Of all the intractable and inflammatory world conflicts, those of the Middle East must rank fairly high. Cohn-Sherbok and El-Alami's Palestine-Israeli Conflict: a Beginner's Guide
must be equally highly ranked as one of the best introductory guides to the issue. Author of a number of key titles on Judaism and Jewish issues, Dan Cohn-Sherbok uses the first half of the Beginner's Guide
to give an overview, from his perspective, of the modern history of Israel/Palestine. Immediately the reader, through the unique dialogic format of this excellent title, is reminded that all history is a matter of perspective, not least in the Middle East when the name of the very country under discussion cannot be agreed upon. Cohn-Sherbok is a clear, unfussy writer. He explains the growth of Zionism through the late 19th century until its "victory" in the creation of a Jewish National Home called Israel in 1947 and then details the wars that have dogged the Jewish state since its inception.
Dawoud El-Alami then takes over and reviews the same period as his colleague but from the perspective of a Palestinian. From the legally questionable British Balfour Declaration of 1917 up until the first Intifada (1984-1992) and 1993's Oslo Peace Accords (so forcefully critiqued by Edward Said in his recent book The End of the Peace Process) and beyond. El-Alami describes the Palestinian struggles with the first Jewish settlers and then the State of Israel herself, the creation of the PLO and the troubled relationship with the rest of the Arab world.
The book ends with further debate between the two writers in response to each other's contributions. It would be idealistic to expect all the answers from such a book and the two writers certainly do not end the book on some forced, unrealistic meeting of minds. But the intrigued reader will learn from both sides and the publishers are to be congratulated for presenting such a difficult topic in such an eminently useful format.--Mark Thwaite
"A very interesting ooportunity for the reader to appreciate both sides of a comples issue. A must for anybody interested in understanding the conflict in the Middle East." George Joffe, Director of Studies, Royal Institute for International Affairs, London
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