A cogent, readable, and meticulously researched account of Zionism and British policy in Palestine under the British Mandate.
Ha’retz columnist Segev (The Seventh Million, 1993) draws from a mind-boggling array of primary and secondary source material to illustrate the wide range of issues and individuals that affected the political climate of Palestine between 1917 and 1948. His primary claim is that the British government was sympathetic to the Zionists over the Arabs at the close of WWI, because certain key officials (e.g., Lloyd George) believed the world’s Jews to be a great and powerful transnational force that he would be wise to befriend and foolish to alienate. To this end, the author paints Chaim Weizmann as the one-man propaganda machine and spin-doctor who was behind it all—a kind of magic-bullet theory that fails to solve the puzzle satisfactorily. More plausible than Segev’s radical claims of conspiracy and cowardice is his emphasis on Zionism in its pre-WWII form: he manages, through careful documentation and the innovative integration of source material, to effectively debunk the popular myth of Israel owing its independence to the sympathies of an international community horrified by the Holocaust. Making good use of historical documents, personal correspondence, and private journals, Segev allows certain characters to tell their own stories—from Yefim Gordin (a young Jewish immigrant who changed his name for the cause) to Khalil al-Sakakini (a leading Arab intellectual, educator, and nationalist)—which add up, in the end, to an intricate portrait of the mottled, beautiful, deadly mess that is the Holy Land.
A careful, thorough, and intelligent work of journalistic history.