The roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

‘Fair Observer’ talks to Avi Shlaim, professor emeritus of international relations at St. Antony’s College, Oxford

By Abul-Hasanat Siddique & Avi Shlaim

September 16, 2021

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has waxed and waned for several decades. The roots of it stem far beyond the most recent clashes in May that once again brought death and disaster to the region. The question arises: How far back do we look for an explanation of the current violence?

Do we start with the 1967 conflict that resulted in Israel occupying Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, along with the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula? Or do we go back to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War — what the Israelis call the War of Independence and the Palestinians the Nakba, or catastrophe? Or do we need to rewind further back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, a British letter of intent for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”? Or do we go all the way to the First Zionist Congress, convened in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 amidst a wave of anti-Semitism rising across Europe?

The debate about the origins of the conflict goes on to this day. Regardless of the debate, the current situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories has become unsustainable. Bottom of FormIsrael continues its crippling blockade of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state. When Hamas, the Palestinian faction that controls Gaza, fires rockets into Israel, the Israelis retaliate with what has been described by many as a  disproportionate use of force. The human rights abuses perpetrated against Palestinians living under Israeli control have led to accusations of apartheid by organizations like B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch.

Construction of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, which is considered illegal under international law, has made a Palestinian state effectively impossible. At the same time, an estimated half of the Palestinian population lives outside  Palestine. Millions of refugees and their descendants — most of whom were exiled in 1948 — are stuck stateless in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. The wider Palestinian diaspora is scattered around the world.

With the peace process at a stalemate following years of failure, the end to this conflict is nowhere in sight.

In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to Avi Shlaim, professor emeritus of international relations at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and author of “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.” He explains what lies at the core of the conflict, the problem with the peace process, apartheid, US support for Israel and more.

Abul-Hasanat Siddique: At some media outlets, there is often a lack of historical context when it comes to Israel and Palestine. Some readers may think that the conflict began in 2021 with the recent clashes or in 1967 with the Six-Day War. If you had to explain the origin of the conflict, what would you say? Where do the roots lie?

Avi Shlaim: The core and the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the Zionist-Palestinian conflict. This conflict has been going on for over a century. There was one land and two national movements: the Palestinian national movement and the Jewish national movement, or the Zionist movement. Two peoples, two nations and one land. This is what the conflict is about.

In the late 1930s, the neighbouring Arab states intervened in this conflict on the side of the Palestinians. They remained engaged in varying degrees until President Sadat of Egypt visited Jerusalem in 1977, signed a peace treaty with Israel and led the trend towards Arab disengagement from the conflict. So, there are two levels to this conflict, two dimensions: the local one, the Jewish-Palestinian, and the interstate level of the conflict.

The great turning point of the conflict was 1948, which Israelis call the War of Independence and Palestinians call the Nakba, or the catastrophe. The outcome of this war was that three-quarters of a million Palestinians — more than half of the population — became refugees and Palestine was wiped off the map. These are the real roots of the conflict.

The next turning point was the Six-Day War in June 1967. In the course of that war, Israel trebled its territory. It captured the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. From now on, the Arab states had a direct stake in this conflict. They wanted to recover their occupied territories. In 1979, Israel gave back the Sinai Peninsula as the price for the peace treaty with Egypt. In 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel signed the Oslo Accord. The Oslo Accord did three things: the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist, Israel recognized the PLO as a representative of the Palestinian people, and the two sides agreed to resolve all their outstanding differences by peaceful means.

Edward Said was the first Palestinian to launch an all-out attack on the Oslo Accord. The reason for this was that the Oslo Accord addressed the 1967 file but not the 1948 file. It was an agreement between Israel and the PLO  about the Palestinian territories captured by Israel in 1967. It did not deal with the roots of the conflict: the rights of the 1948 Palestinian refugees and the collective right of the Palestinian people to national self-determination.

Siddique: There is a long-running debate over whether the solution lies in two states — one Jewish, one Arab — or one democratic state for both peoples. I know your view has changed over time from a two-state to a one-state solution. What led to that?

