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Efraim Karsh ( ; born 1953) is professor and head of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College Londonmarker. An historian of the Middle East, and a best-selling author, he is regarded as the most vocal critic of the New Historians, a group of Israelimarker scholars who have questioned the conventional history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Efraim Karsh


Born and raised in Israel, Karsh graduated in Arabic and Modern Middle East History from the Hebrew Universitymarker in Jerusalemmarker, and obtained an MA and PhD in International Relations from Tel Aviv Universitymarker.

After acquiring his first academic degree in modern Middle Eastern history, he was a research analyst for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), where he attained the rank of major.

Academic career

He has held various academic posts at Harvardmarker and Columbia universities, the Sorbonnemarker, the London School of Economicsmarker, Helsinki Universitymarker, the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies in Washington D.C.marker, and the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv Universitymarker.

He has published extensively on Middle Eastern affairs, Soviet foreign policy, and European neutrality, and is a founding editor of the scholarly journal Israel Affairs. He is a regular media commentator, has appeared on all the main radio and television networks in the United Kingdommarker and the United Statesmarker, 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.


Karsh's work on the Middle East has received praise. Richard Bernstein of The New York Times, reviewed Empires of the Sand (authored by Karsch and his wife Inari Karsh):

Itamar Rabinovich writing in The International History Review, and former Israel ambassador to the United States commented on Fabricating Israeli History :

Amir Taheri, journalist in the Sunday Telegraph praised Islamic Imperialism:

Robert Fulford of the National Post says of Islamic Imperialism

Professor J. C. Hurewitz, who was once director of the Columbia University's Middle East Institute said of Fabricating Israeli History:

Haaretz's Yoram Bronowski says of Fabricating Israeli History:

On Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography, Mohammad Ja’afar Mahallati, former Iranian deputy foreign minister and ambassador to the UN, said “...


Karsh's work on the Middle East has received criticism. In a review of Empires of the Sand, Dr. Anthony Toth (D.Phil, Oxford) says,

In an answer to Karsh's criticism on the New Historians, Morris responded in four lines:Morris later gave more extensive criticism in a review of Fabricating Israeli History

Political scientist Ian Lustick describes Karsh's writing in Fabricating Israeli History as malevolent and the nature of his analysis as erratic and sloppy. The book, he wrote, is ripe with 'howlers, contradictions and distortions'. Lustick points to six instances in which Karsh gives quotes that say the very opposite of what Karsh tells his readers they say. One example he gives is of a statement made by Golda Meir that Karsh alludes to in support of his argument that there was never an agreement between Abdullah of Transjordan and the Zionist leadership. In the quote itself, according to the interpretation of Lustick, Meir explicitly writes about an agreement: 'The meeting [in November 1947] was conducted on the basis that there was an arrangement and an understanding as to what both of us wanted and that our interests did not collide'.

Professor of Middle East Studies in the Department of War Studies at King's College Londonmarker Yezid Sayigh has commented of Karsh that, "He is simply not what he makes himself out to be, a trained historian (nor political/social scientist)," and encouraged "robust responses [that] make sure that any self-respecting scholar will be too embarrassed to even try to incorporate the Karsh books in his/her teaching or research because they can't pretend they didn't know how flimsy their foundations are." Citing his doctorate in political science and international relations and his undergraduate training in modern Middle Eastern history and Arabic language and literature, Karsh wrote that Sayigh's criticism were "not a scholarly debate on facts and theses but a character assassination couched in high pseudo-academic rhetoric".

Professor of History at the Middle East Institute of Columbia University Richard Bulliet, in an academic review, describes the Karshs Empires of the Sand as


  • Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale University Press, 2006);
  • La Guerre D'Oslo (Les Editions de Passy, 2005; with Yoel Fishman);
  • Arafat’s War (Grove, 2003);
  • Rethinking the Middle East (Cass, 2003);
  • The Arab-Israeli Conflict. The Palestine 1948 War (Oxford, Osprey, 2002);
  • The Iran-Iraq War (Oxford, Osprey, 2002);
  • Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789-1922 (Harvard University Press, 1999; with *Inari Karsh);
  • Fabricating Israeli History: The "New Historians" (Cass, 1997; second edition 1999);
  • 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);
  • 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 Engagement in Middle East Wars in the Post 1967 Era (Westview, 1985).

Further reading

Articles by Karsh


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


  2. I. Lustick, 1997, 'Israeli History: Who is Fabricating What?', Survival, 39(3), p.156-166
  3. I. Lustick, 1997, Survival, 39(4), p.197-198
  4. Staff Profile for Yezid Sayigh
  5. [ Karsh, Efraim. "The Unbearable Lightness of My Critics," Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2002.

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