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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2011
This book is fantastic. I use it to teach all of my programs that introduce people to the Arab-Israel conflict because it is by far the most objective overview of the conflict I've ever seen. It is concise, and offers readers a strong understanding of both the roots of the conflict, and the contemporary manifestations of the conflict on the ground--and all in less than 300 pages!

Dowty's approach to the subject is also very interesting--rather than telling the story of the Arab-Israel saga as merely a succession of wars (which is how most books present it), Dowty contextualizes the subject matter by first introducing the readers to the two over-riding narratives. The first chapter tells "The Jewish Story," showing clearly that, to understand Israel and the Israeli worldview, one must understand Jewish history and the constant theme of persecution and national disaster that runs through it from the Spanish Inquisition to the east European pogroms, to the Holocaust. Chapter 2 tells "The Arab Story," and shows clearly that one cannot understand the Arab/Palestinian story without a decent understanding of Arab/Muslim/Palestinian history including the "golden age" of Islam, the philosophy behind Islam, and also the legacy of the crusades and western colonialism of which many Arabs/Palestinians view Zionism as an extension.

If you are going to buy one book on the Arab-Israel conflict, this is the one you should buy. I have never heard anyone who has read the book say ANYTHING about bias--moreover, my students always rave about how refreshing it is to hear an objective voice amongst the clamor of the conflict.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2011
Obviously a couple of the reviewers of this book have not taken to heart the old adage, "don't judge a book by its cover"! They clearly misinterpreted the cover of the second edition which depicts three Jews (two ultra-Orthodox and one secular). The young man is carrying a rifle that is standard issue for the Israel Defense Force. It is most unlikely that an Arab would be doing so while casually talking on the telephone in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. How this could be interpreted as anti-Arab boggles one's mind. Obviously one of the reviewers did not even bother to read the book in question which should have disqualified it for publication on the Amazon.com website. There should be minimum standards enforced for reviews.
I have used this book since the publication of the first edition as one of the main texts for courses I have taught at Rutgers University and more recently at the University of Michigan. My students (including many Arab-Americans, Muslims, and Jews) have found it to be both very balanced and blessedly free of professional jargon. It is comprehensive in coverage of the narratives of both protagonists, the historical background, processes of conflict, conflict management, and efforts toward conflict resolution. It masterfully explains the highly complex issues at stake with impressive clarity and balance. While there are scholarly treatments that contain more data and more extensive theoretical analysis, this is simply the very best and most balanced introductory text of which I am aware. I enthusiastically recommend it without reservation.
Myron J. Aronoff, Professor Emeritus Rutgers, University & Visiting Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2011
A refreshingly unbiased account of an overly politicized field. Dowty does an exemplary job of laying out the fundamentals this conflict's history in a truthful and sincere manner. Both scholars and students would do well to replicate his approach to the study of the Arab-Israel conflict.
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on February 24, 2013
Whether you are a first time reader trying to learn what is going on in the region, or if you are a passionate activist on one side or another trying to reset and get a balanced perspective, Dowty's book is a quick, concise, accessible guide to the conflict that helps the reader understand the foundational issues, the history, and the political outlook for the current day. Dowty is fair in that he presents various arguments and ideas in tandem, allowing the perspectives to complement each other.

For anyone who wants to decide for him/herself what to think about this conflict, this is the book.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2011
I recommend this book simply for the great collection of information it holds.

As other reviewers said, this book is relatively well-balanced. But be careful -- it's very difficult and nearly impossible to write a completely unbiased book. And anybody purchasing this book should note its pro-Israeli bias. To put the book to best use, it should be accompanied by a synopsis with a pro-Palestinian bias.

My major complaint in terms of bias is that the author constantly insists that the actions of Israel have been entirely existential while the Arab actors have consistently acted irrationally. Both wording and argument in this book assert that at many points in history, Israel had no other choice than to do exactly what it has done. Meanwhile, the Arab actors appear to be motivated by hatred for Jews, and the author never minds the common Arab viewpoint of Israelis as European invaders in land that is legitimately Arab. Dowty attempts to hide his bias by simply excusing the many failures of the Arabs as miscalculations, though the implications of his descriptions suggest that the miscalculations are caused by anti-Semitic sentiment.

Perhaps another complaint I have with this book claiming to be balanced is that the author does not demonstrate true understanding of the Arabs and their actions. Most striking is his claim that Muslims believe that Jesus resurrected (p48). Anybody claiming to understand the Arabs should know without hesitation that no Muslim in the world believes Jesus ever died -- let alone resurrect! Such a belief would be directly contradictory to the Qur'an and is condemned universally among Muslims. I could accept the argument that Dowty intends a balanced synopsis, but I do not see how such a synopsis can be balanced if he does not know the basic tenets of Islam.

If you need any tangible evidence that this book has a bias, look simply at the cover. You see three people using payphones. Two of them are Orthodox Jews, and one is an Arab. The Orthodox Jews are simply using the phone, while the Arab wields a gun. This perhaps strikes an Arab more than anyone else. An Arab, for example, would more likely associate the Arab with a rock, and would see the gun to be more fitting of the Orthodox Jews (partly because Israelis are usually the only ones who wield guns in the West Bank and Gaza, and partly because of a misguided Arab association of Orthodox Jews with violent ideological settlers). I'm not sure how a book can claim to be balanced and unbiased when the cover alone shows a clearly biased image that would outrightly offend an Arab reader.
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2 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2011
I am very interested in the Israeli/Palestinian issue and even more interested in not simply believing whatever someone tells me. This is an issue that we all need to create our own opinions on, not one that should be defined by politics and hungry governments. With that said, I was searching for my own truth and the moment I looked at this cover I realized it wasn't the book for me. The author clearly explained himself with this picture. Two God loving, wonderful Jews and a gun weilding Arab, seriously? I am shocked. I don't even need to read the book to see that this guy is going to smother the pages with his overwhelming, and probably inadequate, opinion. NO THANKS! Let's decide for ourselves, not let those with a motive steer us elsewhere. Pick something else, if this guy's writing is as bad as his photography choice...you won't be missing out on much.
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