be divided equitably between the Jews and the Arabs. Fifty years later it has not grown any larger, while its Jewish population has increased over eightfold and its Arab population—after the flight of much of it—by two-and-a-half. Even on the assumption that the peace process succeeds, it will at best mean the containment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a generally low level of violence, not its disappearance. On the contrary: this conflict will be fueled by intense rivalry and continual new Palestinian demands.

An Israel that is intellectually and emotionally unprepared will not cope well with these demands. That, however, is a prospect unlikely to worry the “new historians.”

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Footnotes

1 Knopf, 720 pp., $40.00.

2 Norton, 448 pp., $29.95.

3 Or with the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a chapter of the Holocaust that has always been given great emphasis in Israel and Israeli schools as illustrating the other side of Hitler’s war against the Jews—i.e., the Jews’ readiness, when given even the slimmest chance, to fight back heroically against impossible odds. The Twentieth Century reduces the Warsaw uprising to a dry sentence.

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About the Author

Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.




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