Palestine in Turmoil: The Struggle for Sovereignty, 1933–1939 (Vols I & II)

Palestine in Turmoil: The Struggle for Sovereignty, 1933–1939 (Vols I & II)

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Monty Noam Penkower

Series: Touro College Press Books
ISBN: Vol I: 9781618113153 (hardcover)
                    9781618113672 (paper)
          Vol II: 9781618113177 (hardcover)
                    9781618113689 (paper)
Pages: 348 pp. (Vol I) / 408 pp. (Vol II)
Publication Date: April 2014

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This comprehensive account examines the growing conflict between Arab and Jew in Palestine that first surfaced clearly in the pivotal years 19331939, and which proved to be an irreconcilable rift once the leadership of both peoples refused to accept minority status. A compelling narrative, lucidly written and rooted in extensive archival sources, explores the deadly clash of two rival nationalisms against the broader backdrop of rising antisemitism across Europe, the intervention of Arab states, and international realpolitik. The various suggestions then advanced for resolving the Palestine dilemma, as well as the internal divisions which beset the two rivals for political independence, are also reviewed in these pages. The two volumes, one devoted to the years 19331936 and the second to the years 19371939, serve as a riveting prequel to Professor Penkower's Decision on Palestine Deferred: America, Britain and Wartime Diplomacy, 19391945.


Monty Noam Penkower is Professor Emeritus of Jewish History at the Machon Lander Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem. He was Victor J. Selmanowitz Professor of Modern Jewish History at Touro College in New York City, and also taught at Bard College, Rutgers University, and Stern College, and in the graduate history departments of New York University and Yeshiva University. His numerous publications include The Federal Writers’ Project (1977); The Jews Were Expendable: Free World Diplomacy and the Holocaust (1983); The Emergence of Zionist Thought (1986); The Holocaust and Israel Reborn: From Catastrophe to Sovereignty (1994); Decision on Palestine Deferred: America, Britain and Wartime Diplomacy, 19391945 (2002); Twentieth Century Jews: Forging Identity in the Land of Promise and in the Promised Land (2010), and The Swastika's Darkening Shadow: Voices from Before the Holocaust (2013). The Jews Were Expendable received the B’nai B’rith A.D.L. Merit for Educational Distinction and, together with The Emergence of Zionist Thought, garnered the second Samuel Belkin Memorial Literary Award from Yeshiva University.


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While the impact of the Holocaust upon the creation of Israel during the later period 1945–1948 has been the subject of much scholarly and popular attention, Palestine in Turmoil takes us back more than a decade to present, in meticulous detail, the looming destruction in Europe alongside Arab and British threats to terminate the Jewish national home “experiment” in Palestine. . . .[M]akes an important contribution to the study of a crucial period in Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli history.
— Neil Caplan (Vanier College and Concordia University), Journal of Israeli History, vol. 35, no. 1 (March 2016)
What Penkower calls “the crucial nexus that exists between the rise of the State of Israel and the Holocaust, the most significant events in the contemporary Jewish experience” has been at the heart of his scholarship for more than four decades. In critically-acclaimed books and seminal scholarly essays, the professor emeritus of Jewish history at the Machon Lander Graduate Center of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, has demonstrated an unparalleled grasp of the diplomatic, political, and social circumstances that shaped Jewish fate in the years 1933-39. His remarkable research and analytical skills are on full display in his new, two-volume Palestine in Turmoil.
— Rafael Medoff, Middle East Quarterly (Winter 2016)
While Monty Noam Penkower’s two-volume account of the upheavals in Palestine in the decade before the Second World War covers familiar ground in terms of the historical scholarship, his books are rich in empirical detail, based as they are on an impressive range of archival material. . . . This is in essence a political history of the British–Zionist–Palestinian triangle in the formative years before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
— Matthew Hughes, Brunel University, Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, Volume 14, Issue 1
Penkower proves to be a historian of the first order, one who marshals hundreds of sources to present a cogent, almost weekly chronological record of six years of men’s failures and successes, their ideas, their ideals, their hatreds and their irrationalities. . . . Little escapes Penkower, even the minor instances that others have considered insignificant. . . . The author also includes certain gems that transform dry history into memorable history and echo contemporary times. . . . Palestine in Turmoil seamlessly moves from continent to continent, party to faction, person to personality, event to event, and despite the required hundreds of footnotes, it still allows the reader to follow the complicated story.
— Yisrael Medad, in the Jerusalem Post Magazine
A masterful examination of a key period in the history of mandatory Palestine by one of the foremost historians of the modern Jewish experience. A must read for anyone interested in understanding the origin of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and its stubborn resistance to a peaceful settlement.
— Efraim Karsh, Professor of Middle East & Mediterranean Studies, King’s College London, and author of Palestine Betrayed
This is a thorough, painstaking analysis of the various forces that shaped Palestine’s fate in the decade that preceded the Second World War. Beyond its undoubted contribution to the historical knowledge of the 1930s, Penkower’s book refutes convincingly the Palestinians’ claim that Israel has been an outcome of the Holocaust—an assertion that many Israelis and others axiomatically accept. He shows how the basis of Jewish statehood in the Land of Israel had been established already before the war and the destruction of European Jewry. Similarly, Penkower shows how Palestinian-Arab society’s collapse had begun before the war.
— Yoav Gelber, Professor of History, The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, and author of Palestine 1948: War, Escape, and the Emergence of the Palestinian Refugee Problem