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Jerusalem 1913: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Amy Dockser Marcus
Viking Adult, 2007
240 pp., $24.95
Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present
Michael B. Oren
W. W. Norton & Company, 2007
778 pp., $35.00
Churchill's Promised Land: Zionism and Statecraft (Yale University Press)
Yale University Press, 2007
368 pp., $40.00
Hanging Gardens and Shimmering Oases
Why can't those people just get along? You know—the Arabs and the Jews. Isn't it obvious that, whatever is at the base of their inexplicable mutual hatred, the two parties are getting further and further away from even trying to understand each other? With each passing day, it seems, some new offense of one party against the other adds another layer of grievance, one more complication to be unwound before we can get the parties thinking again about putting it all behind and getting on with what everyone else on earth is getting on with.
Perhaps if we walked the parties backwards over the chronological ground, they could observe the intensity of the quarrel getting less and less (retrospectively), until we find the moment when the two parties were actually talking to each other civilly; and then we could walk the parties forward from that same point and show them that it had all been about a failure to communicate.
Amy Dockser Marcus believes that she has found that moment. It was during the year 1913 when there took place "what can only be described as the first Arab-Israeli peace negotiations over the future of Palestine," indeed the "[first] serious effort to negotiate what we today would call a Middle East peace agreement."
Marcus is certainly entitled to respectful attention. She lived nearly a decade in Israel as a journalist for the Wall Street Journal and has developed a valuable network of friends and colleagues in the land, with whose help she has found her way into several private family archives. Working in these materials, she has brought to our attention a number of sturdy personalities who were significant movers and shakers in several of the component communities of pre-Mandate Palestine. In her introduction, she announces that if we keep our eyes on the comings and goings of these actors we will find our way to the moment of truth announced in the opening pages.
This is not, however, as easy to do as she suggests. Her characters are introduced abruptly, ...