Israel: Opposing Viewpoints

Well, I can imagine every search engine on the planet is currently zeroing in on this post, thanks its attention-grabbing title. While people might passionately disagree when it comes to matters concerning the modern state of Israel, we’re all in agreement that these opinions vary. Despite our varying opinions and disagreements, most of us would like learn more, and in the end widen our horizons. Hopefully, with additional knowledge we can more fully understand and appreciate the views of others and even those of our own.

As part of my quest to understand and duly inspired by Helen’s Middle East Reading Challenge I borrowed from my public library a copy of Greenhaven Press’s Israel: Opposing Viewpoints. After having very good luck with their anthologies devoted to Iran, Islam and China, I thought I’d give this edition a try. After finishing it the other morning I’m sad to report that this anthology isn’t one of Greenhaven’s best. While I liked a few of selected opinion pieces, the bulk of them of them I found surprisingly mediocre.

Like all books in Greenhaven’s Opposing Viewpoints and Current Controversies series, each one is divided into four chapters with each chapter devoted to a specific debate topic. With Israel: Opposing Viewpoints the following questions are discussed:

  • Should Israel Exist?
  • What Are the Key Issues of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?
  • Is Peace Possible Between Israel and the Palestinians?
  • What Should the U.S. Policy Be Towards Israel?

With many of the selected opinion pieces feeling uncompromising, strident in tone and lacking in nuance, I thought the bulk of the selected opinion pieces left me fairly underwhelmed. I fear this is probably because the most capable, intelligent and insightful minds were not enlisted for this project. With the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being a major bone of contention for over 50 years, how hard should it be as an editor to locate good source material from respected think tanks, opinion writers and government officials? With the exception of Washington Post writer Charles Krauthammer, the works of no other American opinion writer appear in this anthology, (fortunately there are few short essays from Israeli publications). While there are pieces from King Abdullah II of Jordan and Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, there’s nothing from a current or former head of state. What few opinion pieces have been selected from policy institutes happen to come from obscure organizations that I’ve never heard of. Instead we’re treated to the works of neophytes, (students and doctoral candidates), self-appointed activists, a German entrepreneur and a computer science professor. This is not a stellar supporting cast.

But then again, maybe I’m being a bit overly critical. I need to keep in mind that this books as well as the others in Greenhaven’s Opposing Viewpoints series is produced mainly for the high school and lower-division college markets. But when I compare Israel: Opposing Viewpoints to others from Greenhaven, (especially those anthologies edited by David Haugen) I’m still left feeling a tad disappointed.

Instead, I’d like to recommend two other books. Runo Isaksen’s 2008 Literature and War: Conversations with Israeli and Palestinian Writers is a superb collection of interviews representing the many sides of this ongoing conflict. While it’s probably too early for me to make such a recommendation, so far I’m only 20 pages into Alan Dershowitz’s 2006 anthology What Israel Means to Me: By 80 Prominent Writers, Performers, Scholars, Politicians, and Journalists and right now I’m loving it. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope that the rest of this book is equally as good.

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7 Comments

Filed under Area Studies/International Relations, Israel, Judaica, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Israel: Opposing Viewpoints

  1. Too bad this one was a disappointment. I hope you were able to take something away from reading it. You’ve inspired me to read a non-fiction book on the conflict that has been sitting on my shelf for far too long. It’s a bit old, so I’ll see how much it covers.

    • Fortunately Helen I was. In situations like these I’m usually able to get a few things out of a collection like this. Maybe the next book from Greenhaven Press wouldn’t be as bad.

  2. Huh, interesting. I mean, I like that it isn’t US-centric because it is an issue that is so polarized in the US, but unfortunate they didn’t try to get really knowledgeable people on it!

    • Totally. Ya think with this being such a high-profile and polarizing topic the editor could have pulled from material from a number of talented contributors. But she didn’t. Very strange.

  3. I think when days of ziklag finally reaches us in english the first great modern hebrew novel that may help answer some of these questions ,all the best stu

  4. Pingback: The Middle East: Current Controversies | Maphead's Book Blog

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