Competing Histories

Israel and Palestine: Competing Histories by Mike Berry and Greg Philo. London: Pluto Press, 2006. 168 pp. including index. Paperback, $17.95.

Heidi Basch

Heidi Basch is the online content editor for the PIJ.

Depending on the historical account, the establishment of the State of Israel is a hero's story or a horror story. Mike Berry and Greg Philo suggest that the truth lies in the amalgamation of the many available narratives. However, media coverage, the basis for discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is often "full of propaganda and confusion," they say. Calling for healthier public debate, they offer access to historical documents and experts presenting divergent views about the controversial and emotional history of the conflict. They write that they hope to contribute "to a better-informed public debate about the causes of the conflict, what solutions are possible and what may be done to achieve them."
Competing Histories provides a concise yet dense account of the conceptual development and realization of Israel and the consequential displacement of the Palestinian people. In the early 1900s, "Palestine became the site for two emerging and competing nationalisms": the native Muslim and Christian population, and the "Jewish newcomers determined to create their own homeland," Berry and Philo say. They recount major and minor Jewish, Arab and international clashes, wars, negotiations and agreements since the 19th century. The book concludes with Ehud Olmert's replacement of Ariel Sharon as prime minister and Hamas' electoral victory over Fateh.