Segev, Tom 1945-
Segev, Tom 1945-
Born 1945, in Jerusalem, Israel. Education: Boston University, Ph.D.
Home—Jerusalem, Israel. Office—21 Schocken St., Tel Aviv, 61001, Israel.
Haaretz, Tel Aviv, Israel, journalist.
Best book, New York Times, 2000, for One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate.
Soldiers of Evil: The Commandants of the Nazi Concentration Camps, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1987.
The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, translated by Haim Watzman, Hill and Wang (New York, NY), 1993.
One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the Mandate, Metropolitan Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Elvis in Jerusalem: Post-Zionism and the Americanization of Israel, translated by Haim Watzman, Metropolitan Books (New York, NY), 2002.
(Author of foreword) Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin, editors, The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent, introduction by Anthony Lewis, New Press (New York, NY), 2002.
1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East, translated by Jessica Cohen, Metropolitan Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Tom Segev was born in Jerusalem, the son of German Jewish parents. He earned a doctorate in history from Boston University but now lives in Israel, where he is a journalist for the left-wing daily newspaper Haaretz. He has written several books about Israel and Jewish history. In the New Republic, Anita Shapira called Segev "one of Israel's most prominent and most controversial journalists. Gifted with a sharp eye and a barbed tongue, he presents himself as the ironic, even cynical critic of Israeli reality."
Segev's 1949, the First Israelis describes the experiences of the first immigrants to the new state of Israel and what the Arab people of the region went through during the same time period. In the New York Times Book Review, Elmore Jackson wrote, "This book should be required reading for all who want to understand the Arab-Israeli conflict."
The Soldiers of Evil: The Commandants of the Nazi Concentration Camps is a collective portrait of the commandants of these death camps. Drawing on interviews with the commandants and their families, Segev portrays the origins of these men, their identification with the Nazi Party, and their identity as soldiers.
In The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, Segev contends that the Zionist leadership preferentially chose only committed Zionists to save from the Nazi Holocaust, and left the rest of the European Jews at the mercy of Hitler and Stalin. However, he leaves the question open: perhaps they really did all they could. In the New Republic, Shapira wrote: "This ambiguous formulation infuriated readers, who interpreted it as an unforgivable innuendo on a matter of the utmost sensitivity." In the Journal of Palestine Studies, though, Milton Viorst wrote that Segev "has written a brilliant study of the impact of the Holocaust on his countrymen" and commented that the book, "though simply written, even anecdotal, is subtle and complex."
In One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the Mandate, Segev tells the story of Israel and Palestine, beginning with the British conquest of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Both Palestinians and Jews welcomed the British, believing the British would give them independence. By 1947, the British had left the region after the United Nations resolved to divide the country into two separate states; this resolution led to a bloody war that ended in the establishment of the state of Israel and the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians. Segev tells this story through the actual experiences of people from all sides of the conflict, filling the book with material gathered from letters, diaries, and archives. In the London Guardian, Colin Schindler wrote: "It is a kind of literary theatre rather than history, and Segev moves his actors on and off stage with great skill." Omer Bartov wrote in the New York Times Book Review: "Instead of telling his story through the loud pronouncements of political leaders, he has woven a fine tapestry of individual portraits, curious anecdotes and penetrating insights." Bartov also wrote: "Segev has written an enormously important book, perhaps the best single account of Palestine under the British mandate. For the first time … the story of the [British] mandate has been told from all three perspectives—the Zionist, the Arab and the British."
In the Middle East Journal, Lawrence Davidson wrote that Segev's presentation of Palestinians is not as balanced as it initially appears to be. Davidson wrote that Segev "persistently describes Arab resistance to colonialism as ‘terrorism,’ and repeatedly reminds readers that, beginning in the 1930s, the Palestinians became ‘Nazi sympathizers.’" But he also noted: "When all is said and done, however, Segev's presentation is broad enough and rich enough to allow the reader to see beyond the standard pro-Zionist viewpoint, and that is the great virtue of One Palestine, Complete."
In 2002 Segev published Elvis in Jerusalem: Post-Zionism and the Americanization of Israel. With this book Segev moves away from the study of Israel's past and focuses on its present. He cites many examples of how the collective identity of Zionism has slowly given way to the American notions of individualism and consumerism. In his opinion, that is a good thing. Many Israelis do not agree; the subject of post-Zionism is very sensitive in Israel but, according to a reviewer from Publishers Weekly, Segev "makes a powerful case for it in reasoned and measured tones."
