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Hoffman's 'Anonymous Soldiers' Earns Top Washington Institute Book Prize

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Books on Ben-Gurion and Saudi Arabia’s Shiites also Cited

(Washington, D.C. – December 2, 2015) Bruce Hoffman’s Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947, a behind-the-scenes look at the tumultuous period leading up to the collapse of British colonial rule in Palestine and the establishment of the Jewish state, has been awarded the gold medal in The Washington Institute's 2015 Book Prize competition, the research organization announced today. Hoffman, director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, will receive the prestigious award and an accompanying $25,000 prize.

The Washington Institute Book Prize is given annually to outstanding new books that have illuminated the Middle East for American readers. "The competition recognizes the pinnacle of new scholarship on the issues affecting the complex politics, history and society of the Middle East, encourages authors and publishers to produce outstanding works, and identifies 'must-reads' for people concerned about events and trends in the region, from the school house to the White House," said Institute Executive Director Dr. Robert Satloff, who is also the Howard P. Berkowitz Chair in U.S. Middle East Policy.

In recognizing Hoffman with the prize, the judges said: "Hoffman reconstructs the secret history of how the 'anonymous soldiers' of the Jewish underground, the Irgun and Lehi, forced the 1948 retreat of Great Britain from Palestine. Mining the rediscovered archives of the British police in Palestine, Hoffman deftly replays the deadly game of cat and mouse that pitted the waning British Empire against a desperate Jewish underground, willing to resort to violence to drive out the colonizer." Anonymous Soldiers is published by Alfred A. Knopf.

Israeli professor Anita Shapira was awarded the silver medal, with its $15,000 prize, for Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel, published by Yale University Press. The judges wrote: "In a succinct narrative informed by close reading of Ben-Gurion's own papers, Shapira plumbs the depths of the single-minded faith that guided Ben-Gurion through the agony of the Holocaust and the perils of war, to put the fledgling state of Israel on a secure footing. Ben-Gurion's exemplary life, illuminated by Shapira's encyclopedic learning and admiring empathy, instructs us in the unexpected ways that greatness arises from the crucible." Shapira, a prominent Israeli historian, is professor emerita at Tel Aviv University and recipient of the Israel Prize for History, the country’s highest honor, in 2008.

The jurors presented the bronze prize, worth $5,000, to The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism by Toby Matthiesen, a senior research fellow at St. Antony's College, Oxford University. Published by Cambridge University Press, the judges said of the book: "In Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, a restless Shiite minority poses perhaps the most enduring challenge to the stability of the great oil kingdom. Oxford University political scientist Toby Matthiesen has written a pioneering account of this little-understood community, drawing on an astonishing array of archives, clandestine publications, and interviews. Matthiesen convincingly argues that Saudi authorities have stoked the sectarian fires that have forged Shiite identity, so that while the kingdom may have evaded the 'Arab Spring,' hatred-fueled turmoil may still lie ahead."

The Book Prize, now in its eighth year, has been generously supported since its inception by Washington Institute trustees Shelly and Michael Kassen.

Submissions for the 2016 Book Prize will commence after January 1, 2016. Publishers may submit English-language nonfiction books on any subject that bears on the modern Middle East or America's role in the region published between May 1, 2015 and May 1, 2016. The deadline for submissions is May 1, 2016. Complete details are available at

About the Washington Institute: The Washington Institute is an independent, nonpartisan research institution that advances a balanced and realistic understanding of U.S. interest in the broader Middle East. Drawing on the research of its fellows and the experience of its policy practitioners, the Institute promotes informed debate and scholarly research on U.S. policy in the region.

Media Contact: Ian Byrne, 202-452-0650, [email protected]