Shlaim: For most of my adult years, I supported the two-state solution. The two-state solution did not offer the Palestinians absolute justice, but in world affairs it is very rare to get absolute justice. It offered them relative justice or the most minimal national rights. It took the 1967 borders as the basis for a settlement between Israel, on the one hand, and an independent Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank, with the capital city in East Jerusalem. This would have left Israel with 78% of Mandatory Palestine and the Palestinians would have only 22%. So, by signing the Oslo Accord, the PLO made a far-reaching concession and agreed to settle the conflict in return for a very small state alongside Israel.

There has always been, and there still is today, broad international support for a two-state solution. But that doesn’t take account of Israeli actions since 1967.  Israel did not stand still after the victory. Since July 1967, Israel has been building settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. It withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005, but it continues to expand Jewish settlements on the West Bank even as we speak. If Israel had been serious about a two-state solution, at the very least it would have imposed a freeze on settlements to give negotiations a chance. But Israel continued to expand settlements. Settlements are about land-grabbing. Land-grabbing and peace-making don’t go together — it’s one or the other. By its actions since 1967, Israel indicated clearly its preference for land over peace with the Palestinians.

Another problem is the Israeli so-called security barrier on the West Bank. The wall is not complete yet, but it’s already 650 kilometers long. The Palestinians call it the apartheid wall. The International Court of Justice has ruled that the wall is illegal. Israel would have been perfectly within its rights to build the wall on its side of the 1967 border, but most of this wall is on the Palestinian side. They say that good fences make good neighbours, but not when the fence goes down the middle of your neighbour’s garden! The wall annexes between 8 per cent and 10 per cent of West Bank territory to Israel and the wall goes around East Jerusalem and cuts it off from the West Bank. East Jerusalem has been annexed by Israel. The Palestinians in East Jerusalem don’t have citizenship, they have permanent residence, which is fragile and vulnerable and can be terminated at any moment by Israel.

To sum up, there is no longer the physical and geographical possibility of a viable Palestinian state. All that is left is an archipelago of Palestinian enclaves surrounded by Israeli settlements and Israeli military bases. In other words, Israel, by its actions on the ground, has killed the two-state solution, which was the solution that I used to favour.

Since Israel eliminated this option, what is the alternative? The best alternative I can think of is one democratic state, with equal rights for all its citizens, regardless of religion, gender or ethnicity. I do not regret the shift towards the one-state solution. What is wrong with a one-state solution with equal rights? It is a democratic solution. And what could be a nobler vision than a state that does not discriminate against any group and in which all citizens enjoy the same rights?

Siddique: Marwan Bishara, the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera, has spoken of whether the Palestinians need a Nelson Mandela-like figure. In such a scenario, an Israeli leader would also need to extend an arm. Yet this view doesn’t take into account the friction and opposition in both Israeli and Palestinian societies, nor does it address the influence of US politics and lobby groups. What would need to change for there to even be talk of a one-state solution — a democratic state for Arabs and Jews?

Shlaim: Palestinian leadership has always been a problem. Abu Mazen is a very weak leader: inarticulate, lacking in charisma, and lacking in legitimacy. So, he’s not a very convincing proponent of Palestinian national rights. Sadly, throughout their history, the Palestinians have had poor leadership, starting with Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, then Yasser Arafat and then Abu Mazen. So, that is a problem: poor leadership on the Palestinian side.

But that is not the principal problem, because Abu Mazen is a moderate and the great majority of Palestinians are for a two-state solution — or at least they used to be. After the Oslo Accord was signed, roughly 70 per cent of Palestinians and 70 per cent of Israelis supported a two-state solution. But Oslo failed the Palestinians. The situation now is worse for the Palestinians than it was before Oslo.

What is the obstacle to one, democratic state? The main obstacle is the Israeli government: the Likud and parties further right than the Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Under American pressure, in the Bar-Ilan speech in 2009, Netanyahu said he would accept a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israeli. Since then, he has gone back on it and he has stated repeatedly that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch — he will oppose a Palestinian state all the way. More importantly, the Likud platform rejects a Palestinian state. The Likud has never accepted the need for a Palestinian state.

