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No. 115 / 2017
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Tim Boxer

Books

What Is Palestine?

T
HE London political commentator Michael Burleigh has entered the fray concerning the concept of Palestine as a state or nation. "There has never been an historic Palestine," he maintains, "except as a Roman province, though there certainly were two ancient Jewish kingdoms long before that."

He points out that "Palestine had no separate identity during the centuries of Ottoman rule either, in the latter part of which, from the 1880s onwards, the 25,000 Orthodox Jews who lived in Jerusalem were augmented by two major waves of East European immigrants who farmed on the plains."

In his illuminating account of global insurrection (in the face of decolonization and the Cold War) from 1945 to 1965 titled, SMALL WARS, FARAWAY PLACES, Burleigh devotes a chapter discussing the roots of Arab nationalism and the genesis of the modern Jewish homeland that is relevant to todayís headlines.

If anything, Burleigh is an equal opportunist, finding much to condemn among the British, the Jews and the Americans. He fulminates against Harry Trumanís advisers whom he paints as racists towards the Arabs; the malignancy of Zionist terrorism (Irgun, Stern Gang) that "murdered" 373 people in Jerusalem, Rome and London; "the Zionist screenwriter Ben Hecht" whose Exodus movie "was played up in an inflammatory way in the U.S."; and Stalinís initial attempt to lure the nascent state of Israel into the Iron Curtain as he was mindful that "interwar Palestine had the largest Community party in the Middle East, dominated by its Jewish members," plus the Zionist kibbutzim bore a generic resemblance to Soviet collective farms, and being aware how rife pro-Nazi sympathies had been in the Arab world. "No wonder the Soviet Union was the first country to recognize Israel," Burleigh writes.

Israel eluded Stalinís grasp and repulsed five Arab armies that rumbled through the West Bank to sweep the Jews into the sea and wipe the state off the face of the map. (Penguin Books, 608 pages, Amazon.com Price: $15.93)

Spread Of Worldwide Terror

O
NE of the most intensive studies focused on world terrorism in the decade following 9/11 is THE EVOLUTION OF THE GLOBAL TERRORIST THREAT which I have been absorbing over several weeks.

This beefy book is edited by two knowledgeable scholars: Bruce Hoffman, a former counterterrorism scholar at the CIA and currently director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown Universityís Walsh School of Foreign Service, and Fernando Reinares, a political science/security studies professor at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid. Both have been engaged in counterterrorism policy for their respective governments.

Their book is crammed with countless quotes from American players in all the major theaters from the Madrid train bombings to the Van Gogh murder in Amsterdam, both in 2004, to the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, and the 2010 suicide attacks in Kampala, Uganda. The authors recount and analyze a total of 24 terrorist operations and offensives that rattled the globe from 9/11 to Osama bin Ladenís death.

Even though the central al-Qaeda leadership (i.e. Osama bin Laden) has been eliminated, the threat to attack their "most precious target, the U.S. homeland" remains constant. The next challenge may not originate in the Afghanistan/Pakistan-based al-Qaeda central but, rather, one of its franchises around the world. (Columbia University Press, 696 pages, $45.00 Amazon.com Price: $40.50)

 

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The Beatles and Me On Tour by Ivor Davis

Page Turners

HERZLíS VISIONHERZLíS VISION First published in Israel in 2008, this volume has been published in English for American readers. Shlomo Avineri, a political science professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, debunks the common notion that it was the Dreyfus trial that caused Herzl to despair that Jews will ever be emancipated in Europe and so triggered his pursuit of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. It was developments in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the three-day devastating pogrom of Easter 1903 in Kishinev, in what was then the west Russian province of Bessarabia, that spurred him on his quest. Based on Herzlís diaries, Avineri weaves a rather intimate account of Herzlís accomplishments of securing the attention of the Ottoman and British empires toward the establishment of a Jewish state, which came to fruition 50 years later. (BlueBridge, softcover, 288 pages, $22.95 Amazon.com Price: $17.79)

THE PIOUS ONES Joseph Berger, a reporter, columnist and editor through his 30 years at the New York Times, penetrated the esoteric lifestyle of Hasidim in America to produce an intimate portrait of an insular world. The author succeeds in revealing the workings of this private ultra-Orthodox domain not only because he is such an excellent writer, but also due to his personal familiarity with this mysterious, if controversial, community. His book will allow you to understand the Hasidic idea, "the most significant religious movement in Judaism since the destruction of the Second Temple." (Harper Perennial, softcover, 352 pages, $15.99 Amazon.com Price: $12.96)

AMERICA IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURYAMERICA IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY This series of books ranges from America in the Twenties to America in the Nineties. Life in the United States is described and analyzed by various scholars over the course of the past century. This set is an invaluable resource for students and general readers alike. (Syracuse University Press, softcover, $24.95 Amazon.com Price: $18.60)

YOU WERE NEVER IN CHICAGOYOU WERE NEVER IN CHICAGO Not true. I spent my first 10 years there when I came from Canada in the Ď50s. Thatís when I worked first as a police reporter with the City News Bureau, then an entertainment columnist with the Near North Side News, at which time I discovered Dick Gregory and catapulted him overnight to fame and fortune, after which Hugh Hefner sent me to New York to oversee public relations for the Playboy club and publicity of both Show Business Illustrated and Playboy magazines. So I was extremely interested to discover how much has changed according to Neil Steinbergís account. A Chicago Sun-Times columnist, Steinberg has written a captivating and endearing memoir of his journey in the Windy City over the last three decades (he came to Northwestern from Berea, Ohio). A lot has changed; mostly for the better. As he puts it: "Öyou canít be familiar with it. If you fancy you are, youíre not." Thatís because the city has been changing so much. I probably wonít recognize it today. Thatís why I so enjoyed Steinbergís experience. Read his book before you visit the Second City. (University Of Chicago Press, 256 pages, $15.00 Amazon.com Price: $12.17)

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