Review: The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine

The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine by Nathan Thrall

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: When undertaking the negotiations of, or simply reading about, the long-standing Arab-Israeli conflict, everyone becomes aware of how influences within and beyond the borders of the Middle East become a party to the issue. “The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine by Nathan Thrall, investigates the dynamics of these relationships and how they influence outcomes. His thesis establishes the element of force as core to achieving change, regardless of country and/or organization. “Compromise on each side has been driven less by the promise of peace than the aversion of pain…not limited to bloodshed. Economic sanctions, boycotts, threats, unarmed protests, and other forms of confrontation have been just as important in bringing about ideological concessions and territorial withdrawals. “Force” in this broader sense has, sadly, proved the only language “they” understand” (2).

Mr. Thrall explained the suppressive aspect(s) of the Oslo Accords, despite not being viewed that way by international courts because “the agreements” maintained a status quo. He made the reader think differently about the Camp David Accords, the Oslo Accords, Madrid Conference of 1991 and other related conference outcomes. I had viewed them as a tremendous amount of beneficial progress toward peace in the Middle East–especially after reading “The Path to Geneva: The Quest for a Permanent Solution, 1996-2003,” by Yossi Beilin. At the time of Beilin’s work, great achievements were made; but, in the long-run, it looked like situations eroded. To truly understand the making of each stage of agreements, readers needed more knowledge of the context, language, and time-frame in which the agreements were reached, and Nathan Thrall did an excellent job of covering those details along with some over-arching themes in support of his thesis:

*Intifadas, wars, terrorism, and other aggressions.
*Exporting the Holocaust to the Palestine Mandate.
*Zionism and the diaspora.
*Revisionist history and racism.
*Corruption.
*Frameworks for peace and statehood.
*Foreign powers and positioning.
*Decision making processes: short-term versus long-term reality.
*Periphery Doctrine effectivity.
*Collaborations between Palestinians and Israelis.
*America’s role the in the peace process: mediator or trouble-maker?

The author made it easy to recognize how themes played out repeatedly and ultimately existed as a form of force. He also made the reader ponder intelligent, though likely unpopular and uncomfortable, questions: Would the diaspora have survived without a separate Jewish state? Who truly had the right to promise Palestine to the Jewish people? Did America need to be involved in this peace process? Did the parties squander their opportunities to reach a two-state solution? Did some of the Palestinian leadership carry responsibility for continued nationlessness and some of the harm to their people? Was the author pro-Israel or in favor of the Palestinians? Ultimately, there was no denying that the author did a phenomenal job in supporting his thesis while writing a very interesting, fact-filled, thought-provoking book. Nathan Thrall’s “ The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine ” enveloped a highly-recommendable read that earned a well-deserved five-star rating.

Advertisements

Review: Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

cvr_overthrow-americas-century-of-regime-change-from-hawaii-to-iraq-by-stephen-kinzerOverthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: Stephen Kinzer’s ” Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq” sought to illustrate a trended pattern of regime changes driven by the United States government on foreign land. He detailed specific situations and defined the categories of coups, coupled with commonalities of the countries in which the USA initiated overthrows of key politicians.

Blatant coups took place in countries with rich, natural resources that fell under foreign (namely, American) control; or in scenarios where nationalization of those resources were attempted, America stepped in to protect its corporate interests. Covert coups, typically of the Cold War Era, seemed to be conducted differently because they were based on an assumption that Communism need to be stopped. “Far easier was to categorize nationalism simply as a disguised form of Communist aggression and seek to crush it wherever it reared its ugly head” (pp. 215-216).

“What distinguishes Americans from citizens of past empires is their eagerness to persuade themselves that they are acting out of humanitarian motives. For most of the “regime change” era, the United States did little or nothing to promote democracy in the countries whose governments it deposed” (pg. 316). The consistent, immediate effects of US-driven coups led to “larcenous frenzy” (pg. 306), and insufficient troop support to stop fires, looting, and other crimes of opportunity.

