Read December 2007
LeBor has chosen to write about the sharpest issues of international politics, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. To do so he has chosen a precise focus, namely the family history of several Jewish and Arab families from the town of Jaffa. Interlaced with the personal histories is an outline of the key historical moments and facts. Throughout the book is well written and gripping.
What makes LeBor’s topic heart rendering are the issues thrown up by the Middle East’s most entrenched conflict. On the one side is a mostly Western people subject to historical discrimination and genocide who established an ethnic-supremacist state, Israel, largely by means of land appropriation. On the other stands expropriated Palestinians living either as second class citizens in Israel itself or as part of a displaced diaspora. Yet it is true, although perhaps irrelevant, that Israel has done nothing to its Arab minority which the surrounding Arab states (themselves dictatorial nightmares compared with Israel) have not done to their Jewish minorities.
LeBor wisely tells his story though personal lives and in addition to historical narrative paints a picture of Israeli society in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Clearly LeBor himself stands at the liberal end of the political debate, and his views are very much of ‘if only’ type; i.e. if only Israel were itself more liberal and accommodating, and if only the Palestinians were better led, more realistic and more moderate…
Taking everything together, though, LeBor has written an excellent book which is well worth reading.