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Alex Markman
Zionism and Palestine
Alex Markman, author
The last one-and-a-half century of Palestinian history, tragic and violent as it has been, is a confluence of social and political trends that made possible the creation of the Jewish state. There were unique circumstances that enabled Zionists to morph their ideas into actions, which in turn led to the creation of Israel. Along with a short history of Zionism and its conflict with Palestinian Arabs, a reader will find in the book a comprehensive analysis of situations that arose as a result of actions undertaken by the players of the complicated Middle East political game. In the discussion, all major factors that influenced the decision-making process were taken into account: demography, economy, geopolitical reality, social and political trends, and others. Such an approach explains the complexity of the decision-making process and how each one was shaping up the future of Israeli-Arab Palestinian relations. Contemporary issues, such as the involvement of international media, excessive attention of the UN, the Palestinian refugee situation and its significance, and territorial dispute related to the conflict are also the subject of this book. One of the most important problems, the status of East Jerusalem, is analyzed at length: its religious and spiritual significance is increasing in time, and claims for the right to its ownership exacerbates the conflict. A separate chapter is devoted to American Jews. It turns out that their life has some distinctive features of the European Jews in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. Although it is the destiny of humans not to know the future, it is also their nature to attempt to predict it based on the knowledge of history. It has never been accurate at best, but the author nonetheless tried to analyze the contemporary trends and consider their role in shaping up the future of Palestine and the Middle East.
In its introduction, Markman’s concise and clarifying examination of the historic roots of Zionism and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict vows not, like many other treatises on these subjects, to use “not-so- sophisticated logic to prove the validity of the author’s emotional attitude toward the conflict.” Instead, Zionism and Palestine: How and Why it Happened examines the rise of Zionism and its goal of establishing a homeland in Palestine, starting in the 19th century, an era for European Jews of ghettoes and rabid anti-Semitism but also increasing social mobility, especially in the form of a new middle class—which itself became a target. From there, Markman moves from topic to topic, asking why the world invests such interest in this one conflict among so many others, contemplates Arabs’ and Zionists’ perspectives on the conflict with a welcome sense of historical reality, and clear-eyed considerations of Israel’s relations with its neighbors and the rest of the world.

Once an active zionist who in the 1970s endured three years in a Soviet prison camp for his commitment to the cause, Markman at times reveals his own “emotional attitude”s, though he takes the time to justify via the historic record assertions like “The international community, personified by the UN, treats the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as the biggest of all. In reality, it is one of the smallest.” He makes the case that silence in the global media about “the dictatorial regimes of Gaza and the West Bank”—which passes little of its financial support to the Palestinian population—constitutes active support.

For the most part, though, this account is uncommonly clear-eyed, even empathetic, in its portrayal of the conflict’s many stakeholders, especially in Markman’s convincing geopolitical analysis or his tracking, over pages, of the course of beliefs among populations over decades, whether it be the Zionist promise of Palestine or the way active, nefarious misinformation flares and spreads anti-Semitism.

Takeaway: A mostly clear-eyed examination of the roots of Zionism and the reality of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Great for fans of: Meron Benvenisti’s Sacred Landscape, Shlomo Sand.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-