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Adam A. Waterhouse (Southampton, United Kingdom)

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The New Atheist Threat: The Dangerous Rise of Secular Extremists
The New Atheist Threat: The Dangerous Rise of Secular Extremists
Price: £3.08

5 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brave, important, and deeply human book, 2 Oct. 2015
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The New Atheist Threat is a brave, important and deeply-human book which exposes the narrow-minded bigotry of the New Atheist movement on the topics of Islam and the politics of the Middle East. Werleman begins the book by recounting his own journey from someone who was simply uninterested in and unconcerned about religion to becoming a fully paid-up member of the New Atheist movement and speaker at New Atheist conventions, the key turning point of which was personally witnessing the twin suicide bomb attacks that occurred in the Jimbaran beach resort (Bali, Indonesia) in October 2005 which killed twenty people and injured over an hundred. In an effort to understand what could possibly motivate people to behave in such a way Werleman turned to the writings of the celebrity New Atheists – Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Dan Dennett and Richard Dawkins – and found in their books an apparent confirmation of his initial conclusion that it was religious belief that had motivated the attacks, and, hence, that religious faith was something to be feared and rejected. As someone with a long-standing interest in American politics (Werleman was born in Australia but always had an interest in American political affairs) he was also concerned about the influence of the religious right upon American politics and the Bush administration. On the basis of this he undertook to study the Bible for himself and wrote his first book “God Hates You, Hate Him Back”, which in turn led to him receiving invitations to speak at New Atheist conventions and on New Atheist podcasts in America and Australia.

Although he was initially uplifted by the experience of being introduced to a whole community of people who shared his world view he quickly started to develop doubts and concerns about the movement he had become part of. He was struck by how many of the same people he would see, time and time again, at conventions and on on-line social networking sites. It struck him that New Atheists appeared to be reading the same books, watching to the same YouTube videos, and following the same high-profile celebrity atheists authors, thereby providing themselves and each other with a continuous reinforcement of their anti-religious world-view. It began to dawn upon him that whilst New Atheists claimed to champion science and reason they had, in practice, become blind believers in their own claims. Whilst New Atheist celebrity authors Richard Hawkins and Sam Harris may be brilliant in their respective scientific fields (as Werleman acknowledges) they are not experts in religion or the complex political dynamics of the Middle East, and yet it was clear that their utterly naive claims about such topics were being accepted as “gospel truth” (oh sweet irony!), and not subjected to the slightest critical scrutiny by their fans, whilst the vast literature of empirical research and historical and political commentary that exists on these subjects was being studiously ignored. Werleman demonstrates an empathic understanding of the conditions under which anti-theistic New Atheism has developed its appeal. After moving from Indonesia to America in 2012 he was shocked and alarmed to hear and learn about the extraordinary intolerance towards atheists in America, a country in which (according to polls) atheists are only slightly more trusted than rapists, in which people can be disowned by their family for abandoning their faith in God, and in which not a single one of the 534 US senators and congressmen and women publically admits to being a non-believer. In such circumstances it is understandable that a muscular anti-religious form of atheism will appeal to some people. He also expresses his appreciation for the legitimate work of atheist and pro-secular organisations in protecting the division between church and state, and acknowledges their significant achievements in this regard.

