Journalist, and author of A World of Trouble: America in the Middle East, Patrick Tyler shared his choices of the Top 10 ‘Eccentric’ Middle East Books with The Guardian:
- Jerusalem: City of Mirrors by Amos Elon
Revised in the light of the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, this book contemplates the fabled city which for Westerners is as much a myth as a reality. The author gives insights into the cultural diversity of the city.
- Ropes of Sand by Wilbur Crane Eveland
Eveland concludes that the U.S. has failed to sufficiently understand the problems of the oil embargo, the Palestinians, and the survival of Israel and warns of the possibilities for future armed conflict.
- Secret Soldier by Muki Betser
Set against 25 years of continuous conflict, this autobiography of Muki Betser underscores the dilemmas Israeli Defence Forces faced. Betser planned, commanded and perpetrated Israel’s most remarkable and daring military actions, including the Entebbe hostage rescue.
- The Chariot of Israel : Britain, America and the State of Israel by Harold Wilson
Tyler writes: “An impressive exposition of the half-century of debate in the British parliament, and more broadly in the west, over the creation of the Jewish state and its first decades of war against the Arab states. Wilson, having been there for the big decisions since 1948, carries us through the Suez Crisis and the Six Day War, which broke out while he was prime minister. He does not let his sympathies for the Zionist enterprise undermine a well-balanced narrative. He brings us the voice of Lord Milner, “the great imperialist proconsul,” all the way from 1923 to describe the nub of it: “Palestine can never be regarded as a country on the same footing as the other Arab countries. You cannot ignore all history and tradition in the matter … It is sacred land to the Arabs, but it is also a sacred land to the Jew and Christian.”
- A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz
It is the story of a boy growing up in the war-torn Jerusalem of the forties and fifties, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many. The story of an adolescent whose life has been changed forever by his mother’s suicide when he was twelve years old. The story of a man who leaves the constraints of his family and its community of dreamers, scholars, and failed businessmen to join a kibbutz, change his name, marry, have children. The story of a writer who becomes an active participant in the political life of his nation.
- Living With the Bible by Moshe Dayan
Israel’s Most famous general explores the archaeology of the Holy Land and re-interprets familiar Bible Stories in a new light.
- A People That Dwells Alone by Yaacov Herzog
Tyler says: “This collection of essays, speeches and a famous debate was pulled together by the lifelong diplomat to help explain the Zionist outlook. It is the written work of an intellectual partisan in the diplomatic arena. Its centrepiece is Herzog’s debate with the British historian Arnold Toynbee in January 1961 at McGill University in Toronto. The debate turned on the question of whether there was a moral equivalence between “what the Nazis did to European Jews and what the Israelis did to Palestinian Arabs”. As in a good Oxford Union debate, it is difficult to turn away once engaged.“
- My Home, My Land by Abu Iyad
Iyad, who was Fatah’s number 2 leaser under Arafat, relates the story of his life, and the struggle for homeless Palestinians, taking us into the backrooms of PLO politics.
- Warrior by Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is a dynamic and controversial leader. A hero in Israel’s wars, perhaps the most daring and successful commander in Israel’s extraordinary military history, Sharon has always been a warrior, whether the enemies were hostile Arab nations, terrorists, Time magazine, or rival politicians. The public man is well known — aggressive in battle, hard-line in politics — but the private man has always been obscured by Sharon’s dazzling career and powerful personality. In this compelling and dramatic auto-biography, the real Sharon appears for the first time: a complex man, a loving father, a figure of courage and compassion. He is a warrior who commands the respect and love of his troops, a visionary, and an uncompromising, ruthless pragmatist.Sharon tells his story with frankness, power, intelligence, and a brilliant gift for detail. Always controversial, he is as outspoken as his friends — and enemies — would expect him to be.
- The Iron Wall by Avi Shlaim
In this richly documented book, Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at Oxford University, places Israel’s political and military actions under an uncompromising lens. He traces a pattern of policy from the goals of the early Zionists, through the wars that have marked much of Israeli history, to recent efforts to construct peace. The book draws on a great deal of new material from Israeli, Arab, and Western sources that not only brings events alive but also leads to fresh assessments and a better informed, more critical understanding of one of the most intense and intractable conflicts of modern times.