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This Burning Land: Lessons from the Front Lines of the Transformed Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Hardcover – March 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

No other conflict in the world has dragged on longer, engendered more bitterness or defied more attempts at resolution than the battle between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Over the past decade, Greg Myre covered this conflict for the New York Times, and his wife Jennifer Griffin covered it for Fox News, and they arrived at the same surprising conclusion: the conflict cannot be solved anytime soon.

In This Burning Land, they address a fundamental paradox. Israel is stronger than it has been at any time in its history; it has a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and a powerful military that suppressed the most recent Palestinian uprising. Yet, it cannot find a way to end the feud with the Palestinians. In turn, the entire world supports the Palestinian goal of statehood, and yet no such state is likely to emerge any time soon.

Arriving in Jerusalem shortly before the onset of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, Myre and Griffin soon found themselves reporting not on a new peace deal, but on the worst violence in the long history of this feud. They show how the conflict has changed dramatically in recent years as new physical and psychological barriers have gone up between the two sides.

The couple takes us to the heart of the conflict, where few writers have gone before. They delve into the thinking that motivates some Palestinians to be suicide bombers and other Palestinians to work as informants for Israel's security forces. Myre and Griffin travel to isolated West Bank outposts where Israeli settlers vow never to relinquish the land, and accompany Israeli troops as they stage midnight raids in militant strongholds.

Having also spent two decades chasing wars across Africa, Asia, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East, the authors are students of modern, asymmetrical warfare that has become the norm in today's conflicts. They draw on this experience to offer lessons crucial to understanding the Israeli-Palestinian fighting, and other wars as well.

To cite a few:

  • Clear, decisive military victories belong to an earlier era, yet elements on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have a stake in keeping the conflict going rather than negotiating a solution.

  • Controlling the public relations battle is often as important as the actual fighting, and the competing Israeli and Palestinian narratives continue to diverge in societies that are ever more segregated from one another.

  • Actions that seem completely irrational to outsiders often make perfect sense to the participants. Extremism can become a virtue; moderation a vice. Despite the heavy suffering on both sides, many Israelis and Palestinians are prepared to make continued sacrifices in the belief they will ultimately triumph.

Myre and Griffin demonstrate an anthropologist's feel for the hidden sides of Palestinian and Israeli culture, a historian's understanding of the larger forces at work, and a novelist's ear for telling the stories that bring it all together. The broader lessons in This Burning Land will help inform the debate in the Middle East for years to come.

From the Back Cover

"A stunning piece of nonfiction about the tortured and heartbreaking stalemate in the Middle East. This is a brilliant book—superbly written and devastatingly insightful. The fact that they raised two little girls while reporting this story makes every explosion, every riot, every checkpoint especially upsetting. I don't know how they did it."—Sebastian Junger, author of War

"Myre and Griffin have written an extraordinary story—personal yet hard-hitting—that takes you inside the world of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the hopes and fears that drive it. There are no punches pulled here. A must-read for anyone who prefers Middle East reality over fantasy."—Aaron David Miller, author of The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace

"This Burning Land is what you get when you unleash two excellent reporters on one of the world's most compelling stories. With eloquence, insight, and a real sense of urgency, Greg Myre and Jennifer Griffin bring to life places like Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip during a time of siege and chaos. Even if you disagree with their conclusions, you will be swept up in their story of tragedy and hope."—Jeffrey Goldberg, author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror

"Superbly written and devastatingly insightful." –Sebastian Junger, author of War

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Turner; 1 edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470550902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470550908
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #445,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Janet Goetz on March 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This Burning Land is, quite simply, a great book. It manages to be incredibly engaging and entertaining while, at the same time, it offers a perspective and understanding missing from other books on the subject. Greg Myre and Jennifer Myre, married seasoned journalists, spent almost 8 years living in and reporting from Israel, beginning in 1999. They covered every major event involving Israel and the Palestinians during those violent and turbulent years and, by interweaving personal anecdotes and reflective analysis, their book provides invaluable insight into the rational and irrational thinking of all interested parties. Though the book discusses the major Israeli and Palestinian political leaders and organizations, it is perhaps strongest when it allows the reader to get to know many of the less powerful Israeli and Palestinian participants. Myre and Griffin spent significant time in Gaza, and their anecdotes about many of the Gazan families they got to know are haunting and illuminating. The book offers rare glimpses inside the mentalities of the suicide bombers and their families, and the accounts of the hideous bloodshed and carnage they left behind are difficult to forget.

