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Here are a few books I highly recommend:

"Israel: History"
by Martin Gilbert.

The history of modern Israel is a search for security and peace -- an elusive, tragic search at best. Martin Gilbert's history can be viewed as slanted toward Israel, but that would miss his point, which is that Israelis have self-consciously wished for and worked for peaceful and fruitful co-existence with their neighbors and with the Palestinians from the beginning.

Certainly, there have been grave misdeeds by Israelis (and Arabs) that have resulted in senseless loss of life. But if we go off on that track we will never see what Gilbert's point really means. What both sides would likely acknowledge is that the idea of peaceful coexistence has been more seriously entertained by Israelis than by Arabs -- Palestinian and otherwise.

If this book is one-sided then it is so because because Gilbert has revealed this critical asymmetry in a way that has not been made clear before. The book is overflowing with details, anecdotes, portraits and asides that lend it an splendid depth. Yet the author never indulges himself in the sort of speculative forays that might confer color to his work at the expense of careful historical analysis. As a result, there is a critical neutrality toward the facts, with a minimum of bias, emotion or polemic.

Perhaps the most emotional part of the book surrounds the events leading up to the assassination of Rabin, a masterful, moving account the whole world should read. Gilbert does not provide an argument for the Labor party or a brief against the Palestinians. Instead, he draws out the tragic dimension of a lost opportunity for peace in a part of the world where peace seems always beyond the pale.

In the end, this is a hopeful, though sober and cautious work, and certainly not a book that favors one or the other side. It is a book that should be read by both sides, not with the aim of quibbling about who is represented more favorably, but to see how fragile is the chance for peace and how a knowledge of this brief history of Israel can aid in the efforts to bring about stability and justice for all in this long-suffering part of the world.

(review by Irwin Savodnik, MD, Ph.D. from Rancho Palos Verdes, CA USA)

"American Jihad"
by Steven Emerson

Some have said that the events of September 11 took every American by surprise.

That's not true.

There were Cassandras among us warning about the dangers of Islamic terrorism--and one of their leaders was Steven Emerson, who must be ranked among the most fearless reporters in the world. As a self-made expert on Islamic terrorism, he has invited the hatred of violent murderers. (At least one group has marked him for assassination; he was offered enrollment in the federal witness protection program, but refused).

For more than 10 years, Emerson has soldiered on, studying groups that operate in the United States for the express purpose of funding and managing deadly organizations. American Jihad summarizes what he has learned, and it isn't comforting:

- Emerson shows how the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has grown an extensive network in the United States.
- How the group Islamic Jihad set up shop at the University of South Florida.
- And how an Islamic center in Tucson helped recruit two of Osama bin Laden's top deputies.

He also provides circumstantial evidence that bin Laden himself once applied for an American visa--"even the possibility is tantalizing, and chilling," he concludes. He urges Americans to fight back, but worries that time is short: "We are still vulnerable."

This is an important book, and a sobering one. Click here to purchase "American Jihad" (30% discount).

From Time Immemorial: The Origins of
the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine

by Joan Peters

Books on Middle Eastern history usually present one of two contradictory histories, depending on whether the author supports Israel or the Arabs.

So which history is the impartial reader to believe? They should believe Ms. Peters' account, because of her honesty. Ms. Peters was a US State Dept. official during the Carter Administration, and involved in the Camp David Accords.

Back then, Ms. Peters was a passionate advocate of the Palestinian Arab cause. She left the State Dept with the avowed purpose of writing a book about the historical origins of the Israel-Palestinian conflict sympathetic to the Arabs.

But after years of exhaustive and thorough research, she discovered that the facts where not as she had thought they were. The facts, freed from propaganda, had led Ms. Peters to a sort of conversion. Instead of burying or glossing over such facts, she sets them out in all their details.
While many will see this book as coming from the Israel version of history, it is in fact coming from someone who had embraced the Palestinian Arab cause before researching the facts and changing her conclusions. That makes this book a must read for those seeking an honest account of the origins of the Israel-Arab conflict. This book has credibility.

(thanks to Susie for the tip on 'Time Immemorial')

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