Arab and Jew: Wound­ed Spir­its in a Promised Land

David Shipler
  • Review
By – February 4, 2016

Award­ed the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, Arab and Jew has been new­ly revised from its orig­i­nal pub­li­ca­tion in 1986 and 2002 updat­ed edi­tion. Shipler, who served as The New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem from 1979 to 1984, explores the diverse cul­ture of the Pales­tini­ans and the Israelis and their com­pet­ing his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tives sur­round­ing the 1948 war which, he argues, remains at the root of the seem­ing­ly unre­solv­able con­flict between the two peo­ple. In his ambi­tious work, , Shipler also describes the reli­gious con­flicts between Islam and Judaism, espe­cial­ly over Jerusalem, the socioe­co­nom­ic dif­fer­ences between Israelis and the Pales­tini­ans and, most impor­tant­ly, the stereo­types indoc­tri­nat­ed in children’s edu­ca­tion on both sides which, since the orig­i­nal edi­tion of the book, has not sig­nif­i­cant­ly changed. There is also, among oth­er themes, the man­ner in which the Pales­tini­ans deal with the Holo­caust and Israelis the dis­per­sion of the Arabs fol­low­ing the 1948 war — what the Pales­tini­ans refer to as the Nak­ba.

In his effort to be even-hand­ed, Shipler argues that the rela­tion­ship between Israel and the Pales­tini­ans is one where Israelis occu­py the role of the dom­i­nant major­i­ty, and the Arabs the infe­ri­or posi­tion of the minor­i­ty with­in Israel and the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries. He notes that much of the prob­lem is exac­er­bat­ed by tra­di­tion­al anti-Semi­tism acquired by Arabs from Chris­t­ian Europe, an array of images also used occa­sion­al­ly by Jews against Arabs.” Final­ly, the con­flict is inten­si­fied by the lega­cy of war and ter­ror­ism that has led many Jews and Arabs to smear all mem­bers of the oth­er group as vio­lent, cru­el and bloodthirsty.

Although Shipler may believe that his treat­ment of Israelis and Pales­tini­ans is a bal­anced one, Arab and Jew is a prod­uct of inter­views with a vari­ety of Israelis and Pales­tini­ans, more soci­ol­o­gy than his­to­ry, which results in a pic­ture of Israel as an often bru­tal occu­py­ing pow­er whose sol­diers and West Bank set­tlers have only mur­der­ous con­tempt for Pales­tini­ans. His descrip­tion of the prej­u­dices of the Israelis towards the Pales­tini­ans, not only in the ter­ri­to­ries but also in Israel, lend ammu­ni­tion to the claims of the BDS and left­ist move­ments in Europe and on Amer­i­can campuses.

Relat­ed Content:

Jack Fis­chel is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of his­to­ry at Millersville Uni­ver­si­ty, Millersville, PA and author of The Holo­caust (Green­wood Press) and His­tor­i­cal Dic­tio­nary of the Holo­caust (Row­man and Littlefield).

Discussion Questions