/ Published November 17, 2010
The Palestine Israel Conflict: A Basic Introduction, 2nd ed., by Gregory Harms with Todd M. Ferry. Pluto Press, 2008, 288 pp.
“A basic introduction” perfectly describes Gregory Harms’ and Todd Ferry’s book, The Palestine Israel Conflict. The book serves as a broad-brush primer on the arena of the Palestine-Israel conflict. It addresses the issues chronologically and provides an event-by-event description of the region and the conflict from ancient times to the present.
The authors may strive to provide a neutral presentation of the facts, but ultimately, the text appears critical of both US and European foreign policies as well as Israeli policy toward Palestinians. Coverage of Palestinian and other Arab nations’ policies in the region is somewhat less than for Israel and Western nations. Discussions concerning Palestinian-based terrorism are also light. Potentially, this could be due to limited availability of resources; however, the authors do not mention any such limitation.
A central theme that emerges throughout the book is the various agreements, plans, accords, proposals, and roadmaps which attempt to resolve the conflict only to be selectively followed or ignored by all participants. The modern history of the region is littered with loosely worded documents that leave too much room for those involved to draw their own contradictory interpretations.
One strength of the book is its easy reading style. This facilitates the authors’ goal of serving as an introduction to the subject. They achieve this via brevity; with only 180 pages (including maps), the text does not go into extensive detail on any particular issue. A second strength is their providing a suggested reading appendix. Recognizing the heated nature of the topic, they suggest readers continue to do independent study on the issues and provide a strong list of sources. This allows readers to continue to learn more and to reach their own conclusions and overcome any bias that occurs not only in this book but others on this topic.
Unfortunately, very little information is given regarding the authors’ credentials as authorities. The text merely states that they are freelance writers who have travelled to the Middle East and lectured on the subject. An Internet search for additional information yields a host of articles that are highly critical of US foreign policy, Israel, and non-Palestinian efforts. This calls into question the book’s objectivity and suggests that it is not suitable as an “academic title.” Despite the criticisms mentioned, The Palestine Israel Conflict is a good choice for anyone hoping to gain an introductory knowledge of the Palestine-Israel conflict. But reader be warned: to avoid the potential slant, do not let this be your first and only book on the topic.
Lt Col Daniel J. Simonsen, USAF
Commander, AFROTC Detachment 305
Louisiana Tech University
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."