Further to the right is Naftali Bennett, the leader of Yamina, who replaced Netanyahu as prime minister in June 2021 at the head of a hybrid coalition. Bennett used to be the head of Yesha, the settlers’ council. He’s a religious-nationalist who fiercely opposes an independent Palestinian state in any shape or form. He used to advocate the outright annexation of Area C, which is 60% of the West Bank. 

In the present Knesset, 72 out of 120 members are right-wingers. This reflects a long-term trend. Israeli society has been moving steadily towards the right ever since the Second Intifada in 2000. Today, not just the government, not just the political elite, but Israeli society in general are strongly opposed to a one-state.

Siddique: You talked about Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett, which leads me on to my next question. In 2013, you wrote that Netanyahu is “the double-faced prime minister who pretends to negotiate the partition of the pizza while continuing to gobble it up.” You have talked today about the problems with Oslo, including Edward Said and his criticism of the accord. Since the failure of Oslo, has Israel ever been interested in a peace deal, or has it been focused on eating that pizza and making a Palestinian state impossible?

Shlaim: Netanyahu never concealed his deep hostility to the Oslo Accords. After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Likud came back to power in 1996 under the leadership of Netanyahu, who set about dismantling, freezing and subverting the Oslo Accord and building more settlements and strengthening Israel’s military power in order to continue to subdue the Palestinians indefinitely. In the last few years, Netanyahu’s message to the Israeli public has been that Palestinian nationalism has been effectively contained and neutralized and that the Palestinians are powerless, divided — with Hamas in charge of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in charge of the West Bank — and therefore, there is no need to trade land for peace with them. His formula is peace for peace: to offer the Arabs peace in return for peace, without paying

With the help of Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — who is very close to Netanyahu — Netanyahu was able to implement this policy and it took the form of the Abraham Accords: peace deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. These were great foreign policy triumphs for Netanyahu, and he said to the Israeli public: You see, I don’t have to pay any price — there is nothing the Palestinians can do and we are achieving normalization with the Arab world.

But with the escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza in May, this whole conception of peace has collapsed. The Palestinians did not remain passive. They put up robust resistance to the Israeli provocations in Al-Aqsa and the ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah, the Arab neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.

These provocations eventually led Hamas to respond with rocket attacks. The last round of fighting was not confined to Gaza. There was a sense of outrage by Palestinians everywhere. There were also protests on the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, in Gaza, in the diaspora and, most importantly, within Israel itself.

Since 1948, an Arab minority remained inside Israel. Today, they constitute 20 per cent of Israel’s population. These Palestinian citizens of Israel have the right to vote, but they are treated as second-class citizens. In the past, violent clashes only occurred in the occupied territories. Now, for the first time, clashes occurred inside Israel, particularly in the mixed cities of Jews and Arabs like Lydda. This is a kind of incipient civil war. As a result of Israel’s provocations, we got something like a unity intifada in which all Palestinians, wherever they are, are united in the determination to resist Israel’s occupation.

Siddique: Considering that clashes took place inside Israel, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Gaza was the main focal point, does that mean the peace-for-peace policy is unsustainable?

Shlaim: When he was prime minister, Netanyahu didn’t have a peace policy. Netanyahu does not believe in a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. He has never believed in a peaceful settlement. He is the proponent of permanent conflict and he is a unilateralist. He thinks that Israel has to remain militarily strong, Israel has to retain the full support of the United States, and then the Palestinians would be impotent to do anything; the international community can criticize Israel as much as it likes, but there will be no practical consequences — no price for the occupation.

That’s his view. He doesn’t have an endgame, he doesn’t have a solution. His solution is Jewish supremacy based on Jewish military force. This is apartheid, because between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, there is one regime: the Israeli regime, which is all-powerful. And one ethnic group dominates the other. This is not a democracy; it’s an ethnocracy. Another word for ethnocracy is apartheid.

