It’s probably to my shame, but I’m not an especially political animal. But the recent violence in the Middle East has persuaded me finally to try to grasp something of what’s going on. And now that I’ve read Martin Bunton’s The Palestinian–Israeli Conflict: A Very Short Introduction, I feel that I have a basic understanding of why this area of the world in particular is so volatile.
The Palestinian–Israeli Conflict concentrates on events in historic Palestine from 1897 to 2007, from Ottoman Palestine through to the present-day attempts to reach a mutually satisfactory end to the tensions. In the concluding chapter, Bunton briefly outlines the period from 2007 to 2012 and offers some thoughts on what steps could be taken to achieve peace.
Bunton’s approach is to focus on the political angles and avoid any religious ones apart from where necessary. I dare say that some will find this disappointing, but it seems right to me that Bunton should have organised his material in this way – assuming, of course, that he is correct to say in the first place that the earliest Zionists weren’t concerned to ensure that the ancient lands of Judea and Samaria formed part of any new Jewish state. And so what comes across clearly to me in The Palestinian–Israeli Conflict is the sheer desperation of the human need for a home and for roots. On the basis of Bunton’s commentary, I can empathise to an extent with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, even as I lament the ways in which both sides have pursued their goals, and am angered by the egregious effects of empire that have treated this region as little more than a plaything for larger or more powerful nations seeking mainly to secure their own interests.
The Palestinian–Israeli Conflict is not perfect – Bunton’s prose is often too dry for me, and some of the maps and diagrams could have been much clearer – but I thoroughly recommend it as a helpful introduction to the matter.