In This Review

1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War
1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War
By Benny Morris
544 pp, Yale University Press, 2008
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For 60 years, both the Israelis and the Palestinians have used the past to illuminate the present and confer legitimacy on their nations' respective founding myths. Of course, Zionists and Palestinian nationalists were not the first to embellish the stories of their nations' births or make excuses for their tragedies. Throughout history, nations have been born in blood and frequently in sin. This is why, as the French philosopher Ernest Renan wrote, they tend to lie about their pasts.

The birth of the state of Israel in 1948 has long been the subject of self-congratulatory historiography by the victorious side and grievance-filled accounts by disinherited Palestinians. To the Israelis, the 1948 war was a desperate fight for survival that was settled by an almost miraculous victory. In the Arab world, accounts of the war tend to advance conspiracy theories and attempt to shift the blame for

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  • Shlomo Ben-Ami was Israel's Foreign Minister in 2000-2001. He is Vice President of the Toledo International Center for Peace, in Spain, and the author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy.
  • More By Shlomo Ben-Ami