Friday, July 31, 2009
Book 32: Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy by Shlomo Ben-Ami
Title: Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy by Shlomo Ben-Ami
How it was obtained: I picked it up from half.com pretty cheap.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: It has been on and off for a long time. Around 3 years.
Days spent reading it: Close to 3 years from start to finish.
Why I read it: I read a review about this book in Books and Culture. I was interested to find out more about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and thought this might be a good place to start. It was and wasn't.
Brief review: It is very clear from the start the Shlomo Ben-Ami has done his research. This book is a political history of the Arab-Israeli conflict from about the 1930s through today. The greatest strength of this book is Ben-Ami's knowledge of the people, events, and processes that have been involved in the conflict. The weakness is that he is too knowledgeable and does not consider that lowly readers like myself might not even have a basic understanding of some of the major events that have taken place in the last 50 or 60 years.
I found the first part of this book, dealing with Israel's establishment as a nation in 1948 the most interesting part of the book. I have a clearer picture of some of the major players. I'm sorry to say I did not know who Ben-Gurion was before I read this book (and if you don't either, go read this wikipedia article about him). I am pathetic in my understanding of Palestine and Israel. I still am, but at least now I'm a little less pathetic.
Scars of War, Wounds of Peace traces the different political processes (and occasionally delves into the military history, but mostly in how it pertains to the political history) that have transpired since Israel became a nation in 1948. It is a fascinating and sad tale between Israel and Palestine, and the author points out where the blame for failed peace has rested at both parties feet many times over. Obviously this is a very convoluted and complex situation that is charged with extreme emotions from all parties involved. After reading this book, one wonders if real peace in this region is ever going to be truly possible and what that solution might look like. Ben-Ami makes some suggestions (and has hope), but I'm not really convinced by his compromise. Add to this the clear theological considerations of peace in this area (both Jewish, Christian, and Muslim) and you can understand why this issue of peace in Israel is such a hot topic.
I wish I could tell you my own views on some of the subjects presented in this book, but really I am not sure where I stand even after reading it. I think the elusive peace that all parties search for is possible, but it might be only after Jesus comes back, and I don't know what that means for the current residents!
I found this book enlightening, but very difficult to read. I felt like I need to be splashing around in the baby pool, and I was thrown into the deep end. Ben-Ami's command of the history is obvious, but his ability to make it readable for the masses is more questionable. I could only handle about 15 pages at a time. And that took me over an hour each time. But it certainly made for some thought provoking reading in the long term.
Favorite quote: In reference to the 1967 war-- "Israel was wrong to assume that she could acquire new lands and have peace at the same time. But the Arabs had an illusion of their own: to get back their territories without offering peace in return."
Stars: 3 out of 5.
Final Word: Challenging.