Kinzer’s research revealed that US has mistakenly believed that in making a foreign country turn democratic that it can be equated with the political position of being pro-American. More often than not, the converse has revealed itself to be true. Coups/Overthrows tend to “bind the United States” to the subject matter countries. It was this form of attachment that chiseled our almost inescapable legacy.

Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq became the fourth book I read by Stephen Kinzer; and, it was my least favorite of the bunch. It was typical for there to be a lack of transition between the chapters (typically representing a separate country), and when he tried to make the chapters connect toward the end of the book, his paragraphs seemed to jump around. The book lacked structural cohesion and seemed to be a rush-to-production piece that took his research from previous books and slammed it/them together to call the compendium a defined work. The fact that I had already become a Kinzer fan was what pushed me to read this book to completion.

Book Giveaway (CLOSED): Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State

cvr_jihad-academy_the-rise-of-islamic-state-by-nicolas-heninENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN
One (1) Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State, by Nicolas Hénin, Martin Makinson (Translation) (Paperback).

STEPS TO ENTER
1. Become a follower of “Streed’s Reads” Blog or on Twitter (@StreedsReads)
2. Click Rafflecopter Entry Form

By entering, you agree to my GIVEAWAY POLICY.

Review: All American: Two Young Men, the 2001 Army-Navy Game and the War They Fought in Iraq

cvr_all-american-two-young-men-the-2001-army-navy-game-and-the-war-they-fought-in-iraqAll American: Two Young Men, the 2001 Army-Navy Game and the War They Fought in Iraq by Steve Eubanks

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from GoodReads Giveaways Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: Steve Eubanks, changed how I viewed sports history and America’s war in the Middle East with his book “All American: Two Young Men, the 2001 Army/Navy Game and the War They Fought in Iraq“. He established himself as a highly-credible sports writer, former college golf player and PGA member. The first post-9/11 Army versus Navy football game became his focal point for introducing the reader to this biography of two incredibly brave men sent to fight in “War on Terror.” “It was the recent terrorist attacks on American soil that made this particular event the most watched college football game in the country. Four million American television sets tuned in early that Saturday afternoon, with another four million sets tuned in overseas” (xi). Additionally, “President George W. Bush had spoken in both locker rooms before the game: ‘Your opponents today on the football field will be the men you will be serving beside on the battlefield very soon,’ he said” (xiv).

This post-9/11 environment super-charged the football fans as well, showing a renewed and more intense patriotism that perhaps had not been demonstrated by the public masses since “Lake Placid, New York, at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, when the U.S. hockey team upset the heavily favored Soviets, the game known as the ‘miracle on ice’” (46). I remembered that game…that moment, that physically-expressive surge of patriotism demonstrated by my family and me when I was a little girl. I remembered jumping up and down at the winning goal. Mr. Eubank’s analogy resonated with me and made my heart soar again; this historical comparison existed as one of several examples utilized by the author to connect on a deeper level with the reader and reach a much wider audience.

Emotions continued to “run high” as young men gave their hearts and all of their energies in devoting themselves to their military training in preparation for combat operations. Some training focused on leadership roles that mandated impeccable reputations. The author delved into the rigors of Army Ranger training and how easily a bad person can run someone’s life and/or career with a false allegation. Nobody cared about a person’s innocence. The author labelled this scenario as “availability bias”: favoring what was simply available without any regard for safety and other mitigating (and eventually, litigating) factors to resolve a problem.

The unfortunate realities of war existed as another problem that had basis in availability and/or bias: killing children and loss of our own children. One character identified the age at which Iraqi children had been brain-washed to dislike American soldiers. This served as an important piece of information for adults, especially Americans, to help understand the brutal cruelties of war and why there existed occasions when adolescents and teenagers experienced targeted death with their adult relatives. Mr. Eubanks explained such situations in a manner that made them somewhat more digestible for the American moral consciousness. Essentially, we did not have to like the situation; but, it was an unfortunate reality that we had to force ourselves to understand. War played by a different set of rules than American football, Olympic hockey, and/or any other sport…because its subsistence equated to more than that of a comparatively simple game.