If the problems presented by the New Atheist movement were limited to the fact that they were misleading their own adherents with respect to their accounts of religion and the politics of the Middle East it would be bad enough; but celebrity New Atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens have sufficient influence to affect public debate and discussion about these topics. As journalist Max Blumenthal said to Werleman “New Atheists are dangerous because they provide a very palatable narrative that’s not only easily digested, but also advances a ‘clash of civilizations.’ New Atheists are dangerous because they’ve gained traction outside the far right wing hot house.” In other words, New Atheists are dangerous because they make ignorant and bigoted views look reasonable and respectable, at least to the minds of some. New Atheists are forever insisting that they cannot be described as racist because they don’t say anything about the biological “race” to which a person belongs, just their beliefs, but is that really the point? Werleman succinctly explains the real issues at stake: “Whether or not this New Atheist narrative is “gross and racist” is a secondary argument to an even more important one: is it dangerous? I contend that indeed it is. It’s dangerous because it’s an appeal to nationalistic sensibilities. Thinly disguised nationalistic rhetoric serves to demonize an external threat, imaginary or real, while simultaneously extolling our own morality or invoking pity for our internal identity. “Bad things are happening in the world. It can’t be us, we are rational and virtuous, so it must be them,” is how nationalistic language seeps into the collective psyche.” Such nationalistic rhetoric and sensibilities are inextricably linked to a self-exaltation of Western civilisation which in turn accounts for the breath-taking double-standards of the New Atheists with respect to state violence carried out by America and Israel, in their respective acts of military aggression and occupation, and those resisting them. As Werleman explains: “Exaltation of self is also the underlying reason why New Atheists are blind to state violence. They’re blind to the fact non-state violence is always a response to state violence. They engage in double standards: non-state violence is barbaric and savage, whereas state violence, our violence, is rational, humane, and reasonable.”

In successive chapters on Islam, American imperialism, and Israel (chapters 6 to 8) Werleman details how the New Atheists distort the factual reality in favour of an anti-Islam, pro-America, pro-Israel narrative which both draws upon and feeds into the counterfactual narrative promoted by those seeking to promote an Islamaphobic, pro-imperialism, pro-Zionist agenda. Numerous baseless claims made by New Atheists are examined and exposed by means of reference to the factual record. Sam Harris, the supposed defender of science and reason is comprehensively exposed as someone with a little or no regard for factual evidence with respect to these subject. Utterly spurious claims made by Harris include the claim that France will become a Muslim majority country within 25 years if current trends continue (it would take at least 250); his claim that Muslims tend to reflexively side with other Muslims (which demonstrates a complete ignorance of the complex political reality of the Middle East); and his claim that Palestinian militants have used human shields in their conflicts with Israel (UN investigators were unable to find any such evidence despite looking for it). And as Werleman points out: “here’s the thing: the Israel-Palestine conflict contains loads of empirical evidence. You know, like the fact that the Israeli High Court found that the Israeli Defence Force used Palestinians as “human shields” on no less than 1,200 occasions in a single five-year period 2000 to 2005.” Could it be, perchance, that Mr Harris, who has endlessly criticised people of religious faith for their unwillingness to consider evidence that contradicts their beliefs, is himself a little reluctant to consider evidence that contradicts his own belief in the inherent evil of Islam and Islamic resistance groups like Hamas and the benign intentions of the government of Israel and the Israeli Defence Force?

Chapter 9, “The Roots of Muslim Rage” is a particularly striking chapter which could be read on its own as an account of the circumstances leading to the emergence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Werleman examines, in turn, the American reaction to 9/11, a consideration of the motivation of the 9/11 attackers, the evidence for what really “radicalises” Islamic terrorists (political grievances, not the Quran), the break-down of Iraqi society following the 2003 invasion which led to the emergence of al-Qaeda and subsequently ISIS, the US-Saudi relationship and its role in supporting Islamic terrorism, and the lessons to draw from all this in terms of how the global community should respond to ISIS. The evidence that any of these horrors had anything much to do with Islam, as the New Atheists claim, is simply not corroborated by any of the evidence. In fact the actions of all of the protagonists and factions are perfectly explicable in terms of political motivation and human psychology. Thus, the New Atheists’ insistence that Islam plays a leading role in motivating extremism is shown to be lacking in any empirical foundation as what is consistently found is that it is political grievances which radicalises terrorists and Jihadhi fighters, and that the role of religion is merely that it is used by them to explain, justify and rationalise the extremist views they have come to hold. As Werleman notes: “If the Quran actually motivated terrorists to commit deadly acts, the terrorists would use the Quran as their primary propaganda tool. They don’t. They use videos of Abu Grahib, footage of U.S. military atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan; and images of starving and dying children caused by U.S economic sanctions on Iraq during the 1990s.”

