The Conspiracy

Book Review: “The Accidental Empire”

For anyone interested in Israeli history, I would highly recommend The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of Settlements, 1967-1977, by Gershom Gorenberg. Even if you don’t traditionally mix with history, have no fear! Gorenberg’s account of Israel immediately following the Six-Day War is an accessible, crisp read.

Through a carefully crafted mix of anecdote, research, and journalism, Gorenberg explains how the settlement enterprise was born. Far from being the right-wing, religious movement it is deemed today, a number of secular, socialist Jews played a definitive role in getting the settlements off the ground.

A subtle, yet no less interesting, aspect of the book was Gorenberg’s portrayal of Israeli leaders of the time. He depicts them as unable and unwilling to craft a coherent settlement policy. In some cases, this was due to military considerations. Other times, they were prevented from taking action by their nostalgia for their rebellious youth during the British Mandate. Under these circumstances, a variety of actors became involved and seriously altered “facts on the ground.”

Regardless of your stance on the issue, Gorenberg provides an insightful, non-moralizing account of a movement that continues to affect Israeli policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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