Top critical review
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Wide ranging, poor writing.
on 2 October 2009
The author is a British TV journalist and middle east correspondent who has travelled widely in the subject, both literally and figuratively.
The work is informative and wide ranging within the subject matter.
It is journalistic in the best sense, of being descriptive. Interviews explicitly referred to and quoted at length. The author goes places and describes what he sees.
In some respects the book reads like a multi-part TV documentary. Understandable given the authors background, and not a bad thing. The subject might well benefit from more treatment in this way. Rather than with ever more statements of narrowly tailored facts and opinions.
100% one-side of course, but that is the norm for political books. The sensible reader will always compensate with works by authors with countervailing views.
As usual the validity of claims to impartiality are negatively correlated with the frequency with which they are made.
The huge scope of the work and wealth material covered, mask the careful selection. After a 1000+ pages (both volumes) the reader will at least be extensively informed; which is not quite the same as being adequately informed. But it is a good start.
It is poorly written. Sometimes so badly, that you must read a sentence several times to understand what the author has put down.
The work is in dire need of an editor, preferably someone who knows something about punctuation.
The fact checking leaves something to be desired. Examples:
P.389 Jews driven out by terrorist attacks staged by Israeli agents. Without a shred of evidence sited to back it up this extraordinarily serious assertion. At least put in a couple of foot notes here.
P.426 The claim that Jordan river is the longest river in the world will no doubt raise a few eyebrows.
The incessant use bold fonts to mark out text for purposes that are not quite clear. Certain bold-ed passages are so extensive as to render the point moot. Whole paragraphs, sometimes several paragraphs. Confusing, and after a while annoying.
I give 2 stars. I take 2 away for the bad writing. Ordinarily I would have taken only one for this, but it really is appalling. The punctuation and wildly excessive use bold fonts did not help either.
I take one more for poor fact checking. On something this inflammatory, careful checking is essential.
The book is tailored by its author, and no work can ever be otherwise. Therefore I take no stars for partiality.
2 stars may seem overly generous. But the book spans very widely and on such a large and multi-faceted subject there is room for such a work. This book may not be that work, but there are points to be had for the effort.
For the serious knowledge junkie on the subject of Israel/Palestine/Zionism, this is a book to get. But don't let it be either the first, or the last one, you read on the subject.
On the whole worthwhile.