Werleman devotes a chapter to the role of the New Atheist movement in supporting the questionable rationale for the highly opportunistic homeland security industry, and a chapter on the usefulness of New Atheist rhetoric for Islamic terrorist themselves in which he quotes Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir: “When Westerners start talking about Islam as a uniquely or inherently violent faith that is fundamentally different from other religions they stumble into the trap laid for them by the fundamentalists, who tell their followers that Muslims are uniquely hated and uniquely persecuted by the West.”

The book finishes with a request to the New Atheist community to recognise that atheism does not have to be synonymous with the anti-religious intolerance, ignorance and bigotry of Harris or Dawkins. Atheists don’t have to be antagonistic towards religion and religious adherents, and, given the vast plethora of issue that we face as a species that will require co-ordinated action on the part of believers and non- believers alike – including global warming and environmental degradation – really can’t afford to be. A different form of atheist identity and atheist activism is possible. One which recognises that it is extremism that is the problem, not religion per se, and that it is primarily by addressing the legitimate grievances upon which violent extremism thrives, and demonstrating practically the values we claim to believe in, through compassionate actions, that it can be overcome. Needless to say I sincerely recommend this book and hope that it will be widely read. Although it takes the form of an exposé of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the New Atheist movement, as currently configured, it is also offers a new and clearer perspective on Islam, Muslims and “Islamic extremism”, one which is founded upon an informed understanding of each of these issues, a clear-sighted recognition of the vested-interests seeking to divide us, and a complete rejection of the “us” versus “them” narrative which blinds us to our shared humanity.

Method and Madness: The Hidden Story of Israel's Assaults on Gaza
Method and Madness: The Hidden Story of Israel's Assaults on Gaza
Price: £6.59

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finkelstein tells it as it is, 21 May 2015
This book is a collection of essays about Gaza written by Norman Finkelstein in recent years. The book documents the manner in which the Israelis have engaged in on-going collective punishment of the people of Gaza and intentionally provoked confrontation with Hamas time and time again, often as a direct response to peace initiatives by Hamas leaders. The book cuts through the myths of the main-stream media of a belligerent Hamas and an Israel that sincerely wants peace as a hot knife cuts through butter. The book ends with a call by Finkelstein to Hamas leaders to focus their efforts on non-violent civil disobedience using Gaza's greatest asset - it's children and young people.

Old Wine, Broken Bottle: Ari Shavit's Promised Land
Old Wine, Broken Bottle: Ari Shavit's Promised Land
by Norman G. Finkelstein
Edition: Paperback

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exposing the self-delusions of Mr Shavit, 26 April 2014
Old Wine, Broken Bottle is a critique of a book by Israeli reporter Ari Shavit entitled My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel that has been widely praised by supporters of Israel in America. Shavit’s book acknowledges uncomfortable truths about Israel, whilst also heaping lavish praise upon it for its accomplishments, and appealing to the reader to understand the unique plight of Israel as justification for its actions. In so far as Ari Shavit’s message represents Zionism’s latest defence, which Finkelstein believes it does, his efforts to debunk it serve the broader goal of trying to separate fact from fiction and to offer an account of Israel, its history, and its possibilities for the future that is entirely possible and far more desirable.

The book makes for entertaining reading as Finkelstein makes light work of exposing the non sequiturs that Shavit offers in his account. These include numerous efforts to portray an idealised and heavily romanticised picture of Israel’s history whilst simultaneously disparaging the indigenous population. In one hilarious passage Finkelstein quotes Shavit as beginning a chapter with “Oranges had been Palestine’s trademark for centuries”, only to reflect later on in the chapter on the “wonders about the mysterious bond between Jews and oranges. Both arrived in Palestine around the same time”! Shavit’s mind-set, Finkelstein notes, is a throw back to another epoch in which Western colonialists had no qualms about justifying their dispossession of indigenous populations on the grounds of ‘progress’. Conversely, Shavit makes no effort to justify Israel on the basis of Jewish values and beliefs, and repeatedly expresses his distain for Orthodox Jews as a drain on the Israeli economy. Rather, the crowning achievements of Israel, according to the Shavit account, are its night life and consumerist culture. So what purpose exactly does Israel serve for Shavit, since consumerism and liberal attitudes towards sexuality are a commonplace in most Western countries? Seemingly, Finkelstein observes, merely to confirm that Jews stand out on the front rank of Western culture and civilisation.

