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Old 08-30-2011, 10:44 AM   #1
flytrap
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Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

I'm trying to educate myself on the history of the Middle East, especially the Palestine/Israel situation. What is the best book to read on this subject, hopefully one that is as non-biased as possible.
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Old 09-01-2011, 12:15 AM   #2
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

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I'm trying to educate myself on the history of the Middle East, especially the Palestine/Israel situation. What is the best book to read on this subject, hopefully one that is as non-biased as possible.
Edward Said, Bernard Lewis, Albert Hourani are all pretty unbiased and good. They are standard fair for degrees in IR and ME studies

My favorite books on the Middle east are by Robert Fisk. Not what I would call unbiased in terms of absolute political objectivity, but he is a very good journalist and tells what he sees fairly. "Pity the Nation" deals with Lebanon's civil war. "The Great War for Civilsation" deals with the history of ME conflict in the second half of the 20th centruy (except for the lebanese civil war)

Fisk is absolutely the best if you are looking for a good primer to understand the modern conflicts playing out n the region. The others above are for if you are actually looking for a comprehensive history (2000 year) of the region
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Old 09-01-2011, 10:32 PM   #3
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

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Edward Said, Bernard Lewis, Albert Hourani are all pretty unbiased and good. They are standard fair for degrees in IR and ME studies
I don't know that I'd say they're "unbiased," but I also dispute that such a thing exists in historical writing. Everyone has their biases; fortunately in these cases they don't totally cripple the writing (like it does with, say, Rodney Stark). I wouldn't get Lewis and Said in the same room, though... even their books might start fighting with each other. Lewis is pretty good from the basic facts of history, but I'd tend to agree with Said that he has a pretty Western-centric view of the subject.
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Old 09-25-2011, 10:47 PM   #4
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

The Fateful Triangle by Noam Chomsky
The Question of Palestine by Edward Said
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Old 09-26-2011, 11:13 AM   #5
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

Mossad by Eric Prattini
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Old 10-25-2011, 07:31 PM   #6
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

Righteous Victims by Benny Morris would be the best book to understand the Israel/Palestine conflict overall. Very comprehensive and largely avoids the bias and partisan arguments the author has more recently been deploying.
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Old 10-26-2011, 12:07 AM   #7
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

It is impossible imho to read an unbiased review of the ME from a western cultured mind.

In order to understand the conflict you must understand each culture which cannot be done by dumbing down the topic.

I would wholeheartedly recommend "The Haj" by Leon Uris. Beautifully shows how each culture reacted to the important time whereby palestine went from a quasi-state split between jordan egypt and syria to the modern state of israel.

lol..edward said.. sheesh
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Old 10-27-2011, 12:17 PM   #8
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

There are many good, small introductory books on the subject. Might start there.i'd give specific ones but working on a handheld right now. I would think these books would be fairly unbiased
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Old 10-12-2017, 02:45 AM   #9
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

Bumping this as it's the latest topic I've delved into.

Read so far:

Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict – John B. Judis
One Palestine, Complete - Tom Segev

Currently reading:

From Beirut to Jerusalem - Thomas L. Friedman

On my shelf to read next:

A History of Israel – John Bright
The Illustrated History of the Jewish People - Jane Gerber
The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power - Daniel Yergin

And I'm currently listening to the MartyMade podcast by Darryl Cooper

Genesis, as the title implies, is pretty focused on the US government's and Truman's role in the creation of Israel. It still gives the bigger picture, but the expected emphasis is clear.

I enjoyed One Palestine, Complete - presents a fairly comprehensive picture of the events of the first half of the 20th century.

Now, I don't pretend to understand the issues well enough to fully appreciate what is or isn't overly biased, but I'd agree with SIThomer's comment that "It is impossible imho to read an unbiased review of the ME from a western cultured mind.", and so my goal is not so much to find unbiased material to read (although of course that would be idea) as it is to read multiple viewpoints and hopefully find my way through balancing them.

I notice my collection so far, which is probably a mix of recommendations I found elsewhere and used books I picked up for a good deal, is devoid of any mentioned in this thread, so I have some shopping to do.

Any thoughts on the books I have, and any further suggestions, would be most welcome.
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Old 10-21-2017, 03:39 AM   #10
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

The facts aren't really in dispute. The meaning of those facts are.

There are a wide variety of questions to address to understand the situation.

Was it right to create Isreal in 1947? If it wasn't, does that even matter today?

