1949: THE FIRST ISRAELIS by Tom Segev


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Historical revisionism--Israeli style. Starting with the premise that Israel's origins as a modern nation are bathed in a romantic glow of larger-than-life heroes and citizens who were exemplary idealists, Segev, a former Israeli newspaperman, has attempted to write a corrective in this translation of his Israeli best-seller. Segev focuses on 1949, the first full year of Israeli statehood, examining the Jewish treatment of Arabs and new Jewish immigrants (especially those escaping from Arab countries), the emerging rift between the Orthodox and the secular, and the tension between the vision and the difficult realities of bureaucracy, austerity, and the legacy of war. Using recently declassified documents, minutes of meetings, diaries, and other material, Segev recounts a whole series of incidents which make for sometimes disturbing revelations. Among them, Ben-Gurion's purported rejection of a Syrian peace plan and US involvement in the formation of the Israeli army will make readers see the emergence of Israel in a far more hardheaded way. This book requires considerable background to place it in historical context. For instance, the problems raised are discussed independently of Israel's genuine security needs and the moral obligation to absorb Holocaust survivors and all other Jewish immigrants, matters the original Israeli audience knew intimately. Knowledge of such factors is crucial in understanding the book's critical analysis. This book is disturbing in many ways, but if the reality presented tarnishes the romanticism of the Zionist enterprise, as Segev concludes, it does not take away from the courage and faith of Israel's founding generation.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1986
ISBN: 0805058966
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan