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The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East [Paperback]

David Hirst
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
Price: 18.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

21 Aug 2003

'An epic tale . . . told relentlessly well. If you want to read a serious account of the price of Zionism, and a sobering review of Israel's new role as conqueror and occupier, then Hirst is your man.' Christopher Hitchens

A myth-breaking general history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, The Gun and the Olive Branch traces events right back to the 1880s to show how Arab violence, although often cruel and fanatical, is a response to the challenge of repeated aggression.

Banned from six Arab countries, kidnapped twice, David Hirst, former Middle East correspondent of the Guardian, is the ideal chronicler of this terrible and seemingly insoluble conflict. The new edition of this 'definitive' (Irish Times) study brings the story right up to date. Amongst the many topics that are subjected to Hirst's piercing analysis are: the Oslo peace process, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the destabilising effect of Jewish settlement in the territories, the second Intifada and the terrifying rise of the suicide bombers, the growing power of the Israel lobby - Jewish and Christian fundamentalist - in the United States, the growth of dissent in Israel and among sections of America's Jewish population, the showdown between Sharon and Arafat and the spectre of nuclear catastrophe that threatens to destroy the region.

'[Hirst's] peerless reporting has earned him curses, expulsion and respect in virtually every country in the region.' Guardian


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The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East + Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East
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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; 3Rev Ed edition (21 Aug 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571219454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571219452
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 65,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Fifty-year resident of Beirut and long-time former Middle East correspondent of the Guardian, David Hirst has lived through or reported on most of the events he describes in Beware of Small States. The Gun and the Olive Branch, his seminal history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, was first published in 1977 and updated in new editions in 1984 and 2003.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
... is a quote from Harry Truman, and was chosen by Stephen Kinzer as the lead epigraph in his excellent book All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, which also bills itself as an examination of the roots of violence in the Middle East. The same epigraph could have been used with equal merit in this seminal book on one of the world's seemingly most intractable conflicts: the Israeli-Palestinian one. As Aeschylus famously said, "In war, truth is the first casualty." Given the length of time of this struggle, and the deep-seated sense of right and wrong on each side, truth has taken many a hit. No one person could be considered the custodian of objective truth, the slipperiest of concepts, though that never stops many from trying. David Hirst, a British journalist, provides a valuable antidote to the myths and legends constructed by sins of omission and commission, in the historical record. Americans, in particular, would greatly benefit from his book since their outlook on many problems in the Middle East is at sharp variance with the rest of the world. Much of that variance can be attributed to the American media filter that sorts out the facts and opinions related to this region. To cite a couple of examples drawn from this book. The "All the News that's Fit to Print" newspaper commissioned a review of this book and when it proved to be "...a favorable, indeed enthusiastic review... it was withdrawn by order from on high" (p 5.) Hirst meticulously footnotes his assertions, and the footnote for this one names his source, and the specifics about the suppression of the review. Why do Europeans have different perceptions of the Middle East conflicts that do Americans? Read more ›
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
~This book is essential reading for anyone who is interested in the Palestinian Question. It is thoroughly well researched and convincingly argued, raising awareness of the origins of the plight of the Palestinian people. It documents the rise of early Zionist movement in the 1880s onwards and the gentle trickling of Jewish settlers into Palestine from the early 1900s, culminating in the flood of Jewish people from 1948 onwards and the establishment of the State of Israel. It is unashamed in putting forward the argument of how the Palestinian people have been wronged - both by Israel and the international community - it does not claim to put forward a so-called objective and neutral analysis. This in itself is refreshing, that is, for the author to make his/her position clear from the outset, rather than hidden behind claims of finding an 'objective truth'. The writer is a well known and respected journalist and it is written in an engaging manner. It was extremely informative and covers a whole century's history, and the new edition has a Forward of 100 or so pages bringing the reader up to date with the recent historic and political events from the late 1980s to 2003,including a lucid analysis of the political standoff between the PLO and Israel. As this kind of book spans a huge timescale and covers politics and history encompassing other Arab nations - Jordan, Egypt and Syria - and their involvement in the Israeli/Palestinian crisis, it means that a reader with little knowledge of this area of history may find him/herself overwhelmed. However, I would strongly recommend this book for its in depth historical and political analysis; I feel it has encouraged me to now broaden my own knowledge by reading more about the history of these arab nations, and in particular, to now read another partisan book, putting forward Israel's perspective, in order to make up my own mind that if 'the truth' can be found, where it may lie.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and balanced history of Israel 16 Oct 2004
By A Customer
David Hirst is a very brave man. He has chosen to take on a topic that is covered by a fog of lies, half-truths and deceit. A subject where anybody who tries to speak the truth can be sure of one of two responses. A harsh and merciless character assasination or silence. The former discredits, the latter succeeds in ensuring that the book is read by very few.
The author describes the origins of the zionist movement and provides a detailed explanation of how Israel was created, from the behind the scenes political manouvering first in the Britain and then in the US, to the brutal persecution of the Palestinian people.
David Hirst shows how the weakness of Palestinian leaders and their abject faith in the essential decency of British intentions was one of the reasons why the Palestians lost their land.
It is one thing to massacre and subjugate a people. I think that in the case of Israel this is the first time in world history, that the oppressor has donned the garb of the victim. The level of media manipulation is breathtaking; there are people who believe that it is the Palestinians who have occupied Israel!
This book should be at the top of the list for anybody who wishes to comprehend the origins of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbalanced? 5 Jan 2007
I have to disagree with the last but one reviewer who claims that this is biased and anti-israeli. Considering the emotive nature of the subject matter of this book, Hirst has done a remarkable job in looking at the actions of both sides equivocally; he neither condemns nor judges, merely describes events, leaving the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. For too long the waters of conflicts such as this have been muddied by those whose sole agenda seems to be to discredit the other side. Resolving conflict requires both sides to stop accusing and to listen, no matter how hard that might be and a rational assessment of what has passed, which this constitutes, is a part of that process. Perhaps the reviewer is too partisan (for whatever reason) to be able to even consider that both sides have played a part in creating the present situation in the Middle East but the fact remains that that is the case and yes, even the Israelis (by this I mean policy makers rather than the general population) have committed some pretty horrific acts - they just weren't so well publicised in earlier times. The point is that that is done and can't be changed. The question remains whether an accord of some kind can be reached.
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