The book includes a very adept analysis of the core Zionist justification for Israel – that it was born of the need to provide a safe haven for Jewish people and has succeeded in doing so. The legitimacy afforded to the idea (in theory) of the creation of a state that could act as a refuge for Jewish people by the centuries of anti-semitic persecution, culminating in the Holocaust, is contrasted with the reality of what has actually happened subsequently. The tremendous fear and paranoia of Israelis about the surrounding Arab and Muslim world, which Shavit both expresses and reflects, is also contrasted and compared with the life of relative ease and security that has been enjoyed by Jews and people of Jewish descent outside of Israel subsequent to the Second World War. Shavit’s paranoia reaches its apex in his depiction of the horrors of a nuclear Iran which he describes as a threat to humanity. But, unlike Iran, Israel already possesses a massive nuclear arsenal, for which Shavit expresses unrestrained enthusiasm, devoting a whole chapter to the glories of Israel’s nuclear reactor at Dimona. And, unlike Iran, Israel has already launched numerous unprovoked wars against its neighbours, and repeatedly threatened to initiate armed conflict with Iran in violation Article 2 of the UN charter. Outside of the myopic moral universe of Shavit the balance sheet of right and wrong, and threat and counter-threat, looks rather different. But rather than opening his mind to alternative perspectives Shavit reports on his discussions with fellow fanatic former intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, and, along with his fellow Israelis, ignores the scholarly analysis of Israel’s defence strategy by Professor Zeev Maoz. As Finkelstein notes: “Although Predictable, it still speaks volumes that Israel’s cheerleaders consign Maoz to oblivion but go ga ga over Shavit.”

There is no doubt that Shavit’s effusive praise and adoration for Israel pleases some of its devotees, but using emotional hyperbole to defend one’s nation can never be just okay when it is being used to help maintain a status quo that perpetuates an attitude of fear and fanaticism among Israelis and the on-going oppression of the Palestinian people. And beyond the jostling fun of exposing the exaggerations, inconsistencies, and absurdities of Ari Shavit’s various points lies a serious message - a resolution of the situation that respects the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians is possible, but progress towards it can only be made when the shallow, self-serving and self-deluding pro-Israeli propaganda of Ari Shavit and others like him is recognised for what it is and replaced with an attitude and perspective based upon honesty, pragmatism, and basic human decency.

Present Perfect: A Mindfulness Approach to Letting Go of Perfectionism and the Need for Control
Present Perfect: A Mindfulness Approach to Letting Go of Perfectionism and the Need for Control
Price: £10.44

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, 25 Mar. 2014
This is an excellent book. Pavel's analysis and insight into the cognitive errors involved in the attitude of mind of perfectionism is very impressive. But he manages to combine this with many, many practical exercises that help you to move beyond perfectionism towards a more sensible and realistic view of what we can or cannot expect from ourselves and from our life. Abandoning perfectionism, from this perspective, is not merely about making the decision to not place ourselves under undue stress through harboring unrealistic expectations. It is about recognizing the fundamental ignorance that lies at the very heart of the attitude of perfectionism and replacing it with a wiser, lighter, happier, and more compassionate attitude of mind towards both ourselves and others.

Highly recommended for anyone who has issues with perfectionism or who works with those who do.

