Those looking for a moving and humane account of the lives of Palestinians will be rewarded, but readers expecting an...



An intense look at the difficult daily existence of people who are often little more than pawns in a bigger chess game.

A half-Palestinian Christian who grew up in Beirut, Makdisi (English and Comparative Literature/UCLA; William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s, 2002, etc.) combines interviews with average citizens and a detailed history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even those not supportive of the Palestinian cause may be affected by the author’s stark descriptions of the restrictions on liberty that he asserts are a hallmark of the Israeli occupation. A Palestinian man describes how guards punished him when he and his family tried to get into a shorter line while going through a border crossing on the West Bank: “I did not lose consciousness, but the many blows I suffered completely disoriented me. The two soldiers…punched and kicked me all over my body.” Occasionally the quotations run too long and begin to ramble, decreasing their effectiveness, and the narrative sometimes awkwardly straddles the line between academic and general-interest text. The author rarely discusses underlying reasons for Israeli actions, such as the ongoing threat of suicide bombers and the stated desire of some Palestinian leaders to destroy Israel. In his extensive discussion of Israel’s creation and the concomitant displacement of many Palestinians, he impugns the motives of Zionists and their allies throughout Western Europe and rarely displays the empathy for the Israelis that he asks people to show for the Palestinians. Makdisi dismisses the efforts of some Israeli and Western leaders to resolve the conflict and create a Palestinian homeland (e.g., the 2000 Camp David compromise rejected by PLO leader Yasser Arafat) as both insincere and insufficient.

Those looking for a moving and humane account of the lives of Palestinians will be rewarded, but readers expecting an evenhanded assessment will be disappointed.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-393-06606-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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