Israel and Palestine

Paul Mason
  • Review
By – January 9, 2012
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​.lau​renkramer​.net.

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