Reading a book on the history of an area is great, but just reading secondary sources always leaves a true history lover feeling like they have missed something. But when an author incorporates primary source documents and not just quotes here and there, you have stumbled on a gold mine. Such a piece can be found in Charles Smith’s Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents.
Smith’s book is not just about what is happening today regarding Palestine. He goes back to the beginning. He doesn’t just discuss who is attacking who. He digs down into the soil of Palestine to discover the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict. That means getting dirty. He explores the beginnings of Islam, the Ottoman Empire, beginnings of Zionism, WWI and WWII, and the creation of Israel.
At the end of each chapter there are a set of documents related to that chapter. They are a mixture of official government declarations, treaties, and announcements as well as letters from individuals, excerpts from books, and speeches. It is through the documents that the reader can truly begin to understand Smith’s words.
This is not a book for you to read on a summer afternoon without a care in the world. This is a very deep and serious book outlining the history and different aspects of a deadly conflict that still goes on today and will go on for many years. It can be a dry read at times if you are not really interested in the topic.
It comes with timelines, maps, and pictures. If you’re a visual person, this will help as the chapters are relatively long. There is a glossary in the back which came in handy for me. If you are using it for research, the index is not comprehensive. There were things I was looking for that was not easily found. It is more of a high level index. The table of contents is detailed and was extremely useful.
Having the documents within the text made reading the book easier and helped in understanding the true state of affairs. If you are really wanting to know more about Middle Eastern history and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, this is a must have for your library.
Note: This book was part of a class I took.