Another tragedy of war came in the grown-up, deadly form of the game “Hide and Seek.” Unfortunately, many Americans moved in the open and without sufficient protection (and, seemingly) without strategically-planned safe transit times and/or routes. The story of Jerko “Jerry” Zovko, and others, who died in an ambush, detailed an example of such failures. “On March 31, 2004, four private security agents working for Blackwater were guarding a food convoy when they were attacked by insurgents in downtown Fallujah. Zovko was killed by machine gun fire and then dragged through the streets by a mob” (165). When I read this story, I instantly thought of the interview with Zovko’s mother, in the film “Iraq for Sale”. Mr. Eubanks and the film highlighted the games played by our enemies as well as with American families when our personnel became injured or happened to be killed. Re-watching the film created a multi-faceted supplement to this book. The movie provided additional context and re-enforced the lives sacrificed by the characters and their families in this biography.

If you do not like football, I encourage you to look past that opinion and focus on what this book is really about: Americans battling each other on the sports field, one of them being attacked by a domestic enemy and additionally by his professional associates due to availability bias, leading into the story of both guys, and many other Americans, sacrificing their lives in the Middle East…fighting the “War on Terror.” “All American: Two Young Men, the 2001 Army/Navy Game and the War They Fought in Iraq” revealed itself as an emotionally-rich, content-heavy, compassionately-written biography that leveraged the author’s expert-level, sports history writing skills, with football as its delivery vehicle for a heart-felt war story based in the Middle East.

Review: Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State

cvr_jihad-academy_the-rise-of-islamic-state-by-nicolas-heninJihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State, by Nicolas Hénin, Martin Makinson (Translation)

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Purchased Book

REVIEW: (Spoiler Alert) I admit it—I judged this book by its cover! Its title “Jihad Academy” in bold, all capital letters piqued my interest. The top section of the front cover read, “A former ISIS hostage and veteran Middle East journalist explores misperceptions of Islamic State and their consequences.” This work’s synopsis compelled me to want to read it, and my local library system did not have it at the time; but, I was hooked, so I purchased it.

Jihad Academy: The Rise of Islamic State,” by Nicolas Hénin (a freelance journalist known for reporting from the Middle East), arrived with great anticipation; so, I immediately studied the back cover and became even more “hooked” by the piece. I moved it closer to the front of my bookcase’s “to read” line. Some statements on the back cover encouraged the heightened reading priority: “He witnessed the events leading to the rise of Islamic State, and in June 2013, he was himself captured by ISIS and spent ten months in captivity with James Foley and others who were beheaded soon after Hénin was released. Those barbarities, and the first strikes against Islamic State, prompted Hénin to present in “Jihad Academy” what he knows IS to be, in contrast to the misperceptions he sees perpetuated on an ongoing basis” (back cover).

My expectations were set (with continued building excitement); then, I began reading and immediately identified an unadvertised misperception. The first page (and sentence) of the “Forward” read as follows: The reader may be surprised not to discover in the following pages the story of my captivity. Of course, I could have written the usual book describing my capture by masked Islamic State militants in a street of Raqqa, Syria, on 22June2013…I could have recounted the boredom, the fear and the suffering during the months I was deprived of my freedom, and finally my release in April 2014, after the negotiation conducted by my government. But the truth of the matter is that during these months…”(vii) and so on. Please allow me to repeat some key words: “IS…misperceptions…surprised not to discover…the story of my captivity” (vii).

It was a surprise to immediately feel a little betrayed and be put into a position to ponder whether or not to continue reading “Jihad Academy”. I opted to read it and found that Hénin, to a certain extent, vindicated himself. He stated “history is cruel; it is more likely to remember the names of the villains than the heroes. Our security fixation has led us to make shameful compromises” (138). The entire book supported those statements and provided solid context, causing the reader to want to learn more about the conflict(s). The author educated the reader as to how Islamic State inadvertently developed as a by-product of the American invasion of Iraq, why our understanding of Islamic State’s organization became flawed, who became ISIS’ direct and indirect supporters, which groups utilized secularism, tribalism and sectarianism, and what needed to be done to increase knowledge of human rights abuses and to get the region stabilized.

