Synopses & Reviews
In this mesmerizing look at Arab military leader Fawzi al Qawuqji Parsons (The Druze Between Palestine and Israel 1947–1949) a professor of history and Islamic studies at McGill University fashions an unconventional biography of a divisive figure in the early 20th century struggle for Arab sovereignty. Al Qawuqji was a chameleonlike player in the drawn out battle over the lands of the former Ottoman Empire fighting against the British in Iraq the French in Syria the British again in Palestine and finally leading the Arab Liberation Army against Israeli forces in 1948. Avoiding any semblance of hagiography Parsons uses her recounting of al Qawuqji’s tumultuous life to describe the Arab Middle East “from the inside out.” She argues that the rakish figure of al Qawuqji—an Arab nationalist to the core but an ardent Germanophile an anticolonial fighter but a former loyal Ottoman subject—embodied the contradictory pull of forces that convulsed the Middle East after WWI. Parsons occasionally focuses her lens too narrowly leaving the reader to unpack the broader themes of al Qawuqji’s life but the narrative is taut and fluid. Gliding along seamlessly with a whole world unfurling like a carpet al Qawuqji emerges from these pages as an enigmatic complex figure worthy of sustained scholarly attention. Illus. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
The definitive biography of the military leader who stood at the center of Arab politics for four decades
Revered by some as the Arab Garibaldi, maligned by others as an intriguer and opportunist, Fawzi al-Qawuqji manned the ramparts of Arab history for four decades. As a young officer in the Ottoman Army, he fought the British in World War I and won an Iron Cross. In the 1920s, he mastered the art of insurgency and helped lead a massive uprising against the French authorities in Syria. A decade later, he reappeared in Palestine, where he helped direct the Arab Revolt of 1936. When an effort to overthrow the British rulers of Iraq failed, he moved to Germany, where he spent much of World War II battling his fellow exile, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who had accused him of being a British spy. In 1947, Qawuqji made a daring escape from Allied-occupied Berlin, and sought once again to shape his region s history. In his most famous role, he would command the Arab Liberation Army in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.
In this well-crafted, definitive biography, Laila Parsons tells Qawuqji s dramatic story and sets it in the full context of his turbulent times. Following Israel s decisive victory, Qawuqji was widely faulted as a poor leader with possibly dubious motives. "The Commander" shows us that the truth was more complex: although he doubtless made some strategic mistakes, he never gave up fighting for Arab independence and unity, even as those ideals were undermined by powers inside and outside the Arab world. In Qawuqji s life story we find the origins of today s turmoil in the Arab Middle East."