A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Mark Tessler, Author
Mark Tessler, Author Indiana University Press $29.95 (928p) ISBN 978-0-253-20873-6
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Hardcover - 906 pages - 978-0-253-35848-6
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``Objectivity without detachment'' is the author's self-proclaimed goal, and his detailed account of this intractable 20th-century conflict is certainly more even-handed than many. Part of the Indiana Series in Arab and Islamic Studies, Tessler's work provides a useful review of the numerous failed diplomatic solutions over the years concluding on a cautiously optimistic note with the September 1993 handshake between Rabin and Arafat. It is a fallacy, however, to believe that the ``truth'' of any contested issue must always reside dead center between the two sides--and this work is unlikely to sway any reader who already holds a considered opinion. Tessler (coauthor of Israel, Egypt, the Palestinians ) is closest to achieving his goal when he devotes two long opening chapters to sympathetic histories of the Jews and the Arabs, respectively. Yet even here the symmetry is flawed, and he must engage in a song and dance to explain why he gives the history of the Arab world rather than the Palestinians specifically if, as he asserts, ``the Palestinians are descendants of two ancient peioples, the Canaanites and the Philistines.'' A technique the author frequently employs is to set forth the arguments--including audacious propaganda--before stepping in to evaluate them critically or, more often, to equivocate. In this regard, he cites a touching anecdote recounted by Arafat, only pointing to its spurious character in a footnote. Although similar lapses throughout partially erode the credibility of the author's objective stance, one has to admire his herculean effort, and current events ensure that this is a timely history. (June)
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