The Arabs and the Approaching War with Israel, 1945-1948 HaMizrah HeHadash, (The New East) Quarterly, Israel Oriental Society, Vol 12, No.3 (1962)

Yaacov Shimoni, “The Arabs and the Approaching War with Israel, 1945-1948,” HaMizrah HeHadash, The New East, Vol. 12, No.3 (47), 1962, pp. 189-211 (reprinted with permission).

Compiled by Ken Stein, July 4, 2021

In “The Arabs and the Approaching War with Israel, 1945-1948,” Yaacov Shimoni reviews in detail the period from the early 1940s to May 1948, examining decisions made by Arab leaders toward Palestine and Zionism. He concludes that disunity among Arab states, jealousies, and disorganization plagued Arab preparations for the expected coming war with the Zionists. When read with other articles enumerated below, non-polemical understandings of 1945-1948 period are provided.

A note on Yaacov Shimoni – Yaacov Shimoni was a Zionist/Israeli authority on the Arabs in Palestine, with a deep understanding of Arab societies in the Middle East in general. He was born in Berlin in 1915. After immigrating to Palestine, he worked for eight years in the Arab and Middle East Department of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem. That department was headed in the mid-1930s by Eliyahu Epstein (Elat), who later represented the Jewish Agency in 1945 in Washington, DC and then as Israel’s first Ambassador to the US. Among others who worked in the same pre-state Arab-world intelligence-gathering spaces as Shimoni and Elat were Reuven Shiloah, Ezer Danin, Teddy Kollek, Moshe Sasson. Among the tasks of the serveral dozen or more employers of the Middle East Department were information collection, including being in residence or visiting Arab capitals regularly, resulting in analyses provision about differing political views in Arab capitals. Consumers of these analyses included the leadership of the Palestine Jewish institutions who were strategically engaged in state-building which included political lobbying and physical preparation for the expected conflict with the Arabs of Palestine and surrounding countries.  In the early years of the state, Shimoni joined the Israeli Foreign ministry and became editor of HaMizrah HeHadash (The New East, the quarterly publication of the Israeli Oriental Society).  Shimoni was an astute observer of the Arab world and Arab politics. He wrote a classic and erudite work, ‘Areve Eretz Yisrael (Arabs of Eretz Yisrael) which was published by Am Oved in 1947. He published many worthwhile articles, including “Israel in the Pattern of Middle Eastern Politics,” in an early volume of The Middle East Journal, Vol. 4, No.3 (1950). He also authored, A Political Dictionary of the Arab World, (1987), with 550 items and a Biographical Dictionary of the Middle East (1992) where he identified heads of state, important families, religious figures and more. In his ‘Areve Eretz Yisrael,’ Shimoni enumerated in considerable detail Arab life in Palestine, and in tabular format at the end of the book, listings of the most politically important Palestinian Arab families, clans, tribes, and leaders.  No student of Palestinian Arab history should pass up the chance to benefit from Shimoni’s compilation. 

In this article translated from HaMizrah Hehadash (The New East), he analytically reviews how and why Arab leaders callously usurped Palestinian interests in their struggle with the Zionists and, how a series of organizational mis-steps and deep jealousies undermined Arab military preparations from 1945 to May 1948. Learners of all ages always ask how did the Arab states with such overwhelming numbers misfire so badly in their military encounters with the Zionists. This article by Shimoni when read with Reasoned Arab Views for the Palestinian Arabs Dysfunctional Condition, 1945-1949 and the references made there to additional sources, along  with Yigal Allon’s Lessons from the War of Independence, provide context and perspective for this critical period in the evolution of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. For an understanding of the critical socio-economic elements that underpinned the disintegration of large portions of Palestinian Arab society in the period to 1948, see my “One Hundred Years of Social Change: The Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem,” in Laurence Silberstein,  The Early Years of the State, New York University Press, 1991, 57-81. See Shimoni’s article, “The Arabs and the Approaching War with Israel, 1945-1948.”