While I originally felt a little bit betrayed by the book’s cover and synopsis because I expected to read about Nicolas Hénin’s ordeal as an ISIS hostage as a component of the overall story, the reality was that “Jihad Academy” did reveal some misperception and very important information. While the author intended for those misperceptions be be specific to IS, I found that he revealed more to me about how Syria’s current regime operated counter to what one would think. I appreciated his strong positions against human rights violations combined with his eagerness to increase global awareness of them. The author demonstrated a deep-level, multi-faceted knowledge of the region and the subject matter conflict while communicating in an easy-to-read, conversational manner.

Review: A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State

cvr_a-road-unforeseen_women-fight-the-islamic-stateA Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State, by Meredith Tax

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Library Thing Early Reviewers Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: “The year 1989 is notable for a great worldwide upsurge of fundamentalism” (25). “A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State,” by Meredith Tax, details an internationally-political and economically-driven set of events, that have culminated in a religious, cultural, gender-based situation allowing for the formation of “the patriarchal belt” (24). Activities increased for the following reasons, according to the author: “removal of Soviet state control, causing of nationalist and religious identity movements; and, globalization with its capitalist forms of organization and notions of individual liberty–wrongly defined as Western–penetrated to the most remote areas, bringing their values and media to threaten traditional male elites, who reacted violently” (25). Factors that contributed since that time involved “destabilization of the region, seductions of Western media and the freedom offered by the Internet, and success of the global woman’s movement. Its legal achievements peaked at UN conferences in the early nineties, setting off alarm bells and traditionalist enclaves from the Vatican to Saudi Arabia” (25-26).

The alarm bells rang decades after a seemingly infinite series of events sparked when the Sykes-Picot Treaty and other pacts carved up Kurdistan amongst the winning, dominant world powers. This book detailed Kurdistan’s history and the United States’ rush to fill a gap as soon as the Cold War ended…selectively continuing to fight communism by aligning with Turkey, utilizing Israel as America’s proxy and conveniently finding the PKK/Kurds as being equal to the same communists previously fought, while ignoring differentiating aspects.

Meredith Tax adeptly presented, and compelling supported, her positions in what I viewed as the following themes:
*Revolutionary Strategies: ISIS, ISIL, Daesh
*Ethnic Identity and Genocide
*Tribalism and Sultanism
*Totalitarian Theocracy
*Globalization
*Oil Politics
*UN Sanctions: Challenges and Manipulations
*Systemic Violence and Homicides Against Women
*Hyperbolic Focus on Female Virginity
*Conflict Zone Governments: Big Government vs Local Councils vs Small Communes
*Jihadist Heavenly Rewards Program: A Sliding Scale
*Manipulation of Western Audiences
*Democratization of Iraq: A New Radical-Islamic, Anti-Female State
*Recruitment Efforts and Profiling

The reader must wonder if the aforementioned themes developed because the Kurds lived in an area resting on oil. “Iraqi Kurdistan has huge oil and gas reserves, as many as 55 billion barrels of oil, a quarter of the reserves in the whole country. Thirty-nine different oil companies from nineteen countries moved in” (98). It looked like a power-grab, regardless of the multi-faceted costs to the tribes and overall states; and, without regard to its ripple effect worldwide.

A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State,” by Meredith Tax, revealed itself to be a surprisingly-thorough, well-organized and compelling read. It should be recognized as a primer on Kurdistan and Daesh, while highlighting the challenges and accomplishments of a unique group of females that continued to fight against an internationally-misunderstood conflict with escalating, global implications. The book’s “Glossary of Organizational Names” (13), map, and photos greatly contributed to ease of reading and understanding of its contents, easily garnering the compendium a five-star rating and a spot on my “Favorites” list.