Efraim Karsh

Efraim Karsh ( Hebrew : אפרים קארש ; born 1953) is an Israeli-British historian , founding director and emeritus professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies [1] at King’s College London . Since 2013, he serves as Professor of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University (where he also direct [2] the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies ). [3] He is also a senior research fellow (and former director) of the Middle East Forum , [4] a Philadelphia -based think tank. He is regarded as a vocal critic of theNew Historians , a group of Israeli scholars who have questioned the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict .


Born and Raised in Israel to Jewish immigrants under the British Mandate , Karsh graduated in Arabic and Modern Middle East from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem , and obtained an MA and PhD in International Relations from Tel Aviv University . After acquiring his first academic degree in Middle Eastern history, he was a research analyst for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), where he attained the rank of major. quote needed ]

Academic and media career

Karsh has held various academic positions at Harvard and Columbia Universities, the Sorbonne , the London School of Economics , Helsinki University , the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the Kennan Institute for Advanced Studies in Washington DC , and the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. Studies at Tel Aviv University . In 1989 he joined King’s College London, where he established the Middle East and Mediterranean Studies Program, directing it for 16 years. He has published extensively on Middle Eastern affairs, and is a founding editor of the scholarly newspaper Israel Affairs , and editor of the Middle East Quarterly . He is a regular media commentator, has appeared on the radio and television networks in the United Kingdom and the United States , and has contributed articles to leading newspapers, including The New York Times , The Los Angeles Times , The Wall Street Journal , The Times (London) and The Daily Telegraph[5]


In his 2010 book Betrayed Palestine , followed by a 2011 editorial in Haaretz , Karsh articulated his belief that ” the tragedy befalling the Palestinian Arabs in 1948 was exclusively of their own making”. Karsh writes that many Palestinians fled their homes as the result of local Arab leaders’ and / or the Arab Liberation Army that had entered Palestine prior to the end of the Mandate, whether out of military considerations or in order to prevent them from becoming citizens of the prospective Jewish state. ” He stated that he is an “overwhelming and uncontrovertible body of evidence” to support his position “intelligence briefs, captured Arab documents, press reports,[6] Karsh states that “the deliberate depopulation of Arab villages and their transformation into military strongholds” began in December 1947. [6]

Selected book summaries

Empires of the Sand

Karsh’s Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789-1922 was published in 1999, co-written by his wife Inari Rautsi-Karsh. Daniel Pipes called it a “tour de force that offers a profoundly new understanding of a key issue in modern Middle Eastern history:” [7]

“Efraim and Inari Karsh Review of the relations between Europe and the Ottoman Empire in the final century-and-a-half of the latter’s existence, and in the process of the reverse of the standard historical interpretation. the French Revolution until World War I, a dynamic, arrogant, imperial Europe imposed its will on a static, humiliated, supine East This framework is common to nearly every leading historian, almost regardless of era or political provision …. Here is where the Karshes, a husband-and-wife team, step in. In ‘Empires of the Sand,’ they characterize the standard account as ‘fundamentally misconceived.’ Middle Easterners, they assert, ‘were not able to overcome their predicament but their active participants in the restructuring of their region. ‘Put more directly:’ Twentieth-century Middle Eastern history is essentially the culmination of long-standing indigenous trends, passions, and patterns of behavior rather than an externally imposed dictate. Great-power influences, however potent, have played a secondary role, constituting neither the primary force behind the region’s political development nor the cause of its notorious volatility. Drawing on a wide range of original sources, and writing in a clearly organized fashion and in fast-paced prose, the Karshes make a very compelling case for their revisionist position, establishing it point by point and elegant detail. and patterns of behavior rather than an externally imposed dictate. Great-power influences, however potent, have played a secondary role, constituting neither the primary force behind the region’s political development nor the cause of its notorious volatility. Drawing on a wide range of original sources, and writing in a clearly organized fashion and in fast-paced prose, the Karshes make a very compelling case for their revisionist position, establishing it point by point and elegant detail. and patterns of behavior rather than an externally imposed dictate. Great-power influences, however potent, have played a secondary role, constituting neither the primary force behind the region’s political development nor the cause of its notorious volatility. Drawing on a wide range of original sources, and writing in a clearly organized fashion and in fast-paced prose, the Karshes make a very compelling case for their revisionist position, establishing it point by point and elegant detail.

