Synopses & Reviews
In 1968, a ragtag group of Palestinian guerrillas burst onto the world stage as part of a global offensive that combined controversial armed operations, diplomacy, and revolutionary politics. In the following years, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) forced the question of Palestine to the forefront of the world's attention and cement its status as the sole legitimate representative of a nation of people striving for statehood. While their spectacular acts of revolutionary violence - hijackings, guerrilla attacks, suicide operations - seized headlines and made the PLO the face of "international terrorism" in the 1970s, it would be the organization's diplomatic campaign that would propel it to prominence in the global arena. By the middle years of the decade, the PLO would stand beside Vietnamese, Cuban, Algerian, and South African guerrilla fighters at the vanguard of a new generation of revolutionaries in the Third World.
More than just a subplot in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinian struggle sat the juncture of a critical phase in the Cold War and the wave of revolutions that swept through the Third World in the 1960s. Using Arabic sources and recently declassified U.S. documents, The Global Offensive returns the PLO's story to its international context. As the PLO gained both prestige and infamy, leaders in both the United States and the Soviet Union hastened to come to terms with this new force in Middle Eastern affairs. Fearing the PLO's potential to revolutionize the Arab world and project armed violence across a global spectrum, American leaders faced the choice of establishing diplomatic relations with the organization or crafting a containment policy for a new generation of Arab revolutionaries. Their decisions--along with those of Palestinian, Arab, and Israeli leaders--would have dramatic implications into the twenty-first century and help to remake the art of revolution and the structure of global power in the late-Cold War world and beyond. However, despite its sweeping victories in the international system, the Palestinian liberation struggle would not gain statehood in the twentieth century.
"The Global Offensive makes a laudable contribution to the growing body of scholarship that places the developing world and transnational actors at the forefront of international politics, rather than treating them as peripheral, secondary actors or curiosities." --Jeffrey James Byrne, H-Diplo
"By establishing connections between the PLO and other revolutionary nationalist groups that most historians have either previously ignored or failed to recognize, Chamberlin has written a true work of transnational history that includes discussion of the United States, Palestinians, Israel, Vietnam, China, Algeria, and South Africa. By establishing connections between the PLO and other revolutionary nationalist groups that most historians have either previously ignored or failed to recognize, Chamberlin has written a true work of transnational history that includes discussion of the United States, Palestinians, Israel, Vietnam, China, Algeria, and South Africa." --Craig Daigle, H-Diplo
"Chamberlin's most innovative move is simply to insist that we view the PLO as part of a larger landscape of third-world revolutionaries and the global radical left, of which it viewed itself a part, and not merely as a subset of the Arab-Israeli struggle or the history of Arab nationalism and decolonization." --Bradley Simpson, H-Diplo
"The Global Offensive would be quite valuable for undergraduate and graduate history courses on the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy, or twentieth-century global history. Students and teachers would undoubtedly benefit from the balance of narrative and argumentation buttressed by clearly written explanations of key players and events. Most importantly, the book offers an opportunity for teacher and students to engage in questions regarding the latter decades of the twentieth century as less of a coda for the post-World War II global order and more as a beginning point toward understanding the twenty-first century." --Teaching History
"The Global Offensive is sophisticated in its treatment of complex issues, drawing on published and unpublished sources in Arabic and English. The book internationalizes the story of Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, and it simultaneously localizes the story of globalization. Most of all, the book asks a big question: what were the alternatives to the patterns of insurgency and counterinsurgency that have characterized the Middle East for the last forty years?...The book will surely inform and inspire many new perspectives." --Jeremi Suri, American Historical Review
"Using hitherto unexcavated material, at least in much of Western scholarship, Chamberlin provides an engaging, well-documented narrative of the PLO global offensive . It contributes to the growing scholarship that recognizes that the history of the Cold War in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, and Asia is inseparable from the history of the states and the peoples that constitute those regions. Or, as Chamberlin puts it in reference to the PLO, the dynamics of its encounter [with the global stage] rejects the reality that the process of globalization was taking place not only from the top down, but also from the bottom up." --Dina Matar, Diplomatic History