Secrets for Brilliant Hypnosis: Hypnotherapy Techniques, Tips and Inspirations
Secrets for Brilliant Hypnosis: Hypnotherapy Techniques, Tips and Inspirations
Price: £2.24

2.0 out of 5 stars Very New Agey, 12 Mar. 2014
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This book is very sincere and well-intentioned and does contain some good general advice. However, it is VERY 'New Agey' and if that isn't your thing I can't very well imagine why you would want to buy this book. Overall, it was not a worthwhile purchase for me I'm afraid. Clearly it has been appreciated by other customers, so use your own judgement as to whether or not you'll appreciate it.

Cushion in the Road, The
Cushion in the Road, The
by Alice Walker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful sentiments - Terrible editing, 12 Aug. 2013
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There is plenty in this book that I think is great. Alice Walker's warmth and compassionate insight shine forth from many of the chapters. But there is a real problem, which is that she and her editor seem to have gone for the option of throwing every piece of writing into the mix that they could possibly get there hands on - that makes for an experience of confusion as a reader. The Introduction starts reasonably enough with Walker telling us how she travelled to Mexico planning to enjoy a period of quiet meditation and contemplation only to find herself being drawn back out into the world by the assault on Gaza and the prospect of the election of America's first black President. This led her to the understanding that she wasn't inclined to shut herself off from the world of human affairs, and to travel to various parts of the world including Burma, Thailand, Gaza and the West Bank out of a sense of commitment to the well-being of others and to the realization that "my cushion [symbolising her inner spiritual quest],the fountain, the peace, because of my attention to some of the deep sufferings in the world, sometimes seemed far away."

So far so promising.... and I found the first section of the book on Barak Obama pretty good too. On page 23 in an open letter to Obama she offers him the advice not to take on other people's enemies, also advising that "There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanising as a means of ruling a people's spirit." And on page 34 a good chapter on health care in which she makes the observation "How bizarre it is that President Obama.... has to spend so much energy trying to get Americans to accept what we so desperately need: a system of health care that means that we don't have to be terrorised by the though of getting sick." And starting on page 47 we have the letter which she wrote to the graduating class of Naropa University in which she draws upon her insight from Buddhism to make the following comment with respect to the perpetrator of the massacre at Virginia Tech "....we must allow ourselves to feel compassion for the person who killed the other thirty-two before killing himself. This thought - that compassion does not stop at who was right or wrong, does not stop at feeling loving kindness for the miserable and oppressed, does not stop at feeling the pain of the victim while ignoring the pain of the victimiser - is a human expression of warmth, a human sunrise, our world desperately needs." And all of this is absolutely characteristic of the Alice Walker that I love and deeply appreciate - the Alice Walker who is able and willing to shine the light of love and compassionate concern upon the problems of a confused and suffering world.

And then we move on to the second section, entitled 'The Road of Life' which is where my problems with this book really began, because each of the brief pieces of writing simply seemed random and arbitrary - there was no logic to it. Included in this section is a book review of 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett, but why? I thought that I was supposed to be reading a book which explored the interface between her spirituality and her political and social activism. Even if some connection can be made (I guess it probably can) it still seemed to be too tangential to me. Included also in this section is a chapter 'We Are In This Place For A Reason' which boldly declares the innocence of Mumia Abu-Jamal. I had no knowledge of who this man was before reading this chapter and doing a little bit of research on the internet. But even after doing so my only thought was "Why are you telling me this?" I couldn't really see its relevance to the stated aim of the book.

