by Richard Allen ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 30, 1974
A reasonable and balanced if rather dull attempt to understand the historical background of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Allen, a member of the British Diplomatic corps in the '20's, goes all the way back to the empire of David and Solomon crisscrossing the separate histories of the Jews, Arabs, Turks and British who have at various times exercised suzerainty over Palestine. Always, Allen points out, the Fertile Crescent has been something of an imperial pawn with the fate of the indigenous peoples determined by the power plays of alien lords. Thus he blames the British who committed themselves via the Balfour Declaration and their WW I pledges to Arab leaders, to satisfy the mutually antagonistic nationalist strivings of both peoples. Although he accepts Israel as an accomplished fact, it's obvious that Allen has some reservations about the way statehood was achieved: Europe assuaged its conscience over centuries of wrongs done to Jews at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs whose expropriation was ""at the lowest, bitterly unfair."" The final chapters are devoted to a rather dry chronicling of Israel's vexed relations with her neighbors before and after the '67 war (the book went to press before the '73 conflict). Here again, while deploring intransigence on both sides, Allen makes it clear that rhetoric notwithstanding, Israel has been less than generous on the question of the Palestinian refugees and the recently conquered territories. He suggests that the best hope for peace lies in Israel's ultimate willingness to become a ""Middle Eastern state"" free of ""her present artificial and abnormal dependence upon her Western launching pad."" Much of this, especially Allen's regrets that Britain didn't manage to forge a joint Jewish-Arab land in the aftermath of WW I, represents the wisdom of hindsight rendered obsolete by events. Still, it's a valuable if rather sweeping overview less for scholars than interested general readers.
Pub Date: May 30, 1974
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974
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