Openings and Closings

Raphael Israeli examines one of the most difficult political problems of our time: The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  He approaches the subject by presenting and analyzing research on the conflict by earlier Israeli historians (the so-called Old Historians), by more recent Israeli historians (the so-called New Historians who coined the label Old Historians), and by Muslim scholars.

The author establishes the theoretical frame of his research by comparing four approaches to historiography, the research and writing of history: Western, Chinese, Jewish, and Islamic.  These pages display an impressive range of knowledge on the part of Raphael Israeli, for many years a professor of Middle Eastern, Islamic, and Chinese history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  He points out that it was the ancient Greeks—most notably, Thucydides—who generated the Western idea that history is not a mere narration of events, but also their objective analysis.  Over time, however, many Western historians have deviated from this approach by projecting upon the past their own political and social preferences and, more recently, by projecting “utopia into the future.”

For the pre-Marxist Chinese, history was a “repository of ancient wisdom and morality to draw from both positive and negative lessons.”  And for Jewish historiography, a recurring theme is...

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