Non-Idiot's Guide

Middle East Resources

The minefield of Middle Eastern myths, passions, and deceit is so dense that even making a factual statement may open you to accusations of bias and mendacity.  It would take an entire issue of Chronicles just to provide a comprehensive bibliography and a list of the websites relevant to the Middle East.  However, the non-idiot might begin with Walter Laquer’s The Israel-Arab Reader (Penguin, 1995), a clear, readable reference work full of documentary sources.  For an eloquent analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, coupled with a careful argument for America’s “constructive disengagement,” proceed to Leon Hadar’s Quagmire: America in the Middle East (Cato, 1993).

For contrasting Zionist and Palestinian accounts, try Howard Sachar’s A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998) and Edward Said’s The Politics of Dispossession (Random House, 1994).  You will notice how the grinding of different axes translates into differences of rhetoric, emphasis, and intent.  You will need to learn how to recognize these in other authors as you continue.

Thanks to the internet, many documents, rare books, and other primary texts are now available to the nonspecialist.  To study the ancient history of the region, visit the Electronic Tools and Ancient Near Eastern Archives...

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