Avi Shlaim

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search

Avi Shlaim FBA (born October 31, 1945) is an Iraqi-born British/Israeli historian. He is a professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford and a fellow of the British Academy. Shlaim is considered one of Israel's New Historians,[1] a group of Israeli scholars who put forward critical interpretations of the history of Zionism and Israel.[2]



Avraham (Avi) Shlaim was born to wealthy Jewish parents in Baghdad, Iraq. The family lived in a mansion with ten servants. His father was an importer of building materials with ties to the Iraqi leadership, including then-prime minister Nuri Said.[3] After a grenade was thrown into the central synagogue in Baghdad in 1951, Shlaim's father was one of 100,000 Jews who registered to leave the country and surrender their citizenship. A subsequent law ruled that all those who left forfeited all rights, including property rights. The Shlaim family lost all their assets. His father cross the border illegally on a mule, while Shlaim, his mother and sisters flew to Cyprus, reuniting in Israel.[3]

Shlaim left Israel for England at the age of 16 to study at a Jewish school.[3][4] He returned to Israel in the mid-60s to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, then moved back to England in 1966 to read history at Jesus College, Cambridge. He obtained his MA and married the great-granddaughter of David Lloyd George, who was the British prime minister at the time of the Balfour Declaration. He has lived in England ever since, and holds dual British and Israeli nationality.[5]

He obtained an MSc (Econ.) in International Relations in 1970 from the London School of Economics, and his PhD from the University of Reading.[6] He was a Lecturer, then Reader, in politics at the University of Reading from 1970-87.[7]


Shlaim taught International Relations at Reading University, specializing in European issues. His academic interest in the history of Israel began in 1982, when Israeli government archives about the 1948 Arab-Israeli War were opened, an interest that deepened when he became a fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford in 1987.[3] He was the Alastair Buchan Reader in International Relations at Oxford from 1987 to 1996, and the Director of Graduate Studies in that subject in 1993-1995 and 1998-2001. In 1995-97, he held a British Academy Research Readership in 1995-97, a Research Professorship in 2003-6. In 2006, he was elected Fellow of the British Academy.[7]

Shlaim served as an outside examiner on the doctoral thesis of Ilan Pappe, another notable New Historian. Shlaim's approach to the study of history is informed by his belief that, "[t]he job of the historian is to judge."[3]

He is a regular contributor to The Guardian newspaper, and signed an open letter to that paper in January 2009 condemning Israel's military intervention in Gaza.[8]


Josef Heller and Yehoshua Porath have stated that Shlaim "misleads his readers with arguments that Israel had missed the opportunity for peace whilst the Arabs are strictly peace seekers".[9]

In a 2012 article in the academic journal Shofar, Shai Afsai criticised Shlaim for repeating a story The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man for which Afsai could not trace an original source, in his 2001 book The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.[10]

Published works

See also


  1. ^ Ethan Bronner, Israel: The Revised Edition: Two historians offer re-examinations of the Zionist-Arab conflict. The New York Times, November 14, 1999
  2. ^ Morris, Benny. The New Historiography in Morris, Benny. (ed) Making Israel. 1987, pp. 11-28.
  3. ^ a b c d e Rapaport, Meron (11 August 2005). "No peaceful solution". Ha'aretz Friday Supplement. http://www.haaretz.com/no-peaceful-solution-1.166621.
  4. ^ Shlaim, Avi. How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, The Guardian, January 7, 2009.
  5. ^ Avi Shlaim: "And for the last forty years, I have lived in Britain, and I teach at Oxford," in "It Takes an Enormous Amount of Courage to Speak the Truth When No One Else is Out There" — World-Renowned Holocaust, Israel Scholars Defend DePaul Professor Norman Finkelstein as He Fights for Tenur. Shlaim's interview; democracynow.org, May 9, 2007.
  6. ^ Governing Body Fellows
  7. ^ a b Professor Avi Shlaim, University of Oxford.
  8. ^ Growing outrage at the killings in Gaza, The Guardian, January 16, 2009.
  9. ^ (Hebrew: ‎) פלאי ההיסטוריה החדשה.
  10. ^ “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man”: Historical Fabrication and an Anti-Zionist Myth", Shai Afsai, Shofar, Vol. 30, No. 3; 2012, pp. 35-61

External links