A panoramic and provocative history of life in Palestine during the three strife-torn but romantic decades when Britain ruled and the seeds of today's conflicts were sown
Tom Segev's acclaimed works, 1949 and The Seventh Million, overturned accepted views of the history of Israel. Now Segev explores the dramatic period before the creation of the state, when Britain ruled over "one Palestine, complete" (as noted in the receipt signed by the High Commissioner) and when its promise to both Jews and Arabs that they would inherit the land set in motion the conflict that haunts the region to this day.
Drawing on a wealth of untapped archival materials, Segev reconstructs a tumultuous era (1917 to 1948) of limitless possibilities and tragic missteps. He introduces the legendary figures--General Allenby, Lawrence of Arabia, David Ben-Gurion--as well as an array of pioneers, secret agents, diplomats, and fanatics. He tracks the steady advance of Jews and Arabs toward confrontation and with his hallmark originality puts forward a radical new argument: that the British, far from being pro-Arab, as commonly thought, consistently favored the Zionist position, and did so out of the mistaken--and anti-Semitic belief that Jews turned the wheels of history.
Rich in unforgettable characters, sensitive to all perspectives, One Palestine, Complete brilliantly depicts the decline of an empire, the birth of one nation, and the tragedy of another.
"The British entered Palestine to defeat the Turks; they stayed there to keep it from the French; then they gave it to the Zionists because they loved `the Jews' even as they loathed them, at once admired and despised them, and above all feared them. They were not guided by strategic considerations, and there was no orderly decision-making process," claims Segev in revealing the thrust of his argument that the contemporary problems between the Arabs and the Jews over the issue of a promised homeland were exacerbated by the interventions of the British empire between the two world wars. Segev, author of the well-known and highly controversial books 1949 and The Seventh Million, is one of the "new historians" who have revised and demythologized the history of modern Israel. The reason the British feared the Zionists, Segev maintains, was that they believed that the Jews had inordinate political power around the world. Moreover, he suggests that the Arab rebellions of the late 1930s were instrumental in convincing the British to leave the reins to the Jewish Agency and even hypothesizes about how the British would have reacted if the Arabs had had a political infrastructure in place similar to that of the Jews. Although his argument would be more convincing had he given greater credence to the Palestinian perspective, Segev is an excellent historical writer who presents a compelling and timely discussion of a well-trodden subjectDeven if it does not stir as much controversy as his earlier work.