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Arab-Israeli Conflict in Daniel Gordis’s ‘Independence the State is Born’ and Anita Shapira’s ‘The War of Independence 1947-1949’

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Daniel Gordis’s ‘Independence the State is Born’ and Anita Shapira’s ‘The War of Independence 1947-1949’ both discuss the 1947-49 conflict. Both authors shed light on the historical events that occurred during the Jewish struggle to establish a safe haven after years of exile. However, Gordis’s account pays more attention to the human actors involved in the decisive events leading up to the creation of an independent Jewish state – their individuality, interpersonal conflicts, motivations and inclinations. Shapira’s account is a historic piece on the nature of the conflict between its principal opponents – the Jews and the Arabs. Her work is orientated towards unraveling the underlying causes – historical, demographic or ideological – that make any attempt at conciliation between the Jews and the Arabs well-nigh impossible.

The two authors differ in their treatment of the subject. Shapira’s writing is forthright and factual. She peels through the various layers of the Arab-Israeli conflict by citing well-documented and undisputable historical events, thus steering herself away from being accused of as an outright Israel-sympathizer. This is a historical narrative; a comprehensive coverage of the war of independence, which she does with assiduous neutrality. Gordis on the other hand is unabashedly a pro-Jewish nationalist when he thinks he has right reasons to be so. He lauds the principles and values enshrined in the secular constitution of the newly formed state of Israel assuring freedom, justice and equality to all its citizens – Arabs included. He ascribes the progressive and pragmatic orientation of the modern Jewish state to the ethics imbibed through Jewish doctrines and traditions. Gordis brings out the human element in the conflict by focusing on eminent leaders, their conflicts, dilemmas and redeeming qualities.

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Gordis weaves interesting anecdotes into his narrative making it an engaging and insightful read. His narrative is interspersed with literature, poetry, quotes by historians like Michael Oren, Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe. Gordis’s book is an easy read and seeks to tell the story of the war of independence rather than give a chronology of events. He interspersed interesting anecdotes like the intense hatred of British Evelyn Barker, towards Zionism and his act of urinating on the ground to show his disapproval; the ‘ironic arms deal’, of how Israel fought its war of Independence with Nazi guns – arms meant for Nazi Germany used by Jewish freedom fighters many of whom had escaped the holocaust. He also highlights the fundamental differences in ideology between Ben Gurion and Begin, and the conflict it caused. This friction between the two resulted in a civil war, when Ben-Gurion falsely implicated Begin in the Altalena affair. He applauds Ben Gurion for being a brilliant strategist yet does not ignore his flaws; his callousness when he refuses to allow the burial of the dead Irgun’s. Gordis is blatantly and boldly Israeli and his pro-Israel leanings are evident. His narrative illustrates the pride in the ingenuity and perseverance displayed by the IDF in their struggles to build the Burma Road; the use of Davikda and soda bottles, that sound like atom bombs or grenades exploding, compelling frightened Arabs to flee. He applauds the Jewish trait of self-criticism, claiming it to be one of Israel’s greatest strengths. He cites how Natan Alterman in his poem ‘For This’ critiqued the attack on Lydda and was appreciated by Ben Gurion who called it “a pure and loyal voice for the human conscience”. Gordis takes a swipe at the Palestinians, accusing them of rejecting recommendations for peaceful co-existence, like the Peel commission and, for perpetuating violence.

Anita Shapira gives a more in-depth history of the war of independence, with a detailed coverage of the events during the war, also giving detailed accounts of the peace agreements between Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. She analyses the defeat of a large Arab army, attributing it to the lack of cohesion between the armies of the various Arab states, who acted as different entities instead of one, creating confusion and weakening their strength. She attributes most of the decisions made by the Jews during the war based on assumptions and misinformation. Overall, she concerns herself only with the two conflicting parties viz. the Arabs and the Jews. Therefore, she fails to mention the internal turmoil within the nascent state of Israel – the parallel militant groups the Irgun and Lechi; the civil war and the bombings and assassinations carried out by them. She attributes the Arab clashes of 30 November 1947, as the precursor to war and lays the blame on the Palestinians for initiating the war. It was but logical that they had to pay a heavy price for their misdemeanour. But unlike Gordis she is not outrightly pro-Israel. Shapira treats her subject cautiously and provides a balanced assessment of both Arabs and Jews. She acknowledges that IDF was responsible for evicting Palestinians, destroying seized villages and preventing Arabs from returning. Yet she justifies Israel’s barring of Palestinians refugees to return after 1948 by writing, “In the context of the time, Israeli policy on the refugee issue was not considered out of the ordinary”.

While diverging in their treatment of the subject – Gordis’s snippets of interesting information around important personalities suffused with unmistakable Jewish pride and patriotic fervour vis-à-vis Shapira’s unbiased, detail and factual analysis – both authors converge on the Arab refusal to recognize Israel as the main cause of the conflict. Shapira blames anti-Israeli rhetoric channelled through Palestinian education and propaganda for the failure of the Palestinians to live amicably alongside the Jews. Gordis blames the Arab states for deliberately perpetuating the homelessness of the Palestinians by denying them citizenship. By refusing to integrate the Palestinians and according them permanent refugee status, the Arab states are seeking international sympathy and the widespread condemnation of Israel for its supposed atrocities. While both the authors discuss Israel’s war of independence they do so in their distinctive styles. Gordis’s writing brings to life the tension and drama of those moments through the words and deeds of Israel’s war time heroes. His work is full of interesting quotes, anecdotes and little-known facts, making it an interesting and entertaining read. Shapira’s in-depth and detail analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict is for the academic. Notwithstanding their contrasting approaches, both Gordis and Shapira believe that conciliation between Arabs and Jews would be possible only through a paradigmatic shift in the Arab mindset – and Israel can show them the way.

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Arab-Israeli Conflict in Daniel Gordis’s ‘Independence the State is Born’ and Anita Shapira’s ‘The War of Independence 1947-1949’. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from
“Arab-Israeli Conflict in Daniel Gordis’s ‘Independence the State is Born’ and Anita Shapira’s ‘The War of Independence 1947-1949’.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Arab-Israeli Conflict in Daniel Gordis’s ‘Independence the State is Born’ and Anita Shapira’s ‘The War of Independence 1947-1949’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2022].
Arab-Israeli Conflict in Daniel Gordis’s ‘Independence the State is Born’ and Anita Shapira’s ‘The War of Independence 1947-1949’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2022 Dec 8]. Available from:
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