Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

Enemies and Neighbors

Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017

by Ian Black

From a longtime Guardian correspondent and editor, an expansive, authoritative, and balanced account of over a century of violent confrontation, war, and occupation in Palestine and Israel, published on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War.

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 640
  • Publication Date November 07, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2703-7
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $30.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date November 07, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-8879-3
  • US List Price $30.00

About the Book

In Enemies and Neighbors, Ian Black, who has spent over three decades covering events in the Middle East, offers a major new history of the Arab-Zionist conflict from 1917 to today, published on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

Laying the historical groundwork in the final decades of the Ottoman Era, when the first Zionist settlers arrived in the Holy Land, Black draws on a wide range of sources—from declassified documents to oral histories to his own vivid on-the-ground reporting—to recreate the major milestones in the most polarizing conflict of the modern age from both sides. In the third year of World War I, the seed was planted for an inevitable clash: Jerusalem Governor Izzat Pasha surrendered to British troops and Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour issued a fateful document sympathizing with the establishment of “a national home for the Jewish people.” The chronicle takes us through the Arab rebellion of the 1930s, the long shadow of the Nazi Holocaust, the war of 1948—culminating in Israel’s independence and the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe), the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Palestinian re-awakening, the first and second Intifadas, the Oslo Accords, and other failed peace negotiations and continued violence up to 2017.

Combining engaging narrative with historical and political analysis and cultural insights, Enemies and Neighbors is both an accessible overview and a fascinating investigation into the deeper truths of a history that continues to dominate Middle Eastern politics and diplomacy—one which has preserved Palestinians and Israelis as unequal enemies and neighbors, their conflict unresolved as prospects for a two-state solution have all but disappeared.


“Black . . . argues in this sweeping history that Zionism and Palestinian nationalism were irreconcilable from the start, and that peace is as remote as ever.”—New York Times Book Review, “Editors’ Choice”

“A good read . . . sharp, fast paragraphs filled with vivid detail . . . keeps a tight focus on events on the ground. Punctures the view . . . that Palestinians bear virtually all the blame for the failure of recent efforts to create a Palestinian state.”—Peter Bienart, New York Times Book Review

“A remarkable book that combines sharp insight with absolute impartiality on one of the world’s most complex and intractable conflicts. Black captures the voices of the Palestinians and Israelis with equal compassion, and holds their leaders to account with equal severity. An outstanding accomplishment.” —Eugene Rogan, author of The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1920 and The Arabs: A History

“In a conflict like this, it is impossible to understand the present without being familiar with the past, and this superbly researched and highly readable book helps the reader to do just that. Even those who are well read on the subject will find new insights that had escaped them.” —Raja Shehadeh, author of Where the Line Is Drawn: A Tale of Crossings, Friendships, and Fifty Years of Occupation in Israel-Palestine and Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape

“When Israeli and Palestinian historians eventually sit down together to compose a single narrative to replace their bitterly conflicting histories, they will find that Ian Black’s book has already done it for them. It is a tragic tale, full of blood, agony and missed opportunities, but this brilliant, dispassionate work leaves us, curiously, optimistic—for he shows us that there is a middle ground.” —Meron Benvenisti, author of Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948

“In a field where one has gotten used to one-sided ‘narratives,’ it is refreshing to come across a historical account that simply lays down the facts, gory and tragic as these may be. This book is a must-read for those who, still entertaining hope for a sane exit from the conflict, need to be shocked out of their stupor.” —Sari Nusseibeh, author of The Story of Reason in Islam and Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life

“In its fine balance of historical sweep and telling detail, in its sharp analysis of social, economic, and political forces, and in its exceptional fairness to all sides, Ian Black’s thorough and incisive history of the struggle between Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel is the book every student of this conflict should read first. A remarkable achievement.” —Nathan Thrall, author of The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine

“The hundred years’ war for Palestine has produced numerous books; Ian Black has written one of the finest and told the story right up to the present day. Enemies and Neighbors displays an admirable ability to present this enormously complicated and tragic conflict in a lucid and riveting style—and pays unusually close attention to how both sides, Arabs and Jews, have seen it at different periods.” —Tom Segev, author of One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate

“Ian Black draws on decades of experience as a journalist in Palestine and Israel to offer a nuanced and thorough account of the century-old conflict over Palestine. A readable and fair assessment of why this conflict has continued unabated for so long.” —Rashid Khalidi, author of Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East

“This detailed and objective account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from 1917 onwards catalogues, in the most enlightening way, the appalling violence and hatred that lie at the heart of today’s dangerous stalemate in the peace process.” —Jeremy Greenstock, former British ambassador to the United Nations


The sixty-seven typewritten words of the Balfour Declaration combined considerations of imperial planning, wartime propaganda, biblical resonances, a colonial mindset—as well as evident sympathy for the Zionist idea. With them, as Arthur Koestler was to quip memorably—neatly encapsulating the attendant and continuing controversy—“one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third.” Lloyd George highlighted sympathy for the Jews as his principal motivation. But the decisive calculations were political, primarily the wish to outsmart the French in postwar arrangements in the Levant and the impulse to use Palestine’s strategic location—its “fatal geography”—to protect Egypt, the Suez Canal and the route to India. Other judgements have placed greater emphasis on the need to mobilise Jewish public opinion behind the then flagging Allied war effort. As Balfour told the war cabinet at its decisive meeting on October 31: “If we could make a declaration favourable to such an ideal [Zionism], we should be able to carry on extremely useful propaganda both in Russia and in America.” Historians have spent decades debating the connections and contradictions between Balfour’s public pledge to the Zionists, the secret 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain, France and Russia about postwar spheres of influence in the Middle East, and pledges about Arab independence made by the British in 1915 to encourage Sharif Hussein of Mecca to launch his “revolt in the desert” against the Turks.

The truth, buried in imprecise definitions, misunderstandings and duplicity, remains elusive. The consequences of the declaration are still being played out.


A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice pick