So, that is the position today. Both B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights NGO, and Human Rights Watch issued reports recently with that conclusion: that Israel is an apartheid state. To my mind, apartheid in the 21st century is not sustainable. The focus in world politics has shifted from borders and sovereignty to human rights. That’s what people feel strongly about. If Israel continues to violate on a daily basis the human rights of the Palestinians, and to oppress them, it will gradually lose international support. This is already happening and it’s been happening for some time.

Israel’s savage bombardment of Gaza in May was a real turning point. It provoked protests around the world against the Israeli occupation and it has led to popular public reframing of the conflict. Before it was seen as a dispute between two parties over territory. Now it is seen as a case of racial injustice. The Palestinian cause became strongly linked to Black Lives Matter. In the demonstrations, people carried banners that said, “Palestinian Lives Matter.” There were posters that said, “Palestine Cannot Breathe.” Americans are beginning to see this conflict as similar to the racial injustice at home, where white policemen shoot and kill black people. That’s the way more and more people see the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.

There is also BDS — the boycott, divestment and sanctions — a global, grassroots, nonviolent movement against the Israeli occupation, which has been gathering more and more support and gaining more traction. Israel is really afraid of BDS and it has led a campaign to discredit BDS and its supporters as anti-Semites, which is rubbish. It is important to stress that BDS is a nonviolent movement and that all its main demands are ground in international law: an end to the occupation, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel. Far from being an anti-Semitic movement, BDS is an anti-racist movement that espouses universal values of freedom and equality.

 I have been talking so far about a tide of popular opinion in the West that is turning against Israel. But the position of Western governments has not changed. The position of the United States, Canada and the European Union is still completely biased in favour of Israel. The European Union, in particular, is really hypocritical because, officially, it supports a two-state solution and is committed to Palestinian rights, but in practice, it gives Israel all sorts of trading privileges and advantages. It does nothing to sanction Israel for its illegal settlements or its abuse of Palestinian human rights.  [Balfour Project adds: the UK Government is part of this system]

The policies of these Western governments are not going to change in the near future. Twelve European parliaments have recognized Palestine as a state but only one government, that of Sweden. The Irish parliament recently passed a resolution condemning Israel’s de facto annexation of the West Bank. The Irish foreign minister stated that the de facto annexation is just as bad and just as illegal as formal annexation. Ireland may well end up proposing EU sanctions against Israel. Let me point out this: Ireland was the first country to impose sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Today, Ireland is ahead of most other Western governments in its support for Palestinian rights. Today, the Irish flag is flying in Ramallah.

I believe that eventually, governments would follow their publics and modify their attitude towards Israel. America, in particular, may come to reassess its blind and unconditional support for Israel.

Siddique: Can all of these factors — Black Lives Matter, looking at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a case of racial injustice, the apartheid label, the BDS movement, international public support, the public reframing of the conflict and political shifts like with Ireland — have an impact for Palestinian self-determination?

Shlaim: Growing popular support worldwide is not going to enable Palestinians to achieve independence and statehood. It is governments who make the decisions and the United Nations, which has overall responsibility for resolving international conflicts. But the actor that counts most in this conflict is the United States. Unless America shows real commitment to Palestinian statehood, it is not going to come about.

Since 1967, the Americans have arrogated to themselves a monopoly over the so-called peace process. They have excluded the Soviet Union and then Russia, the EU and the United Nations. They arrogated to themselves a monopoly over peacemaking. But they never delivered peace, they never pushed Israel into a settlement. The so-called peace process was all process and no peace, yielding no concrete results. It was a charade. In fact, it was worse than a charade because peace talks gave Israel just the cover it needs to continue to pursue its aggressive colonial project in the West Bank.

