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© Mitchell Bard 2016

Idiot's Guide to Middle East ConflictOne thing you will never hear a Middle East analyst say is that they are bored. The region is always a hotbed of activity, and has been that way almost since the beginning of time. Sex, violence, intrigue, ambition, courage, miracles, invention, faith — everything you want in a good story is part of the past, present, and, I dare say, the future of this turbulent spot on the globe.

Hardly a day passes without a story in the newspaper or on television related to some major event in the Middle East: peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, changes in oil supplies, terrorist outrages, threats of holy war. Despite all the press coverage, the region remains a mystery, scarcely understood by journalists reporting these stories or their readers and viewers.

As this book illustrates, the Jews, Arabs, and others who inhabit the Middle East have a long and colorful history. Much of that history is marked by great accomplishments in the fields of science, art, literature, philosophy and other intellectual endeavors. In addition, as the birthplace of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the region can boast of greater worldwide influence than any other.

Still, for all the positive developments that one can trace to the Middle East, the region has been more closely associated with more destructive pursuits. For most of recorded history, the Middle East has been the setting for conflict, and so it remains today.

Even as the Arab-Israeli peace process offers hope for coexistence between Jews and Arabs, many disputes remain between those parties, as well as between other groups in the region. Terrorism is an ongoing threat to peace and stability; Iran seeks to export its radical Islamic revolution; Saddam Hussein stubbornly clings to power; and conventional and nonconventional arms pour into the region and raise the specter of Armageddon. These are just a few of the lowlights of the present situation.

If you want to read about the glories of the region, you'll get a taste of it here, but this book is really about the triumphs and tragedies of peoples who have been fighting for centuries. Frankly, rational explanations are not available for all the strife, but when you finish reading you'll at least have a better sense of the historical, religious, and psychological roots of the Middle East conflicts.


What Reviewers Say


AOL Jewish Community Newsletter, January 13, 2000:

You're no idiot, of course. You know that the Middle East is always in the news. But the situation there is so complex, you just can't keep track of it all. Was King Hussein related to Saddam Hussein? Why all the fighting over the West Bank? And what does oil, water, and sand have to do with it? Don't let your brain get parched. This useful book sorts through the political and military quagmire of the Middle East in language anyone can understand.

Forward, January 7, 2000:

If the new "Complete Idiot's Guide to the Middle East Conflict" has any advantage over in-depth geopolitical reporting in newspapers or analytical academic treatises based on years of research, it is in its humility. The book points out historical misunderstandings in side-bars topped by a picture of a pharaoh wagging a finger and saying "Tut Tut!" It doles out trivia beneath a cartoon of a smiling sphinx. It contains subheadings such as, "Hello Haganah" and "Too Many Jews, Not Enough Space."

American Jews who consider themselves experts on Israeli affairs might walk right past the book and think there couldn't possibly be anything for them in the volume....Then there's the political problem: Mainstream, broad-based texts usually bend so much toward even-handedness that they end up offending partisans on both sides.

What a surprise, then, that this Idiot's Guide is not so idiotic....It takes away the egos of the scholars who usually arm themselves with complicated conclusions so they can sound like they know what they are talking about when nobody, in 2,000 years, has been able to successfully navigate the Middle East to peace.

Cleveland Jewish News, January 20, 2000:

My first inclination was to relegate a book with such an off-putting title to the dusty shelf that groans under the weight of other never-to-be-read books. That was before I began flipping through its pages and then, much to my surprise, started reading it more carefully. I laughed. I learned. I marveled at the clever way a complex subject was broken down into manageable, fairly distortion-free paragraph bites, complete with eye-catching headings, amusing asides and fascinating factoids....Amusing line drawings and historic photographs enliven the already lively prose and, for the more studious, there are valuable time lines and an excellent glossary. Moreover, if I had any doubts about the seriousness of Bard's research, I would only have to check the 11-page bibliography of books and Web sites he used to complete his guide....Neophytes and longtime Mideast watchers alike will learn something and enjoy doing it with The Complete Idiot's Guide to Middle East Conflict.

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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Middle East Conflict