Richard Bernstein , a scholarly scholar of the United States Middle Eastern history over the last two centuries The Karshes dispute the idea that the main events and developments in the region stem from the machinations of the great powers, especially Britain and France. The ‘main impetus behind regional developments,’ they write, was ‘the local actors’ […] The authors write clearly and authoritatively and with great geographical sweep. Those who do not know much of these events will learn a great deal from this book, while specialists with views differing from the Karshes’ will face a robust challenge to their interpretations. [8]

Anthony B. Toth published a review of Karsh ‘s Empires of the Sand in the Journal of Palestine Studies , in which he wrote:

“This is a polemical book from the perspective of the author and the author of the book.” The book is published on the Western published by Ottoman history. British official sources and documents. Purpose Their use of Even thesis sources is limited, since Actually They know MOST of nineteenth-century history. Instead, the authors EMPHASIZE Those episodes They feel carrier Their interpretations. [9]

Richard Bulliet , professor of history at Columbia University’s Middle East Institute wrote that Empires of the Sand is “a tendentious and unreliable piece of scholarship that should have been more thoroughly written by the publisher” and asserts that the authors failed to “contribute”. dimension of sense and scholarship that raises the debate [s in question] to a higher level. ” [10] Karsh in response wondered “what credential did Bulliet possess, that a leading journalist in the field should not hesitate to read the book? he propagates the view of the Middle East and its nations as hapless victims of Western imperialism “.

Response from Karsh

Karsh states that his book “has incurred the ire of the Arabist establishment” and that “scathing indictments have been made, on the basis of hearsay, without writers. Internet bookstore, so to warn potential readers of our book. ” [11]

Karsh argues that “[the] conventional wisdom of the Middle Easterners and blaming the West – is academically unsound and morally reprehensible. It is academically unsound because of the facts tell an altogether different story of modern Middle Eastern history, one that has always been suppressed because of its incongruity with the politically correct dogmas of the Arabist establishment, and it is morally reprehensible because of the responsibility of individuals and societies for their actions is patronizing and in the worst tradition of the ‘white man’s burden’ approach, which has dismissed regional players do you know what you’re doing for your own … Little wonder that you Empires of the Sandwas more favorably received by Middle Eastern intellectuals, fed up with being open to criticism of their region’s history after conditionality from their paternalistic champions in the West. ” [11]

Islamic Imperialism

In 2006, Karsh published Islamic Imperialism: A History , stating that Islam started out as a great jihad that lasted over a thousand years, and persisted in the Ottoman Empire right up through World War I , and is still alive today with the jihad against Israel, the 9/11 Attack , al-Qaeda , ISIS , etc.

In a review published by the International Journal of Middle East Studies , Columbia University professor of history Richard Bulliet Stated: [12]

Pursuing the myriad problems called up by the evidence Karsh presents to support his case would be pointless. The book is selling ideology, not historical acumen. […] As a history of Islam, Islamic Imperialism is a travesty, but as ideological preaching, it should please the choir to which it is directed.

In a review published by the Journal of Interdisciplinary History , Princeton University Professor of History Robert Tignor stated: [13]

The book is timely and polemical. Its polemics and its obvious intention to arouse strong reactions should not deter readers, since it is a work deserving to be read for its penetrating analyzes of the long history of Islam as an expanding and proselytizing faith.

Writing in International Review of Modern Sociology , California State University professor Henry E. Chambers concludes his review with the words: “This politically driven history will lead astray readers and offers a flawed version of the Middle East.” [14]

In the review published by the Digest of Middle East Studies , Marian University professor of history Marian Gross writes: [15]

The ingenuity of Karsh’s monograph is that it portrays Islamic imperialism in the same light as all other imperialism-accentuating the utter normalcy of Muslim rulers’ imperialist ventures, goals, and means. […] By seeking the roots of the current situations Karsh provides an invaluable assessment.

Commenting the German translation of the book in Die Welt Des Islams , Erlangen University Professor of History Thomas Philipp wrote: [16]

Imperialismus im Namen Allahs is the book of a knowledgeable historian who follows the fashionable trend of wholesale denial of Islam and the Arabs, and whose political interests clearly dominate his terminology and historical analysis.

