27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2002
As someone who worked as a UN-employed doctor in the Gaza Strip for two years, I have first hand experience of life under Israeli military occupation. Although this book does not cover the very recent history of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs, it is probably the best summary I have read in the forty years since I began reading books and articles about the history and politics of the Palestinian/Israeli tragedy.
As the West prepares to start a second war in the Middle East, there is now open discussion within and outside Israel about the need to ethnically cleanse the territories that Israel has occupied illegally and colonized since 1967. Apologists for the policies of Israel - a nation with weapons of mass destruction, which flouts international law and ignores its responsibilities under the 4th Geneva Convention - do nothing to secure the long term future of Israelis.
A common tactic used to respond to critics of Israeli policies - including Jewish critics - is to suggest that they are anti-semites! This book will help people to understand just how cheap a tactic this is. It does nothing for the image of Jews and Judaism to imply that the interests of the religion and its adherents coincide with the interests of a colonialist state created in the 20th century.
For people who want to understand the expansionist nature of the Zionist project, there is no better place to start than Ron and Susan David's excellent book. I hope they publish an updated edition, and that their work does not become yet another victim of censorship and suppression of views questioning the moral credentials of Zionism.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 1997
This fantastic and remarkably concise narrative of the long conflict should dramatically alter the perspective of any open-minded reader. While the style is certainly popular, the bibliographical sources are scholarly and impressive (Hannah Arendt, Noam Chomsky, etc.). This is the first time many people will hear the Palestinian version of the story, and it only takes 2 or 3 hours! The Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War are here; but, have you ever heard of the Two Week War or Deir Yassin? Clearly, the purpose of this book is to offer the facts through the eyes of the Palestinian people, who view some Israeli leaders as little better than Milosevich. In fact the author actually offers clear examples of ethnic cleansing by Israel. Balanced? Well, this book should help readers balance the popular version of history. The truth likely lies somewhere between the extremes. If you've spent years reading books like "Exodus" and "Oh, Jerusalem", spend a COUPLE OF HOURS reading the other side of the story. T
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 1998
I grabbed this book off the shelf almost on a whim. I had read others in the series and, although the documentary comic book style doesn't really work for me, I couldn't decide which of the dozens of more "serious" books on the subject to start with. I'm glad I chose this one. . He opens VERY strong, an does a really nice job of sorting out the ancient history. He is similary clear and strong at sorting out the more recent stuff, with the accusations and counteraccusations that fly back and forth in this troubled part of the world like Scud missiles. And, yes, as another one of the reader-reviewers notes, he is clearly anti-Zionist, without ever being anti-Semitic. That said, he makes it very clear that the book presents its facts to arrive at the conclusion, not that it was intended solely to be an anti-Zionist diatribe, regardless of the facts. I, like the author himself, and many readers of the book, had always assumed that the Israelis were the "good guys" (at least MOST of the time). I, too, had always had doubts about some things, little scraps of information and tidbits of history that didn't fit into what I understood to be the larger picture. I appreciated the book helping me to reshape the larger picture -- and, like the other books I have read in the series, helping to point me in the right direction with regard to further reading and study. . Is the book disturbing? Unsettling? Yes. I suspect that shattered illusions are as painful, and take as long to heal, as broken bones. . So why, if I liked it so much, do I only give it a "7"? The last twenty pages or so are a mess. The slow and progressive build of arguments more or less breaks down, and I saw too much of the author and not enough of the topic. It was one of the few times in the book that I felt he was TELLING me what to think, rather than giving me the facts and letting me decide for myself. That said, I couldn't help but notice the raw pain (and anger, and outrage) of these pages, as the author tried to deal with the horror of what he thinks has happened in Palestine, but at the same time not become the sort of self-loathing Jew that a couple of these other posts imply he is. This might be a really interesting topic for another book, but it distorted the end of this book a bit. . So, is the book anti-Zionist propaganda? NO. And the fact that some readers almost inevitably accuse it of being this merely proves his argument that our understanding of this region is hugely influenced and distorted by pro-Zionist propaganda. The book tries to avoid being propaganda for either side, and, as such, is bound to upset some -- especially because he does very clearly take sides stating that, in his opinion, an historical injustice has been committed (and continues to be committed). . Since reading this book, I have tackled some others on the subject (including Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem, which he doesn't mention, but which I found brilliant) -- and hope that other readers, too, will use this brief introduction as a gateway to further reading and study. As an introduction, it's very, very good. It can't, however, hope to be definative.
