You have to start somewhere. Over the last few years, I’ve read a lot about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Islam and the Middle East in general, but very little about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict specifically. The closest I’ve come to that has been Fromkin’s A Peace to End all Peace and Oren’s Power, Faith and Fantasy (both of which will now be moved to the top of the “re-read soon” stack). Before taking the deep dive into more serious works, I wanted to refresh my vocabulary and get a good overview of the history of the conflict. Dr. Mitchell Bard’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict, 4th Edition was a good place to start.
Bard’s Guide was, surprise, easy to read and covered a lot of ground. It started in Biblical times and ended with President Bush’s Annapolis Conference in 2007 (we lived in DC then and I remember the logistics effort for the event affected us even tucked away in language training at FSI in Arlington). With this being the first work I’ve read dedicated to the subject, it’s hard to accurately judge the author’s objectivity, but he seemed to paint the Israeli’s in a slightly better light than the Arabs. The book has some nice research tools in the appendices, including a timeline of Middle East History and a bibliography that includes many websites sorted by topic. For his 5th edition, he should consider adding more maps, as I had to spend a lot of time trying to “map” new information onto general maps of the region.
After the next six or seven books, I may revisit this post for an update on Bard’s objectivity. For now, the Guide served its purpose. Looking forward to reading Oren’s Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East