An excellent, balanced survey of the troubled relations between Middle East neighbors over the last half-century.
Scanning the news of the latest intifada, La Guardia, a correspondent and editor for London’s Daily Telegraph, pointedly wonders, “How did it all go so wrong? How did the hope engendered by that handshake between Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin on the South Lawn of the White House turn to despair?” He gives a protracted, thoughtful answer that finds fault on many sides of the long struggle between Israel and Palestine—many sides, for there are not just two, as he takes pains to show. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian community is in any way monolithic, and neighboring countries have occasionally attempted to find advantage in their endless troubles and sometimes been caught up in the mess. For example, La Guardia writes, the Palestinian Black September terrorist movement, responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, originally devoted itself to waging war on Jordan, whose army had massacred thousands of Palestinians during an uprising two years earlier. Mixing historical narrative with on-the-ground reportage, the author addresses such issues as the Israeli right’s campaign of expansion into Palestinian territories, the virulent anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial of the Arab press, the conflict between Zionists and Jewish fundamentalists, power struggles within the Palestinian Authority (one Palestinian leader observes that the latest intifada is a rebellion against both Israel and Arafat), and the baffling bonds that keep Israelis and Palestinians at such close quarters despite all the hatred. None of what La Guardia turns up is hopeful, and none of it inspires much confidence in the leadership on either side of the battle.
Regrettably timely reading that also makes a welcome contribution to the literature of strife.