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Friday, April 04, 2008

Quick book review: The Israel-Arab Reader

Professor Barry Rubin, of the GLORIA Center, offered many bloggers a free copy of this book in exchange for a link to Amazon or a review. As a sucker for free stuff, I took him up on the offer, and received the book yesterday.

This is the seventh edition of The Israel-Arab Reader - A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, and it is an invaluable reference guide. Going in chronological order, editors Rubin and Walter Laqueur have unearthed a large number of important primary documents, from the Bilu Group Manifesto (predating Herzl's The Jewish State by 14 years) up to the Annapolis Conference.

By necessity, it cannot be comprehensive. I would have loved to see some of the British reports on Arab riots from the 1920s and 1930s, for example, even though they are quite large. While much source material is available online, it is often very difficult to find, and an on-line or CD-ROM version of this book would be fantastic.

Even so, there are many documents here that are new to me or that I have been unable to find. For example, a record of a conversation between Hitler and Haj Amin al-Husayni is fascinating, and I had been looking all over for the original 1964 PLO Constitution as opposed to the 1968 revised Palestinian National Charter, both of which are in this book.

The documents are a little more oriented towards more recent times. Fully one third of the book deals exclusively with post-Oslo documents, speeches and interviews.

For anyone interested in Middle East history from primary sources, the Israel-Arab reader is an invaluable reference guide. It will be available for general purchase on April 29.