Segev's 2007 work, 1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East, which was translated into English by Jessica Cohen, looks at the six days in June of 1967 over which Israel defeated three major Arab armies (Egypt, Syria, and Jordan) and captured territories four times the size of pre-1967 Israel, transforming the geographic and political landscape of the Middle East. "At well over 600 pages, this is a doorstopper. But anyone curious about the extraordinary six days of Arab-Israeli war … will learn much from it," observed a reviewer for the Economist. The reviewer went on to say that in the book Segev argues that to understand why this war happened, "it is not enough to know the diplomatic and military background: it also needs deep knowledge of the Israelis themselves. And this is what he brilliantly provides. By drawing on letters, diaries and interviews, as well as Israel's rich official archives, Mr. Segev mixes a meticulous narrative with a shrewd analysis of the complex Israeli psyche." This is a psyche that was shaped by an economy that was in recession, immigration trends that were turning citizens of European descent into the minority, escalating terrorist activity directed against Israel, and increasingly strained relations with Israel's Arab neighbors. "Though it is never explicitly stated, Segev's thesis is clear. Israeli fears of an Arab attack ‘had no basis in reality,’ he argues; ‘there was indeed no justification for the panic that preceded the war, nor for the euphoria that took hold after it.’ Rather than responding to an imminent Arab threat, Israelis were reacting out of a deep-seated trauma born of years of Jewish suffering," Michael Oren explained in his review of the book for the Washington Post.
Booklist reviewer Jay Freeman felt that "many of his revelations are both startling and credible." Further noting that Segev successfully depicts a nation that is "plagued by disillusionment, communal tensions, and anxiety about national survival," David Margolick in his review of 1967 for the New York Times Book Review criticized the book for being "way too long, a temptation to which respected writers can sometimes succumb. A timid American editor hasn't helped. Non-Israelis, even those who read Haaretz daily online, will find 1967 slow going." However, Margolick also noted that "Segev's look into the origins of the occupation is invaluable. His research is prodigious, his intelligence obvious, his ability to reconstruct complex chains of events impressive. He writes clearly and confidently and has an eye for the telling, and often witty, detail." A Kirkus Reviews contributor touted the book as "absorbing and convincing: an exemplary work of journalistic history."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Asian Affairs, June, 2000, Ivor Lucas, review of One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the Mandate, p. 203.
Booklist, September 1, 2000, Vanessa Bush, review of One Palestine, Complete, p. 5; May 15, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of 1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East, p. 15.
Commentary, November, 1999, Hillel Halkin, "Was Zionism Unjust?," p. 29.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), January 20, 2001, John Simpson, "Gleams of Decency," p. 4.
Economist, January 20, 2001, review of One Palestine, Complete, p. 4; March 29, 2003, "Patriots Too; Israeli Dissent"; May 26, 2007, "Jews and Prussians; the Six-Day War," p. 98.
Guardian (London, England), February 3, 2001, Colin Schindler, "Saturday Review," p. 8.
Journal of Palestine Studies, winter, 1995, Milton Viorst, review of The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, p. 94.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007, review of 1967.
Library Journal, September 15, 2000, Nader Entessar, review of One Palestine, Complete, p. 94.
London Review of Books, November 1, 2007, "Orchestrated Panic," p. 24.
Middle East Journal, spring, 2001, Lawrence Davidson, review of One Palestine, Complete, p. 335.
Middle East Policy, fall, 2006, Edward C. Corrigan, review of The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent.
Nation, July 26, 1993, Norman Birnbaum, review of The Seventh Million, p. 142.
National Review, March 19, 2001, Amos Perlmutter, "Bad Tidings to Zion."
New Republic, October 18, 1993, Moshe Halbertal, review of The Seventh Million, p. 40; December 11, 2000, Anita Shapira, "Eyeless in Zion—When Palestine first Exploded," p. 26.
New Statesman, January 22, 2001, Philip Ziegler, "This Monstrous Canker," p. 51.
New York Review of Books, September 26, 1985, Avishai Margalit, "Passage to Palestine," p. 23; September 28, 1989, Istvan Deak, "The Commandants," p. 63.
New York Times Book Review, February 2, 1986, Elmore Jackson, "The Past as Prologue," p. 13; November 12, 2000, Omer Bartov, "The Promised Land," p. 12; August 14, 2001, "Mideast Nationalism, with Nowhere to Go," p. A16; July 15, 2007, David Margolick, "Peace for Land."
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 1988, review of Soldiers of Evil: The Commandants of the Nazi Concentration Camps, p. 64; February 8, 1993, review of The Seventh Million, p. 62; October 23, 2000, review of One Palestine, Complete, p. 66; April, 2002, review of Elvis in Jerusalem: Post-Zionism and the Americanization of Israel.
Sunday Telegraph (London, England), January 14, 2001, David Pryce-Jones, "Was Zionism Just a British ploy?"
Sunday Times (London, England), January 14, 2001, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "When the British Ruled Palestine," p. 36.
Tikkun, January, 2001, "An Interview with Tom Segev," p. 27.
Wall Street Journal, July 15, 1993, Amy Dockser Marcus, review of The Seventh Million, p. A12.
Washington Post, November 5, 2000, Gershom Gorenberg, "Foundation Myths," p. X2; June 10, 2007, Michael Oren, "Who Started It?," p. BW13.
Metropolitan Books Web site,http://www.holtzbrinkpublishers.com/ (February 17, 2003), synopsis of Elvis in Jerusalem: Post-Zionism and the Americanization of Israel.