The same comments apply to many of the chapter in the subsequent sections 'The Settled Mind' and 'This Is What You Shall Do'. The final two section 'Letters' and 'On Palestine' certainly took us back to the stated aim of the book, but here the lack of adequate editorial oversight presented a different problem - that of placing the average Western reader in the position that I found myself in with respect to her chapter on Mumia Abu-Jamal, which is the position of being presented with assertions for which they have no evidence - and hence no basis upon which to arrive at a judgement of their own. The situation is particularly serious in the case of the Palestinian issue since the average UK citizen has been systematically misled by the main-stream media, especially the BBC, into perceiving the Palestine/Israel situation from a hugely slanted point of view [Please check out the web-site 'If Americans Knew' and the information contained therein if you doubt this assertion]. Hence the average reader may well pick up this book with the belief that Israel would gladly make peace with the Palestinians if it weren't for the mindless religiously-inspired terrorism which they have supposedly been inflicting upon the poor Israelis. In the immortal words of Mark Twain "It 'ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble, it's what you know for sure that just 'aint so." And what they know for sure about Palestine/Israel that just 'ain't so appears to have led some reviewers to the conclusion that the only reason that Alice Walker could possibly hold such a negative view of the state of Israel is because she is a purveyor of anti-Semitism! In fact, for many of them what they know for sure that just 'ain't so probably includes the belief that criticism of Israel IS anti-Semitism, in which case they should probably try to make the acquaintance of Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer, author of the truly excellent book 'The End of Judaism: an ethical tradition betrayed' and have a chat with him on this point.

Or perhaps they might like to start by reading one or more of Alice Walker's own recommendations on this topic 'Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid' by Jimmy Carter, 'One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse' by Ali Abunimah, or 'Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation' by Saree Makdisi.

And I would really urge anyone planning to purchase this book who is not familiar with Israel/Palestine to consider purchasing and reading one of these books first in order to have a greater understanding of what she is talking about in this final section of the book.

In conclusion I would simply say that I truly believe that Alice Walker is a terrific person. Her compassion seems to me to be absolutely genuine, and she is fearless in proclaiming many of the difficult truths that the world so badly needs to hear at this time. However, I also think that the book suffers from a lack of editorial over-sight which weakens the impact and clarity that it might otherwise have had.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
by Omar Barghouti
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars clear, intelligent and compelling, 16 Oct. 2012
Omar Barghouti can fairly be described as the main figurehead of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and anyone reading this book will understand why. Barghouti argues the case for BDS with intelligence, passion, and compelling moral force. After briefly reminding us of the sad state of affairs whereby the US consistently provides Israel with complete impunity from consequences for its on-going oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, Barghouti introduces boycott as a tactic whereby citizens of conscience throughout the world can seek to put pressure upon Israel to respect the legal and human rights of the indigenous people of that land.

Barghouti then goes on to discuss the concern already generated within Israel by the call for boycott, and the fear evidenced by politicians and commentators of Israel becoming a pariah state. Israel, it seems wants the best of both worlds (in its own terms) - permission to oppress and dispossess the Palestinians and still be held up as a bastion of culture and civilisation! Therein lies its 'weakness' (or perhaps its saving grace) as the possibility exists, through boycott and divestment, to persuade the Israeli politicians and the Israeli public who vote for them that continuing along the path of oppression and discrimination just isn't worth it.

This is no more oppressive than the actions of a caring parent who withholds a privilege from a young child who has hit another child. The aim is not to punish them for its own sake, but to educate them that violence towards other children is not acceptable. Similarly the aim of BDS is simply to teach Israeli politicians and the public who support them that they must start to treat the indigenous population of the land they are occupying with respect and dignity. Nothing less will be acceptable. Treating the Palestinians with respect and dignity will not signal the death or destruction of Israel or Israelis (let along 'the Jews') but rather the birth of Israel as a decent and responsible nation which promotes and respects the rights of all people.

The book includes individual chapters on the lessons drawn from the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the call for an academic boycott, the call for a cultural boycott, and responses to anti-boycott arguments. Barghouti demonstrates an impressive awareness of the areas of ambiguity and confusion generated by these issues and does his best to address them. With respect to the cultural and academic boycott the point is made that this does not apply to individual Israeli artists or academics but only to artistic or academic institutions which can be fairly considered to be complicit in Israeli apartheid through their tacit or explicit support for the status quo. It should be noted that this includes theatre and dance companies which accept state funding on the basis that they will "promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel" and academic institutions providing Israel's military intelligence establishment with indispensible research on demography, geography, and hydrology which is used by the Israeli military to plan and carry out the theft of Palestinian land and water resources, and the slow-paced ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their land.