"Paul Chamberlin's The Global Offensive moves from the camps of the Palestinian refugees to the air conditioned offices of the White House, from the deliberations of the Vietnamese guerrillas to the calculations of Tel Aviv's political elite. Drawn from an array of archives, Chamberlin's narrative teaches us that international relations is not simply the whimsy of states but that it is constrained and enabled by the dreams and frustrations of ordinary people forced to be extraordinary because of their circumstances. A brilliant study of how the Palestinian liberation struggle moved from the valleys of the Levant onto the world stage." --Vijay Prashad, author of The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World
"With balanced and comprehensive scholarship, Paul Chamberlin traces the rise of the Palestine Liberation Organization under Yasser Arafat, the widening gap of generations in both Israel and the Arab world, and the dilemmas of the U.S. government as Lebanon descended into civil war. The Global Offensive is a masterly account of the worldwide as well as the regional dimension of Arab-Israeli conflict in the critical decades of the 1960s and 1970s." --Wm. Roger Louis, University of Texas at Austin
"Chamberlin is the first to frame the story of the Palestine Liberation Organization in a truly global context, and in so doing he sheds startling new light on his subject. He shows how the Palestinian struggle in the 1960s and 1970s was embedded in global revolutionary networks that stretched from Cuba to Vietnam, and argues convincingly for its centrality in the drama of Cold War decolonization and the transformation of international relations in this era. This book is not only a rare judicious intervention in the history of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians; it is also a superb contribution to postwar international history writ large." --Erez Manela, author of The Wilsonian Moment
"A major contribution to understanding US foreign policy since WWII, not only in the Middle East, but also in the context of the Cold War and national liberation movements. Summing Up: Highly recommended." --CHOICE
"Paul Chamberlin's history of the relationship between the United States and the Palestinian Liberation Organization is a superb example of Cold War international and transnational history. Based on an extensive use of Arabic language sources, it documents dispassionately and with remarkable fairness the long history of efforts to form a Palestinian state. Must reading for anyone interested in how the modern Middle East came to be." --John Lewis Gaddis, Yale University
"This extremely well-written book clearly reflects the extensive archival research that has gone into it. Chamberlin's narrative style is engaging and effective, and offers a great deal of information and insight into U.S. policy towards the PLO and, through this, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the wider region. For the reader, the access provided by the author to U.S. thinking is akin to the impact that Wikileaks has had more recently, giving this historical study an unexpectedly fresh and topical feel. I recommend it without any hesitation." --Yezid Sayigh, Carnegie Middle East Center
On March 21, 1968, Yasir Arafat and his guerrillas made the fateful decision to break with conventional guerrilla tactics, choosing to stand and fight an Israeli attack on the al-Karama refugee camp in Jordan. They suffered terrible casualties, but they won a stunning symbolic victory that transformed Arafat into an Arab hero and allowed him to launch a worldwide campaign, one that would reshape Cold War diplomacy and revolutionary movements everywhere.
In The Global Offensive, historian Paul Thomas Chamberlin offers new insights into the rise of the Palestine Liberation Organization in its full international context. After defeat in the 1967 war, the crushing of a guerrilla campaign on the West Bank, and the attack on al-Karama, Arafat and his fellow guerilla fighters opened a global offensive aimed at achieving national liberation for the Palestinian people. In doing so, they reinvented themselves as players on the world stage, combining controversial armed attacks, diplomacy, and radical politics. They forged a network of nationalist revolutionaries, making alliances with South African rebels, Latin American insurrectionists, and Vietnamese Communists. They persuaded the United Nations to take up their agenda, and sent Americans and Soviets scrambling as these stateless forces drew new connections across the globe. "The Vietnamese and Palestinian people have much in common," General Vo Nguyen Giap would tell Arafat, "just like two people suffering from the same illness." Richard Nixon's views mirrored Giap's: "You cannot separate what happens to America in Vietnam from the Mideast or from Europe or any place else."
Deftly argued and based on extensive new research, The Global Offensive will change the way we think of the history of not only the PLO, but also the Cold War and international relations since.
About the Author
is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Kentucky. He has held fellowships at Yale University and Williams College, and won the inaugural Oxford University Press USA Dissertation Prize in International History.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Palestine Liberation and the Dawn of the Post-Cold War Era
1. The Struggle against Oppression Everywhere
2. The Storm
3. Nixon, Kissinger, and the Terror of a Post-Imperial World
4. The Jordanian Civil War
5. A Worldwide Interlocking Terrorist Network
6. "The Torch Has Been Passed From Vietnam To Us"
7. The Diplomatic Struggle