Does history demonstrate a need for a Jewish homeland?

Should that homeland be a democracy?

Can that homeland be a democracy?

Should Israel's conduct toward Palestinians be excused?

Should Palestinian's conduct toward Israel be excused?

Are Palestinians a people?

Are Jews a people?

Can DNA play a role in determining a historical claim to a piece of real estate?
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Old 11-14-2017, 07:10 PM   #11
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

Before delving into some of the more specific books, I would recommend something like "A Concise History of the Middle East" by Arthur Goldschmidt - even though it's anything but concise, it's a pretty good historical overview and about as unbiased as you can find for ME related stuff.
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Old 11-15-2017, 04:43 AM   #12
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

Thanks!

Went on a crazy shopping spree today. On their way to me:

A History of the Arab Peoples: Updated Edition - Albert Hourani
The Arabs in History - Lewis, Bernard
Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East - Oren, Michael B.
Power, Faith, And Fantasy - Oren, Michael B.
Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide - Oren, Michael B.
The Question of Palestine - Edward W. Said
Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War - Robert Fisk
The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East - Robert Fisk
A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Mark Tessler
A Concise History of the Middle East - Arthur Goldschmidt, Aomar Boum
The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians - Chomsky, Noam
Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 - Benny Morris
1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War - Benny Morris

Apparently all it takes is a little 10% coupon from AbeBooks to set me off.

From Beirut to Jerusalem was a good read; now I'm slogging through A History of Israel – John Bright. It was quite a while ago that I bought it, and I'm not sure where I found the recommendation to do so. Not that it's terrible, but it's not what I expected. Basically a history of the Jewish people up through the end of the Old Testament, spending a fair amount of time going into the minutiae of where the Bible doesn't agree with other accounts, and the different schools of thought. It's obviously very well-researched, it's just going a lot deeper in places that don't interest me as much.

And I know it's not a book, but I just wanted to put a good word in for the MartyrMade podcast by Darryl Cooper, which I finished last week. Really enjoyed that.
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Old 11-20-2017, 06:44 PM   #13
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

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A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Mark Tessler
Stopped by to recommend this.
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Old 11-20-2017, 06:51 PM   #14
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

I would also recommend Martin Gilbert's Israel: A History. It's fiercely zionist which is obviously a problem for many, but he was a very talented historian. I think if you go in with a sceptical mind, there's a lot to take from it.
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Old 01-16-2018, 12:59 AM   #15
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

Thanks!
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Old 01-25-2018, 12:32 PM   #16
Bill Haywood
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

At the end of World War I, the European colonialists set crazy borders and established the template for today's conflicts. The standard volume on this is David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East.

American ascendance after World War II established a new structure in the Middle East and a context for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A shortish book on this: Lloyd C. Garnder, Three Kings: The Rise of an American Empire in the Middle East after World War II.

A revisionist account of the establishment of Israel comes from Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Pappe takes a clear position, but follows the norms of historical evidence.
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Old 02-26-2018, 05:43 AM   #17
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

Nobody talked about one of the most underrated Israeli authour as he's not well in phase with the vision of the Great Israel.

Shlomo Sand : "The invention of the land of Israel"

Shlomo proposes a true radical criticism of the concept of Israel

Gilad Atzmon offers also an even stronger criticism of Israel but more through a socio-political Spectrum in "The Wandering who?"
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Old 02-28-2018, 09:31 PM   #18
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

Not sure if there is an "unbiased" version of the conflict. Just read up as much as you can and make up your own mind.
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Old 03-08-2018, 11:43 PM   #19
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

Oded Yinon - Strategy for israel
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Old 03-17-2018, 10:46 AM   #20
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

why thou?
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Old 04-06-2018, 11:28 PM   #21
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Re: Best book for history of Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine.

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I'm trying to educate myself on the history of the Middle East, especially the Palestine/Israel situation. What is the best book to read on this subject, hopefully one that is as non-biased as possible.
Non-biased doesn't really exist. Go for balanced.

History books are not listings of facts. Listings of facts can be found anywhere. Books are meant to be arguments for a particular interpretation of history. Good ones are balanced and anticipate the counter arguments of others.

I prefer books with footnotes instead of end notes, but none exist anymore. Endnotes make it harder to check the author's sources.

From Beruit to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman is dated but an easy read that will start you off with a bang. Not the best book, but a very good way to start.
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