The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Contested Histories

In This Review

The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Contested Histories (Contesting the Past)
By Neil Caplan
Wiley-Blackwell, 2009
336 pp. $36.95

For more than three decades, Caplan has been producing meticulous studies of different periods of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this book, he goes beyond the basic chronological narrative to analyze the self-images and images of the other that the Israelis and the Palestinians have brought to their long-standing confrontation. In such "contested histories," each party sees itself as an innocent victim; Israel views itself as the product of a noble national movement, whereas the Palestinians think of it as an egregious example of colonialism. After attemping to define the conflict -- addressing "loaded terminology," periodization," and "core arguments" -- Caplan recounts the confrontation from the rise of Zionism and the early stirrings of Arabism to today. He also discusses Israel's "new historians" and the understandably more muted historical revisionism from the Palestinian side -- and reflects on the need to transcend "nationalist" history. A whopping 28-page bibliography and a chronology complete what is surely one of the most accessible, coherent, and balanced accounts available of this very contested history.

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