Americans like to think of themselves as honest brokers, but they are dishonest brokers. They are Israel’s lawyer, and you can’t be both Israel’s lawyer and a mediator. More than this, America is the enabler of the Israeli occupation. Without American support, American money, American military hardware, Israel would not be able to sustain the occupation. America gives Israel money, arms and diplomatic support. In the last 40 years, America has used the veto on the Security Council 42 times to defeat resolutions that are not to Israel’s liking. In effect, Israel has the power of veto on the Security Council. It doesn’t exercise it directly but through a proxy, its little friend, the United States of America. The Palestinians are not going to achieve statehood unless America moves from words about the two-state solution to deeds, to condition its support to Israel on real Israeli moves towards a settlement.

Siddique: Is it time for other nations, such as Arab and European, to join those efforts — so as to not give the United States a monopoly? Would they have an impact if they were part of the talks?

Shlaim: The European Union should be a player in bringing about a settlement, because the EU has real leverage with both parties. The EU is the main source of foreign aid for the Palestinian Authority, and Israel does 35 per cent of its trade with the European Union. Last year alone, the total amount of trade between Israel and the EU was £31 billion [$42.7 billion].

The EU undoubtedly has this leverage with Israel, but it has never exercised it because it is not a unitary actor. It has 27 member countries, some of them are very pro-Israeli like Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. These countries would most probably veto any resolution to impose sanctions on Israel. The EU has been ineffectual both because of its internal structure and because America has sidelined it. For the foreseeable future, it is likely to remain a payer, not a player.

The Arab world should be an important actor in all this because it has a direct stake in what happens in Palestine. Arab states also have a religious stake because Jerusalem is the third holiest city in Islam. But the Arab states have been pretty passive and totally ineffective when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

In fairness to the Arab states, it has to be pointed out that they have got a clear and unified position on the Palestine question. It was formulated in the Arab League summit in Beirut in March 2002, when a Saudi proposal was adopted unanimously and became the Arab Peace Initiative. The Arab Peace Initiative offered Israel formal peace and full normalization with all 22 member states of the Arab League, in return for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank with a capital city in East Jerusalem. This was the real deal of the century, not Trump’s phony deal. It gave Israel everything it had previously asked for, but Israel had to pay with land for peace. Israel completely ignored the Arab Peace Initiative.

Yet the Arab consensus on the Palestinian issue did not hold. There used to be a pretty general commitment to the Palestinian cause, but since the Oslo Accord when the Palestinians acted independently and signed a peace accord with Israel, the Arab states feel less bound to support the Palestinians. Particularly in the last four years, during the presidency of Donald Trump, the Arabs came under pressure to abandon the Palestinians. Trump’s idea was to have a united front of the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE against Iran. The price that the Gulf Arabs were expected to pay America in return for support against Iran was to ditch the Palestinians. This is what the countries that signed the Abraham Accords have done. They did bilateral deals with Israel, which was a stab in the back to the Palestinians.

Siddique: Have the Abraham Accords killed the Arab Peace Initiative indefinitely — even a tweaked version of it?

Shlaim: No, definitely not. The Abraham Accords have not killed and not modified in any way the Arab Peace Initiative. It remains on the table and the big prize is Saudi Arabia. Israel and President Trump hoped that Saudi Arabia would sign a peace accord with Israel, and that would have effectively been the end of the Arab Peace Initiative. Saudi Arabia, however, did not pronounce on the peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. It did not support it publicly nor did it follow suit. The Saudi foreign minister stated that Saudi Arabia remains committed to the Arab Peace Initiative and support for the Palestinians. And the Arab Peace Initiative is still the official position of the Arab League.

Siddique: You didn’t have much faith in Donald Trump’s ability to mediate a peace agreement. The Biden administration has faced criticism over its response to the latest conflict. Progressive politicians in the United States, such as Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, have spoken out. Do you see hope that Joe Biden’s team would get the Palestinians and Israelis to talk, which they haven’t in many years?

Shlaim: I don’t have much hope in Biden breaking away from the traditional mould of American foreign policy, which is pro-Israeli. The default position of American administrations is to appease Israel. Biden has had a very long career in American politics, and he is one the strongest and most consistent supporters of Israel. He once stated that if Israel didn’t exist, America would help to invent it. He also said, on another occasion, that if he were a Jew, he would be a Zionist. He then corrected himself and said, “You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist. I am a Zionist.” It is even worse than that because he is, by his own account, an unconditional Zionist.

