Authors of the Global Hot Spots series from this publisher do their best to tell the story behind the headlines in very simplified terms. This book’s author makes a concerted effort to remain as neutral as possible, but this is very hard to achieve, particularly when you have strong feelings about one side, as Mason does. His cover picture, for example, depicts Palestinians looking confused and tormented by the barbed wire and massive wall that surrounds them. The implication is that they are trying to live normal lives but cannot, given the monstrous barrier created by Israel. The book offers a poorly-written history of land ownership in the area, and how it was influenced by Zionism, the Holocaust, the Arab- Israeli wars and the Jewish settlements. Each page contains a handy sidebar with interesting statistics on numbers of settlers, for example, or numbers of refugees. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know the truth of these facts since the author does not include any bibliography or source notes. Alternate pages also contain a ‘hot spot briefing’ offering a quick snapshot at the issues. Under the chapter titled “The West Bank Barrier,” for example, the briefing explains the differences in terminology used to describe the barrier by Israelis (who call it the security fence), and the Palestinians (who call it the apartheid wall). On the last two pages, a fact finder compares Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza strip in terms of land, population, and GDP, while a glossary extrapolates some of the terms used. This series is supposed to be useful as a handy resource for a school library as it simplifies issues and presents them in terms that are slightly easier to comprehend. But these issues are anything but simple, and readers should particularly beware of the lack of objectivity here. Not recommended.
Lauren Kramer is a Vancouver-based journalist, wife, and mother with a lifelong passion for literature. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has won awards for her writing and reported from many corners of the world. Read more of her work at www.laurenkramer.net.