The book is a little bit disjointed in the later chapters which don't seem to follow on from one another in any particular order. However, I did not feel that this detracted from the quality of the book, for me, since each of these later chapters is self-contained and the quality of Barghouti's commentary and analysis is consistently high.

I would not recommend this book to someone new to this topic. This is a book that seems to assumes a certain amount of background knowledge. For anyone new or relatively new to this issue I would recommend `Israeli Apartheid A Beginner's Guide' by Ben White, `Peace not Apartheid' by Jimmy Carter, or `Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War Against the Palestinians' by Baruch Kimmerling - which although a bit dated now gives a particularly clear picture of the dynamic that have shaped and created this sad and regrettable situation.

The Case for Sanctions Against Israel
The Case for Sanctions Against Israel
by Audrea Lim
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important reading for people interested in ending Israeli oppression, 6 Oct. 2012
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I would certainly recommend this book for people interested in the logic and rationale of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions as a means of ending Israel's on-going oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians. The book is composed of 26 chapters written by 29 contributors (some of the chapters are co-authored) coming from a broad range of back-grounds. The chapters are self-contained comments by the individual contributors.

Readers wishing to turn straight away to an explanation of the rationale of BDS should read the chapter by Naomi Klein (ch.19) and Ilan Pappe (ch.20) first. Ilan Pappe describes his decision to support BDS as follows:

"For an activist, the realization that change from within is unattainable not only grows from an intellectual or political process, but is more than anything else an admission of defeat. And it was this fear of defeatism that prevented me from adopting a more resolute position for a very long time.... Supporting BDS remains a drastic act for an Israeli peace activist. It excludes one immediately from the consensus and from the accepted discourse in Israel....But there is really no other alternative. Any other option - from indifference, through soft criticism, and up to full endorsement of Israeli policy - is a wilful decision to be an accomplice to crimes against humanity."

John Berger in his two page chapter (ch.21) provides a short but important analysis of how BDS should be understood and explained:

"Boycott is not a principle. When it becomes one, it risks becoming exclusive and racist. No boycott, in our sense of the term, should be directed against an individual, a people, or a nation as such. A boycott is directed against a policy and the institutions that support that policy, either actively or tacitly. Its aim is not to reject, but to bring about change."

I don't think that the importance of clearly understanding this point could be over-stated. It really is essential for BDS activists to be able to understand and communicate this point clearly if BDS is to be successful in bringing about the change in public consciousness that is required.

The book contains two chapter by South African commentators: Ronnie Kasrils (ch.11), a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, and Ran Greenstein (ch.16), an academic from Johannesburg, both of which I found particularly powerful. Perhaps the most unusual chapter is written by Marc Ellis (ch.14), a Professor of Jewish studies at Baylor University in Texas. Although he echoes the discredited myth that Israel was faced with an existential threat prior to the 1967 war (or at least fails to clearly debunk it) he does make some interesting points, including drawing a parallel between the criticisms faced by 'Jews of conscience' and the Biblical prophets:

"Like the prophets, Jews of conscience who argue for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions are charged with treason. And, again like the prophets, Jews of conscience are seen as imperilling the security of the State of Israel and of Jews everywhere. Those who call for concrete measures against the policies of the State of Israel, especially after the Holocaust, are seen as blasphemers by the powers that be. But then the prophets were seen in exactly the same way."

My main criticism of this book is that is has no Introduction or Conclusion and so the reader is left to their own devises to try to pull together the themes of the various chapters into a coherent whole. This strikes me as an omission, and is certainly something that I would have appreciated as a reader. I would agree with the other four star reviewer that there is scope for more writing on this subject, and a more broad-ranging analysis of the tactic of BDS than we have been presented with yet.

Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide
Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide
by Ben White
Edition: Paperback

10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars clear, factual and well-argued, 12 Sept. 2012
I would very much recommend this book to anyone interested in gaining a clear-sighted perspective on the nature of the current Israeli state from an impartial perspective. I am aware that applying the term 'impartial perspective' to this book may sound odd to an American audience for whom 'the legitimacy of the state of Israel as a Jewish' has become an item of faith. However, most people outside of America do not subscribe to this doctrine, and, to the extent that they are interested at all, are more concerned with the on-the-ground reality of life for both Palestinians and Israelis. Ben White's great achievement in this book is to calmly introduce the reader to the reality that lies behind the rhetoric on this issue by presenting us with facts and clear analysis.

From the outset he explains that his use of the term 'apartheid' is not intended to imply that Israel resembles the apartheid of South African in all details, but rather that the Israeli control over the lives of Palestinians meets the broad definitionn of apartheid as defined by the UN's General Assembly in 1973. This definition includes "any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their country...."

From there the book goes on to provide a chapter detailing the deliberate programme of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that provided the basis for the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, and a brief description of the second major 'transfer' operation of 1967 in which 300,000 fled or were expelled from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (the majority from the latter). The second part of the book then goes on to detail how Israeli apartheid has been maintained over the past 60 years by means of a series of laws that provide a cover for an deliberate policy of land theft, colonisation, and ethnic separation within both the internationally recognised boundaries of the state of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (including East Jerusalem). The third part of the book provides details of some of the organisations resisting Israeli apartheid before providing a response to frequently voiced objections in a section entitled 'Frequently Asked Questions.'

Although comprising only fifteen pages the 'Frequently Asked Questions' section is impressive for the clear-sighted and level-headed responses that it provides to the commonly heard objections including the idea that it is wrong not to support the idea of Israel as a 'Jewish State', that Israel deserves praise as 'the only democracy in the Middle East' (supposedly), and that it is wrong to demonise Israelis in view of the historical persecution of Jews, to which White responds:

"To describe Israel in terms of apartheid is not to dehumanise Israelis. In fact, the struggle for a just peace in Palestine/Israel emerges from insisting on the humanity of both Palestinians and Israelis.... Anti-Jewish persecution certainly helps to explain how Zionism emerged, but cannot justify, or detract from, the realities of Israeli apartheid. It's not about name calling, or denying how after the Holocaust, many European Jews felt like there was no where else for them to go. It is about recognising that the Palestinians also have a profound and deeply rooted attachment to their country and the question, then, is whether or not they will share that land as equals. At the same time as it is vital to respect and understand the impact and legacy of the Holocaust, it is also sadly necessary to refuse those who would manipulate and exploit Nazi crimes in order to justify the oppression of the Palestinians."

A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis (Penguin Reference)
A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis (Penguin Reference)
by Charles Rycroft
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book - highly recommended, 4 Aug. 2012
This is an excellent and indispensable book for anyone with an interest in developing their understanding and familiarity with psychoanalysis. The dictionary is prefaced with a twenty page introduction. Charles Rycroft begins it by providing an explanation of his use of the word 'critical' in the title: "....this book is not a dictionary of criticisms of psychoanalysis but a critical dictionary of psychoanalysis.... To this end is entries consist not merely of formal dictionary definitions of technical terms used in the analytic literature, but also give some account of their origin, of their connexion with other terms and concepts used in analytic theory, and of the controversies relating to them that exists among analysts themselves."

It is this last feature of the book - its willingness to briefly discuss the controversies between analysts with respect to different concepts - that gives it a truly fascinating and thought-provoking quality.

It should be stressed that that this book is much more than a dictionary of definitions as each of the entries, some of which run to over a page, provide explanations of the terms discussed. Where the explanations refer to other psychoanalytic terms explained in the book these are printed in bold, allowing the reader to familiarise themselves with that term also. In this way it is easy to spend an enjoyable five or ten minutes developing an understanding of a series of related psychoanalytic concepts.

Rycroft's explanations of terms are clear, concise, and insightful. I have re-read some of them five or ten times in order to deepen my understanding. This book is a real treasure for anyone with an interest in psychoanalysis.

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