Biden was vice-president for eight years under Barack Obama, which gave Israel a huge amount of aid. Particularly at the end of the administration, they signed a military aid deal worth $38 billion over 10 years. This annual grant of $3.8 billion in military aid is unconditional. Biden was one of the people who always refused to tie American aid to Israel to Israel’s respect for Palestinian human rights and international norms. That is still his position: his support for Israel is unconditional.

One recent manifestation of this was International Criminal Court’s decision to investigate war crimes in the Occupied Territories. Trump had imposed sanctions on the ICC judges because they threatened to investigate Israel. Biden has lifted the sanctions, but he’s still strongly opposed to any investigation of Israel by the ICC. The most disturbing manifestation of Biden’s bias in favour of Israel happened during the May crisis. Two things happened.

First, the Security Council, on three occasions, tried to issue a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire. Biden vetoed all three attempts. All three attempts were supported by the 14 other members of the Security Council. America alone stopped a declaration, a statement in favour of an immediate ceasefire. That tells you a lot. It tells you that Biden looked to Netanyahu, and Netanyahu wanted more time to do even more damage in Gaza. Biden gave him that extra time to do his worst.

Secondly, Biden authorized — without consulting Congress — when the fighting was going on, arms sales to Israel worth nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars, mostly precision munitions to fire on Gaza. In this instance, Biden paralyzed UN diplomacy and empowered Israeli militarism against the Palestinians.

Israel’s latest assault on the people of Gaza, like all its previous wars, inflicted death and devastation on Gaza but left the underlying problems completely unsolved. The use of military force does nothing to resolve what is essentially a political problem. If America takes the lead in resuming peace talks, which is not at all certain, Biden is unlikely to come up with any new ideas.

Biden is no longer representative even of his own party. Progressive members of the Democratic Party are critical of him and his conduct. The congresswomen that you mentioned and Bernie Sanders are now calling for an American arms embargo on Israel. This is unprecedented.

There is another factor at play in America: young, progressive Jews are increasingly disenchanted, even disgusted with Israel. Peter Beinart, who is the leading expert on this, estimates that AIPAC represents maybe 30 per cent of American Jews and J Street roughly 70 per cent. A growing number of young, American Jews are openly critical of Israel, critical of its human rights abuses, critical of the occupation, and they support a two-state solution. So, not only the American public has been turning against Israel, but Jewish opinion in America is also turning against Israel. Eventually, if not immediately, Biden would have to adjust to the new reality at home.

We have to remember that in America, Israel is not a foreign policy issue, it’s a domestic politics issue. The fact that there is such strong support for Israel throughout America, especially among Christian Evangelists, explains why America has been so biased in favour of Israel. But if the landscape in America continues to shift against Israel and in support of the Palestinians, official American foreign policy may eventually follow.

Siddique: That’s an interesting point you mention about Israel being a domestic issue, not a foreign policy issue. One final question for you, professor. For our readers who are interested in learning more about the conflict, which books and/or authors would you recommend?

Shlaim: I warmly recommend Ian Black’s “Enemies and Neighbours: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017” and Rashid Khalidi’s “The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017.” At the risk of sounding immodest, I would mention my own book, “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World,” a critique of Israeli policy towards the Arab world since 1948. But I should warn your readers that it is 900 pages long! In 1995, I published a Penguin book, a short paperback called, “War and Peace in the Middle East: A Concise History.” This is an easy introduction to the international politics of the Middle East, including the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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The best book I know on America and the Arab-Israeli conflict is by William B. Quandt and it is called, “Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967.” On the Arab world in general, I warmly recommend a book by Fawaz A. Gerges: “Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash That Shaped the Middle East.” This book was published by Princeton University Press in 2018, and it deals with the two main trends in Arab politics: Arab nationalism represented by Gamal Abdel Nasser and political Islam represented by Sayyid Qutb.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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