Reviewing the book in History: Reviews of New Books, history professor William E. Watson from Immaculata University writes That “book Destined to Become a seminal study on the history of radical Islam” [17]

Palestine Betrayed

Karsh’s 2010 Palestine Betrayed book is about the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic), “the expulsion and disposition of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and land in 1948.” ( The Electronic Intifada Website). According to Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes : [18]

“With his customary in-depth archival research – in this case, releasing on masses of recently declassified documents from the period of British rule and the first Arab-Israeli war, 1917-49 – clear presentation, and meticulous historical sensibility, Karsh argues the opposite case: that Palestinians decided their own destiny and bear near-total responsibility for becoming refugees. “

In Karsh’s words:

Zionist assault, it was Palestinian Arab leaders who, from the early 1920s onward, and very much against the wishes of their own constituents, launched a relentless campaign to obliterate the Jewish national revival which culminated in The partition of the Palestinian identity in the Palestinian-Jewish confrontation, let alone the Arab-Israeli conflict. “

According to Pipes: “Yet more counterintuitively, Karsh shows that his understanding was the classic, indeed the interpretation of the late 1940s.” Only with the passage of time of Palestinians and their Western supporters gradually rewr [i] t their national narrative, ’cause making Israel into the unique culprit, the one excoriated in the United Nations, university classrooms, and editorials.Karsh successfully made his case by establishing two points: that (1) the Jewish-Zionist-Israeli side compromised while the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim and (2) Arab intransigence and violence caused the self-inflicted ‘catastrophe.’ ”

Praise and criticism

Howard Sachar sees Karsh as the “preeminent scholar-spokesman of the Revisionist (politically-rightist) Movement in Zionism.” [19]

Author David Rodman opined, “Karsh stitches together seemingly irrefutable case for the validity of the traditionalist narrative, possibly leading to an end for all the New Historian as a sustainable historiographical project.” [20]

New Historians leader Benny Morris called Karsh’s Fabricating Israeli History “a mixture of distortions, half-truths, and plain lies that vividly demonstrates his profound ignorance of both the source material … and the history of the Zionist-Arab conflict,” titling his article “Undeserving of a Reply”. [21] Morris adds that Karsh belabors minor points while ignoring the main pieces of evidence. [22]

Political scientist Ian Lustick commented that Karsh’s Writing in Fabricating Israeli History was malevolent, and his analysis erratic and sloppy. [23] [24]

Yezid Sayigh , professor of Middle East studies, wrote that Karsh “is simply not what he makes himself out to be, a trained historian (nor political / social scientist).” [11] Karsh accused Sayigh of a “misleading misrepresentation of my scholarly background” and retorted that Sayigh’s remarks were “not a scholarly debate on facts and theses but a character assassination couched in high pseudo-academic rhetoric”. [11]

Published works


  • Palestine Betrayed (Yale University Press, 2010). read online
  • Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale University Press, 2006). read online
  • The Oslo War (Editions de Passy, ​​2005, with Joel S. Fishman). read online
  • Arafat’s War: The Man and His Battle for Israeli Conquest (Grove, 2003). read online
  • Rethinking the Middle East (Cass, 2003). read online
  • The Arab-Israeli Conflict. The Palestine War 1948 (Oxford, Osprey, 2002) – republished under the new title The Arab-Israeli Conflict. The 1948 War (Rosen Publishing Group, 2008). read online
  • The Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988 (Oxford, Osprey, 2002). read online
  • Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789-1922 (Harvard University Press, 1999; with Inari Rautsi-Karsh) read online
  • Fabricating Israeli History: The “New Historians” (Cass, 1997; 2nd ed. 2000) read online
  • The Gulf Conflict 1990-1991: Diplomacy and War in The New World Order (Princeton University Press, 1993, with Lawrence Freedman );
  • Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography (The Free Press 1991, with Inari Rautsi-Karsh). read online
  • Soviet Policy towards Syria Since 1970 (Macmillan & St. Martin’s Press, 1991).
  • Neutrality and Small States (Routledge, 1988).
  • The Soviet Union and Syria: The Asad Years (Routledge for the Royal Institute of International Affairs , 1988).
  • The Cautious Bear: Soviet Military Commitment in Middle East Wars in the Post 1967 Era (Westview, 1985).


