Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew (Hardcover)

Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew By Avi Shlaim Cover Image

Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew (Hardcover)


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A unique coming-of-age story from the lost world of Arab-Jews

In July 1950, Avi Shlaim, only five, and his family were forced into exile, fleeing from their beloved Iraq into the new state of Israel.

Now the rump of a once flourishing community of over 150,000, dating back 2,600 years, has dwindled to single figures. For many, this tells the story of the timeless clash of the Arab and Jewish civilisations, the heroic mission of Zionism to rescue Eastern Jews from their backwards nations, and unceasing persecution as the fate and history of Jewish people.

Avi Shlaim tears up this script. His mother had many Muslim friends in Baghdad, but no Zionist ones. The Iraqi Jewish community, once celebrated for its ancient heritage and rich culture, was sprayed with DDT upon arrival in Israel. As anti-Semitism gathered pace in Iraq, the Zionist underground may have inflamed it – deliberately.

This memoir celebrates the disappearing heritage of Arab-Jews – caught in the crossfire of secular ideologies.
Avi Shlaim was born in Baghdad and grew up in Israel. He is now a Professor of International Relations at St Antony's College, Oxford. His previous books include the critically acclaimed The Iron Wall and he writes regularly for the Guardian, Middle East Eye and other outlets.
Product Details ISBN: 9780861544639
ISBN-10: 0861544633
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Publication Date: July 11th, 2023
Pages: 336
Language: English
‘This remarkable upside-down tale… A personal story, not a polemic… provocative… His personal odyssey confers on Shlaim an exceptional authority for his words; he can say things that others of us cannot… his thesis deserves to be considered with respect.’
— Max Hastings, Sunday Times

'At the heart of this riveting and profoundly controversial book is Shlaim’s investigation into the Baghdad bombings against Jewish targets in 1950 and 1951… This is a beautifully written book which artfully blends the personal with the political. The recollections of family life in both its glory and its anguished tribulations are vividly recreated. Shlaim’s is a powerful and humane voice which reminds us that the Palestinians were not the only victims of the creation of Israel in 1948.’
— Spectator

Three Worlds, by the Oxford historian of the modern Middle East Avi Shlaim, is an often enchanting memoir of his childhood in Baghdad... A gripping account... A lost world in Iraq, which is brilliantly brought back to life in this fascinating memoir.'
— David Abulafia, Financial Times

'An intimate and engaging life story that forces the reader to re-examine three very different worlds – Iraq, Israel and Britain – in the middle decades of the twentieth century. A reflective and insightful plunge into the identity politics of the Arab-Jew by one of Britain’s greatest public intellectuals. But also the best book I’ve read all year.'
— Eugene Rogan, author of The Arabs

'This memoir is an engrossing personal narrative as well as a historian’s penetrating reflection on the misfortune of the "other victims" of Zionism: Jews exiled from their old Arab homelands where they were well integrated, and transplanted to Israel, to serve as a subaltern class of the Hebrew settler nation.'
— Moshé Machover

'Three Worlds juxtaposes a fascinating family story, unfolding across Iraq, Israel, and the UK, with an intriguing historical account of Iraqi Jews during an especially calamitous period. Here the preeminent scholar of the Arab–Israeli conflict furnishes a precious personal glimpse into a past in which Arab-Jews figure prominently, generating a more subtle and multilayered picture of the partition of Palestine and its aftermath.'
— Ella Shohat, author of On the Arab-Jew

‘In this detailed, resonant account, historian Shlaim recalls the complexities of growing up as an Arab Jew in Iraq and Israel… Those interested in alternative Jewish attitudes toward Zionism will find this illuminating.’
— Publishers Weekly

‘Sharply observed, and without stridency, in making a case for an ecumenical Israel.'
— Kirkus

‘Brave… Well written and informative, this is a fascinating glimpse into a forgotten world.’
— Tablet

‘Vivid… This luminous memoir… offers readers a chance to reimagine life not ruled by force, fear, deceit and exclusion.’
— Middle East Eye

‘Shlaim goes into great depth to ascertain what happened through conversations with nonagenarians living in Israel… This book conveys a sense of profound sadness about those who found themselves at the mercy of events over which they had no control and who have lived with a continuing anguish.’
— History Today

‘A wonderful book. Part heart-wrenching memoir, part historical masterwork… compelling… this book is a must… Such personal experiences are both riveting and tragic to read about.’
— Balfour Project

‘While the subtitle positions the book as a memoir, it is more accurately described as a hybrid genre of political-social history, family history, and personal memoir… an insightful window into an understudied and under-researched aspect of both the modern Middle East and twentieth-century mass displacement... a compelling read in its interweaving of personal history and politics.’
— Journal of Refugee Studies