I stayed up almost all night reading this book because it is so difficult to put down. I cannot stop thinking about the issues raised in the book because it forced me to look at them in a way I had not before. I strongly recommend this book.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jill K. Melton on March 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not ever having visited Israel, "This Burning Land" has opened my eyes, ears, and heart to know, feel, and sense the conflict that never ends. A serious book, it held my attention, actually gripped me, as the reporters relentlessly followed death and turmoil and expose it in wonderful detail.

Arm chair historians and adventurers alike will follow Myrie's search for "the story" intently, because he arrests the reader's attention with the truth, much more fascinating than fiction. In fact, I can see this book as a movie that would rivet an audience. Hollywood, take note.

Ms. Griffin adds more adventure, analysis and poigancy as she and Myrie take care of family responsibilities in a war zone. No one will forget the image of a mom with a breast pump and a reporter's gear on the road for the next lead. No one will forget Myrie in a tank being shot at and compelled to stay with the story as it unfolded. Both stun the imagination as they hang in there for 7 years, record it all and use scholarship, intelligence, discernment and guts to enlighten even the most seasoned Middle East experts on what must be taken into consideration.

Literary critics will find this a densely written account of professional writers, who are also parents, lovers, and passionate seekers of truth and understanding. Semitic folks on both sides of this war for survival will find this balanced and real. At the end of the day, they are all brothers and sisters, family divided by ancient issues that are still modern and impossibly entangled.

I don't know another way to say that "This Burning Land" is a "must read." Just hold on because reading it is a visceral experience, not for the faint of heart.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By justanother on March 31, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you're looking for on-the-ground insight into the Isreal-Palestinian mess, then you've found it in this book.

First the cons:

-The book is written in a series of anecdotes. Many times the anecdotes simply take too long. I assume They're trying to draw the reader in, but I found myself wanting to skip to the point.

-Who lived there as little as a hundred years ago? how did they interact? Families that predated the Muslims still live in Israel. Did their lives have continuity before, say, WWI? If so, how and when did the changes in Isreal begin to effect them? Everyone talks about long memories in the middle east, but no one ever lays out what life was really like, so there is no real frame of reference.

-I never felt like any dots were connected. How does anyone spend that much time in one area and come away with only random anecdotes? Asymmetrical storytelling makes for dry reading.

-I could do without the defensive posturing about neutrality in journalism. That ship sailed many moons ago. The author should reconsider his comments about how people view the New York Times and Fox News. The people have a good nose, and bias in journalism is real. NPR and the New York Times like his journalism because he see things through a certain lens, not because he is objective (no one is, so don't feel bad). The "mistakes" in reporting, as he called them, have a pattern that he seems to overlook, and they create a narrative that he also overlooks.

-Framing opinions as observations. Opinions are fine and even refreshing. Its o.k., no need to pretend they're neutral observations. Example- the author's opinion: he felt safer with the Palestinians than with the Israelis.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ruben Misrahi on November 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is great book for several reasons:
It's a description of what's called the Second Palestinian Intifada that began at the end of the year 2000, when a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians seemed imminent. It's an easy and entertaining read.

The details of this difficult war for and against terror, is described with respect and avoiding as much as possible the gory details.

The authors go out of their way to explain how 2 respected journalists from 2 different media sources: Fox News and NPR/New York Times basically reported the same but where perceived by the public as biased.
Well, for those of us that followed the conflict, this book is very illuminating not so much because of what it describes, but the emphasis it places on events. It can be used to understand why the "perceived" bias by a few million people has after all a lot of basis. Particularly Myre from NPR reminds me of the drunk driver that, as he hears on the radio that a crazy driver is going in the wrong direction in the freeway, mutters to himself, one crazy driver? Hundreds!

Some 90% of the book is written by Myre, which won't give you a totally balanced view of the events by any measure. But Myre recounts some of the most interesting events that lead to the Intifada, relates some of the worst suicide bombings and the effect in the population, the `motives' of the Palestinians, and tries -not very successfully- to probe the mentality of both Israeli and Palestinian.

One problem is that on the Israeli side, most of his source of information comes from leaders of the Peace Now movement or reports of B'Tselem, both left wing organizations which he doesn't question.
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