  • “Arafat Lives” , Commentary, January 2005, pp. 33-40. Reprinted in Ha-Umma (Hebrew)
  • Azzam’s Genocidal Threat
  • “Israel’s Arabs v. Israel” , Commentary, December 2003, p. 21-27]
  • What Occupation?
  • Benny Morris and the Reign of Error
  • Benny Morris ‘Reign of Error, Revisited , a review essay on Morris’ revised edition of his book on the Palestinian refugee exodus.
  • Dear Diary: Juan Cole’s Bad Blog
  • “Were the Palestinians Expelled?”
  • “European Misreading of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Tuomioja Finnish Foreign Minister – A Case Study”
  • The Unbearable Lightness of my Critics
  • Beirut Bob , a review by Karsh of Robert Fisk ‘s The Great War for Civilization .


  • Sky News , Efraim Karsh debates 1948 with Ilan Pappe on Sky News


  1. Jump up^ Professor Efraim Karsh, King’s College London Research Portal
  2. Jump up^ [1]
  3. Jump up^ [2]
  4. Jump up^ Middle East Forum List of Staff
  5. Jump up^ Curriculum Vitae of Efraim Karsh
  6. ^ Jump up to:b Reclaiming a Historical Truth, Haaretz
  7. Jump up^ Daniel Pipes’ review of ‘Empires of the Sand’
  8. Jump up^ New York Times, 1 December 1999, p8.
  9. Jump up^ Anthony B. Toth, “History as Ideology,” a review ofEmpires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789-1923, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 31, No. 2. (Winter, 2002), pp. 85-86.
  10. Jump up^ Richard W Bulliett. The Middle East Journal . Washington: Autumn 2000. Vol. 54, Iss. 4; p. 667-8
  11. ^ Jump up to:d “The Unbearable Lightness of My Critics” Karsh, Efraim. Middle East Quarterly , Summer 2002.
  12. Jump up^ Bulliet, Richard W. (2008). “Review: Islamic Imperialism: A History by Efraim Karsh”. International Journal of Middle East Studies . 40 (3): 485-486. JSTOR  40205968 . (Subscription required ( help )) .
  13. Jump up^ Tignor, Robert L. (2007-02-07). “Islamic Imperialism: A History by Efraim Karsh (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2006) 276 pp. $ 45.00” . The Journal of Interdisciplinary History . 37 (4): 668-670. doi : 10.1162 / jinh.2007.37.4.668 . ISSN  0022-1953 .
  14. Jump up^ Chambers, Henry E. (2008). “Review: Islamic Imperialism by Efraim Karsh”. Review of Modern Sociology . 34 (2): 315-317. JSTOR  41421690. (Subscription required ( help )) .
  15. Jump up^ Gross, Mary T. (2007-04-01). “Islamic Imperialism: a History: Efraim Karsh” . Digest of Middle East Studies . 16 (1): 165-167. doi : 10.1111 / j.1949-3606.2007.tb00085.x . ISSN  1949-3606 .
  16. Jump up^ Philipp, Thomas (2009). “Review: Imperialismus im Namen Allahs: Muhammad bis Osama bin Laden by Efraim Karsh”. Die Welt Islams. New Series . 49 (1): 134-136. JSTOR  27798287 . (Subscription required ( help )) . Imperialismus im Namen Allahs ist das Buch eines kenntnisreichen Historikers, der modischen Trend der pauschalisierenden Verunglimpfung des Islams und der Araber folgt und dessen politische Interesse seine Terminologie und Geschichtsanalyse deutlich dominieren.
  17. Jump up^ Watson, William E. (2006-07-01). “Islamic Imperialism: A History” . History: Reviews of New Books . 34 (4): 135-135. doi : 10.1080 / 03612759.2006.10526973 . ISSN  0361-2759 .
  18. Jump up^ www.danielpipes.org
  19. Jump up^ Sachar, Howard. “Palestine Betrayed Reviews” . Yale University Press . Retrieved 6 June 2011 .
  20. Jump up^ Rodman, David (Summer 2010). “Review of Palestine Betrayed ” . The Middle East Quarterly . Retrieved 2014-08-11 .
  21. Jump up^ Morris, 1996, Middle East Quarterly , “Underserving of a Reply”
  22. Jump up^ Benny Morris, “Refabricating 1948” review ofFabricating Israeli History: The ‘New Historians. ” by Efraim Karsh, Journal of Palestine Studies , Vol. 27, No. 2. (Winter, 1998), pp. 81-95.
  23. Jump up^ I. Lustick, 1997, ‘Israeli History: Who Is Fabricating What?’, Survival, 39 (3), p.156-166
  24. Jump up^ I. Lustick, 1997, Survival, 39 (4), p.197-198

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