45 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 1998
Well, I read many reviews and there are those who feel deceived by the book. I beg to disagree. The author lays his cards on the table on the very first page and states that if this not the kind to book you don't want to read, don't buy it. He plainly asserts that modern Israel doesn't have equality, fairness, and social justice at its roots. He states that he grew up, like most Americans, thinking the Israelis are the guys in the white hats and arrabs the black ones. And through extensive research, he came to the conclusion for the most part, the opposite is true. He documents his findings extensively, quotes from Israeli sources, and provides this reader with answers to the questions I wanted answered. It becomes clear why the conflict is hard to resolve, and what each side sees in the other. I think any avid Zionist would really hate this book for the following reasons. It rejects the idea that one group has the right to something over another based on first! groups religious beliefs, and that the rights of white, colonial rulers, have a greater say then the majority of idigenous inhabitants. I suspect the author is Jewish, as indeed he lists many of his heroes as members of the Jewish faith, and from his Judaism he draws humanistic and progressive socialist ideals, as such he refreshingly draws conclusions that Arabs and Jews are all equals and Zionist Jewish attempts to create an Israel where Jews are the chosen people or master race goes against what he stands for as a human being. Highly recommended.
26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 1999
It is rare that one finds such an exhaustively researched work. Ron David's tireless dedication to the truth, his relentless pursuit of the complete picture, go far beyond the hollow simplicities of American media reporting on the Israeli-Arab conflict and expose the gross falsehoods which have been perpetrated upon the American public since the colonization/invasion of Palestine began more than one hundred years ago.
You must read this book as a starting point to knowing the 20th century history of the Middle East. Even if you already know a great deal about it, this book will provide you with some eye-opening facts and serves as an excellent quick resource for the major points of contention.
Brilliant, sophisticated, and extremely well-written. Laugh-out loud humorous, too, which is some feat for a book that deals with so grave a subject.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2000
I thought this book was quite informative. It touches upon many important facets of that complex issue. The author tries to demystify the Middle East and he has done a great job at it. I hope that those people who can't read one single word criticizing Zionism or the state of Israel can open up their minds and free their hearts from hatred.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2000
David's conversational style of telling the true story, not the Israeli fictionalized version, of the Palestian/Israeli conflict makes it easy to absorb some very complicated history of the Middle East. After reading this thoroughly researched, condensed revelation of the real issues between the Palestinians and Israelis, you'll never again be one of the naive Americans who say: "Oh, the Middle East, they've been fighting for thousands of years, and it will never change!" I recommend, no matter what your views, opinions or lack of opinions on the Palestinian/Israeli issues, you give this book to ten friends to read. If they in turn do the same, and those friends do the same, etc., more Americans might have a chance to open their minds, read the news with a sharper eye, ask more questions and expect truth for answers instead of falling prey to propaganda. Ron David makes you first hear, then question, and finally think--a very timely read for those who seek justice and carry the torch for human rights for all. Buy it!
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2000
Remember that the world moves forward because people ask "why?" and they look for the reasons. Not because people ask "why?" and they blindly believe "because".
The author does not take sides. He lays down the facts, reasons and important events that brought the mideast situation to where it is now. For all facts, he leads you to where you can get proof that they are indeed facts.
A great place to start for anyone (beginner or not). I have read the book twice and I recommend it to anyone who has logic and has an open mind.
It is up to reader to have an open mind and interpret the facts as they wish. This book is a gateway to many other books about the mideast situation, depeding on what you wish to know more about.
Read the book and judge for yourself.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2001
What is the true source of conflict between the Arabs and Israelites? Should we believe that God gave Jews the land and it is their rightful inheritance? Are the Arabs and Jews forever locked into a conflict that originates thousands of years and is to never end? If any of you had these questions on your mind everything that you have been told or read about the conflict will be blown out the water.
Arabs & Israel For Beginners is an opinionated, harsh and no nonsense treatsie in attempting to get at the truth of what is going on in this with these two groups. It spares no one as it debunks the religious myths, political intigues and downright lies told to create the modern state of Israel. The author methodically unravels a web of deceit that is incredulous.
In other words the author has rewritten history. Or is he giving us another side of the story never told before? I believe the latter even though Ron David is extremist in his assertions. Without a doubt he believes there never was a source of conflict with the groups until the major western powers refused to give autonomy to the Arab States and allowed Zionists to take over.
Such a view is highly controversial but it provides an alternative way of viewing the conflict going on in the Middle East with these two groups. Such a voice needs to be considered and examined because only one side of the story has ever been presented and even then it becomes confusing. Ron David has done us justice in raising us out of our illusions about Israel. He is challenging, humorous and ironic. Read this work with care but as with all works of history move beyond the opinion of one author.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 1998
This book will be difficult for many Americans to read only because they have been subjected to and follow a seemingly endless onslaught of pro-Israeli propaganda. This book is not entirely objective, but it at least shares pieces of history that have been woefully absent in American political discourse.
People will ask you not to read this book and I don't want to pretend to know their reasons, but I imagine they must fear that you will begin to ask what justifies America's often seemingly blind support of Israel. Much more importantly, however, readers of this book might begin to see Israel as a land that has been inhabited for thousands of years by non-jewish human beings with a history and rights of their own -- A history that is denied and rights that are no longer honored in this land.
Buy this book, read it, and then start paying attention to the many different sides at work in Palestine/Israel.