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Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East Paperback – March 8, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A former Middle Eastern correspondent for the Guardian, Hirst (The Gun and the Olive Branch) chronicles the travails of modern Lebanon in this provocative polemic that doubles as a history of the Arab-Israeli struggle. Given Lebanon's tiny size, sectarian polity, and strategic location in a volatile region, Hirst observes that it was almost designed to be the everlasting battleground for others' political, strategic and ideological conflicts. Lebanon's role in the struggle for Palestine, however, is the author's primary interest. Displaced Palestinians flooded into southern Lebanon following the first Arab-Israeli War (1948) and spawned a guerilla 'state-within-a-state' on Israel's northern border. Hirst is solidly in the Palestinians' corner throughout; he inveighs against Israeli policies of ethnic cleansing and blocking progress toward a settlement of the Palestinian issue. The author also faults the United States for its deference to all things Israeli; takes to task Israel and the Israeli lobby in the U.S. for provoking the 2003 invasion of Iraq; and anoints the Iranians as the only true victor of America's war in Iraq. Hirst's is a passionately partisan and eloquent recounting of the tragic fate of modern Lebanon and the Palestinian people. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

David Hirst was for many years the Middle East correspondent of the Guardian. His seminal book on the Arab-Israeli conflict, The Gun and the Olive Branch, has been in print for thirty years.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (March 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568586574
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568586571
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #816,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
My Phalangist friends here in Beirut say, Oh, Hirst - he is in the pay of Hezbollah. While I'm certain that's not so, it's true that Hirst is strangely admiring of armed and militant Islam and of the Iranian and Syrian cats-paw posing as protectors of Lebanon in the South of the country, and he is unnecessarily venomous towards Israel in several instances. For example, gestures toward peace are always sincere coming from Syria and other Arab authorities, and always false and depraved coming from Israel. And Hirst seems also unaware of - or indifferent to - how Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian paymasters stand in opposition to the wonderful country Lebanon once was, and still is in parts - tolerant, humane and hospitable. A Hezbollah cleric recently issued one of his periodic statements in the Shiite suburbs south of Beirut reminding women of the importance of keeping their hair covered - does the world really need more of that? And Hezbollah's retention of their own arms is stifling the development of a normal civic government in the country, with the Shiite factions in the government recently insisting that it would not discuss the matter of Hesbollah's private army unless the media stopped writing about the matter. Again, not what the Middle East needs more of.
But the book's slightly skewed point of view is easily outweighed by its many virtues. It is great history, full of amazing detail and thorough research.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At first I was unsure how Hirst could top his heroic Gun and Olive Branch:Roots of Violence in the Middle East...thinking that for 3 decades, with updates and a long desired comprehensive collection of all three editions in one, published in 2003, with a new 50,000 word forward, which brought the reader from the late 1980s (2nd edition) to the present decade-- the period leading up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, including insight into evangelistic Christian Zionism and their enmeshment --(concept of Zion and return for Jews)....the exclusion of the narrative of indigenous amended ...and events which led up to the British (who were in a "partitioning state of mind" across their Empire at that point in time)....Partitioning of Syria-Palestine-Transjordan-Levant along with the French as 'spoils" from their defeat (which would never have been possible in all likelihood, except for the unified power of the Arab clans from Hijaz and across the Arab world at the time )...conniving and treachery dealt via betrayal against the Arabs who longed for independence.
Here, in Hirst's latest opus...he picks up from that period...carefully documented presenting the reader with events and players within the Levant prior to 1919 Paris Peace conference --replete with Weizmann quotes and forward.
It must be read... an absolutely essential comprehensive "BIG PICTURE" epic history, in the same way that David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" did. .the era & series of events and schemes and epic historical narrative that will open minds & rip veils from the eyes of those who remain uninformed --whether as a result of inadequate public education in north america as well as the infinitely well oiled & funded propaganda machines that have driven North American ignorance for more than a century..
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I had a small part in researching this book by translating one of the source books, I had no idea how amazing the final book would become. This is a must-read for anyone who really is interested in understanding the background to the mess which continues to haunt us. There is plenty of blame to go around, but we here in the US seldom get enough of the real picture to make sound judgements--this goes for our various governments of all shadings. Thanks, David Hirst, for this valuable contribution.
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Format: Hardcover
I began this book because I wanted a book completely dedicated to the story of Lebanon- from independence to today. However, the book is instead a retelling of the Arab-Isreali conflict with Lebanon appearing more as a bit player rather than the main character. In fact, there are certain chapters that Lebanon is barely mentioned at all. Of course, to understand Lebanon's promises and perils one needs to understand it within the larger context of the Middle East, but the author tends to get distracted by the wider context at the expense of Lebanese internal politics. Why was the Lebanese state prone to failure? Was there anyway it could have avoided disintegration? Who were the major internal power players of Lebanon? How democratic is Lebanon? All these questions are touched upon but none are given serious analysis. Much of the book is a critique of Israel's policy with respect to her neighbors and Lebanon being simply the most troubled of those neighbors.

Having said all this, I thought the book did have some high points- as a history of the Arab-Israeli conflict the book is quite readable and makes some interesting points regarding the politics of the Middle East. Furthermore, Hirst `s writing is lively and detailed (the chapter on Sabra and Shatila is especially good). To be sure, Hirst blames Israel for most of Lebanon's woes and as a history it is biased but as a political work it makes some well-reasoned arguments (see Hirst's reasons for Hezbollah's rise and his discussion of Israel's more recent military ventures). All in all, the book is good as a well-reasoned critique of Israel but weaker as a discussion of the creation, disintegration, and continuing struggle of Lebanon.
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