A concise history by an author confident with his scope and authority—but beware that van Creveld has a considerable axe to...




An authoritative history, and glib patriotic defense, by a veteran historian of Israel.

Van Creveld (The Culture of War, 2008, etc.) provides a no-nonsense survey of the establishment of Israel, continually reminding readers of the “amazing” success story of the country and its need to stand up in the face of “endless and often highly unfair criticism.” Without getting bogged down in details, the author fashions five sweeping chapters in which to group the great events of the nation’s founding. “Forged in Fury” moves from the rise of Zionism both as a growth of Jewish self-identity in the West and a reaction against anti-Semitism, especially after the Dreyfus Affair. Pogroms in Russia prompted the first migrations, often by young socialists, while the Balfour Declaration of 1917 assured a “national home for the Jewish people” as a bulwark against Ottoman rule. Van Creveld charges briskly through the early clashes with the Arabs as Jewish emigration grew, the strengthening of the military into the Israel Defense Forces and the defeat of the combined Arab armies in 1948, which gave rise to the great myth of Israel’s fight for existence, “a miracle beyond compare.” In “Full Steam Ahead,” the author explores the rocky consolidation of government especially in terms of the place of religion and the creation of a viable economy. “The Nightmare Years” ensued when Israel’s attempted transformation of the Middle East after the 1967 war rendered it a world pariah, until the Camp David Accords opened prospects for peace. The final two chapters, “New Challenges” and “Tragedy, Triumph and Struggle,” delineate the failed reactions to subsequent Palestinian uprisings and changes in leadership, and consider important currents in the economy, feminism, education, cultural life and Americanization of society. In concluding remarks, van Creveld admits frankly that if Israel wants a “to lead a ‘normal’ life in accordance with its own basic values,” it has to deal with the Palestinians. However, the author lectures readers rather gallingly that Israeli Arabs have it better in Israel than in most Arab countries.

A concise history by an author confident with his scope and authority—but beware that van Creveld has a considerable axe to grind.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-59678-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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