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jimreed has commented on (3) products.

The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace by Aaron David Miller
The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace

jimreed, April 17, 2008

Most of the books about The Middle East - those published in America at least, are brimful of hackneyed phrases and irrelevant detail about all the mistakes that have been made in the past They tell about how the Palestinians are always "missing opportunities" and praise the "painful concessions" Israel has offered.

Few if any - other than those by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter -offer a realistic picture of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Carter was labelled an anti-Semite for his efforts. In fact that label is applied to most people who criticise Israel or question how that country behaves.

James Baker III, George H.W. Bush's Secretary of State is disliked by most American Jews because of his hard-nosed approach to negotiations. Baker developed a reputation for not caving in to the usual American sentimentality around issues concerning Israel. Like Carter, Baker was always a realist.

Now, a Jewish author has come along, who takes a tougher stance than any American politician ever has. But if the pro-Israeli lobby dislikes his work enough he will also be labelled - not as anti-Semitic; Jews who are out of favour with the pro-Israel lobby get called "Self-Haters"...a category the famed American linguist Noam Chomsky finds himself in.

So Mr. Miller's book is a refreshing change of approach from a man who is a genuine Mideast specialist. He tosses out many of the myths American politicians have about Israel. He argues that George W. Bushsh will be no more successful at bringing peace, than were previous U.S. Presidents. The problem Miller points out, is they have all approached the problem in the same way, have offered nothing new and invariably portray Israel as "the good guy".

Miller doesn't spare American policy-makers either. He says, for example, that "the United States has given Israel too much leeway and failed to push it to live up to commitments and make painful choices".

This is, of course, the central problem with the vast majority of North American writing about Palestinians and Israelis. Americans and Canadians have a great deal more sympathy for Israel because our Jewish populations in both countries are almost always pro-Israel; they are also keen participants in our democratic insitutions and their electoral support is important to any political candidate's chances of success. That means accepting everything that Israeli authorities say and do, even if it's patently wrong.

Mr. Miller says that what Israel needs is a strong dose of "tough love" and American officials must resist American Jewish pressure to give in always to Israeli demands.

Here is his advice for the next American president contemplating Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy: “If you’re not prepared to reassure the locals while cracking heads as needed (and both will be needed), don’t bother.”

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Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization by Nicholson Baker
Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization

jimreed, March 22, 2008

This is a book I certainly want very much to read. Your reviews have helped me along to that decision.
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I Don't Believe in Atheists by Chris Hedges
I Don't Believe in Atheists

jimreed, March 22, 2008

I haven't read Chris Hedges' book as yet but I do hope to find time to do so. It's a subject that has always interested me. (Can one comment on a book one hasn't read?)

I have read his essay on Alternet and that's how I arrived here in this comment box.

Mr. Hedges is quite correct to say that a debate is going on and that it is between the extremes: Atheists on the one hand and Religious Fundamentalists of whatever stripe -Christian, Muslim, Jewish - etc. on the other. None of these big groups - by the way - has a great deal to be proud of.

Mr. Hitchens represents one extreme and the God-fearing fundamentalists, the other...but most of us are somewhere in between, on a kind of belief/faith spectrum.

I agree with the proposition that each of the extremes believes that humankind can reach, or at least strive for a moral pinnacle. That goal can be achieved only by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal saviour - if you're a religious fundamentalist;

For the Atheist, the pinnacle can be reached only by employing science and not by relying on the beneficence of God. Each group does seek a kind of human and/or spiritual "utopia".

In the middle is the vast and overwhelming number of human beings - billions of us, I suspect - who are neither completely faithless, nor fully faithful. We - whether we are regular or occasional churchgoers - or just good people who don't bother much with church, are the ones who watch this "debate" in awe.

We are in awe at the wasted words and the pointless arguments made by each side. We wish that both would calm down and get on with loving their fellow human beings.

Nevertheless, when the debate is rational, it's healthy. It makes us think. And for those of us in the majority, it helps us realize that Aristotle was right to advocate moderation in all things.

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