Sunday, September 23, 2007

JOHN CHUCKMAN REVIEW: AVI SHLAIM'S THE IRON WALL

REVIEW OF AVI SHLAIM'S THE IRON WALL BY JOHN CHUCKMAN, March 2, 2005


Let me start by advising that this is a dry book to read, so it is not for the average reader of narrative history. But its meticulous scholarship makes it an indispensable book about affairs in the Middle East.

People sometimes use the phrase "meticulous scholarship" to send up a warning flag that you had better not argue with what follows. But that is not so here. This book represents genuine scholarship, serving neither the purpose of public relations for Israel nor an attack upon it.

After offering some background on the origins of Zionism, Mr. Shlaim's theme is a review of the first half-century of Israeli policy. The title, an expression coined by an early Zionist, aptly sums up the thrust of that policy.

The author goes where scholarship leads, and he does not flinch from including less-than-heroic episodes that many contemporary books and news sources ignore.

Of course, in some matters of extreme sensitivity, there are still no adequate official documents available to scholars. In such cases, Mr. Schlaim tells us what he knows and goes no farther, leaving us with full confidence in his integrity.

I do not see how anyone can consider him- or herself well-informed on the Middle East without having read this book. It truly is that important.

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