le 19 juin 2004
As one of the first books I read about Middle East, and its
conflicts, I RECOMMEND this book STRONGLY for everyone: those that
are new to the region, needing an introduction to the Middle East,
as well as those who want to refresh their knowledge of the region
and the various forms of conflict so common there.
The Middle East can be a confusing place but Friedman sorts it out
for you. FRIEDMAN IS SUCH A TERRIFIC WRITER he made me feel
confident in my new found knowledge, relieved to have his insight
as my foundation, and so wanting to learn more about the entire
I read "From Beirut to Jerusalem" for the first time just before
the first Gulf War; now it is my touchstone, reading parts, or
all of it, again when things over there get crazier.
While Friedman focuses on Lebanon and Israel in this book, he
really is providing you with an understanding of the whole
framework of the Middle East and its conflicts: between countries,
within countries, amongst religions, between peoples of different
ethnic, cultural or racial backgrounds.
Warring religious conflicts within Lebanon may remind you of the
religious tensions between the Sunnis of northern Iraq and the
Shi'ia of south. Syria's late Assad's massive killing of his own
people will immediately remind you of the murder by Saddam Huessin
of the Kurds in northern Iraq.
Even if Israel didn't exist, many of these conflicts would have
happened anyway...and will continue to happen.
Now the fastest growing portion of the Arab and Muslim populations
are the school-aged and young adults. Most have limited
educations and little in the way of meaningful employment to look
forward to. Is it therefore any surprise some of them are so very
frustrated, dissatisfied and unhappy they would become militant
Although Israel has done some good things for the peoples of the
West Bank, it is unfortunately outweighed by the bad its done there and in Gaza.
And with Israel's peoples being so different than most of the
Middle East and carrying Mohammed's Qu'ran stories of the Jews'
friendship and then perceived betrayal of Mohammed over 700 years
ago, one can see why attacking Israel is a whole lot easier for
these terrorists than challenging the regimes they live under for
I wish all Americans, at least, would read this book so they
would be better versed in what happens in the rest of the world.
This is a GREAT BOOK.
le 22 mars 2007
As a journalist Mr Friedman is at its very best when he reports the historical facts, puts them in perspective and analyses them. And reporting the facts is what he does in the first part of this book, Beirut. This is the best part hands down. His analysis is profound, true, and it gives a singular and personal lighting of the civil war in Lebanon and the Israeli invasion.
However, Mr Friedman, as a sociologist, isn't nearly as good (or just maybe his analysis has lost its relevance in the 20-odd years since the book was first published). The Jerusalem part is far too convoluted and sometimes downright obscure in its multi-layered division of the Israeli society.
Also Mr Friedman is a very good writer with a wit all its own. But at times the metaphors he uses are too cute for their own good and the author spends far too much time (his and ours) justifying their pertinence. The book is an impressionist analysis, sort of a 600 pages op-ed supported by impressions, but short on statistical data.
Still a great and essential read.
le 12 juin 2004
I grew up in Beirut; I found this book very insightful. I can say that this book pretty much reflects what really happened in Beirut. If you want an objective view, this book is a must read. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand more about what the real situation is like in Palestine and Israel; And what took place in Beirut.
le 18 mai 2004
Navigating through the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hard enough; but doing so whilst remaining neutral and objective is almost impossible. Yet this is precisely what "From Beirut to Jerusalem" does: it takes a very thorough and candid look at the recent history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a fair and balanced view.
Thomas Friedman, of the New York Times, narrates his almost decade-long adventure of reporting the Middle East, first in Beirut and then in Jerusalem. The product is an elegant and well-written book that combines his journalistic attention to precision, detail, and anecdotes with his historian's drive for proving context, perspective, and analysis.
"From Beirut to Jerusalem" contains a great deal of adventure (who says reporters can't live James Bond-like lives?). But in the end, what makes this a great book is its ability to tell the story of the Middle East in the 1980s, while dissecting the important political and historical forces that define the geopolitical environment of the conflict. Written for the layman and expert alike, this is surely one of the best books on the Middle East.
le 26 septembre 2003
This is an informative, very well written book that imparts factual historical information and editorial opinion in an entertaining and engaging way.
I am told that Thomas Friedman is one of the most respected authorities on the Middle East, and that he is truthful, fair, and unbiased. However, I did notice one thing. Thomas Friedman is Jewish (as am I). His attitude toward the State of Israel is uncompromising, harsh, and judgmental. Women jurors are said to have this perspective toward women defendants. Some parents have that style toward their children: they expect their children to be perfect, and are harshly critical when they are not; they may not exact the same high standards of other people's children--they may see other people's children from the perspective that they are part of the human race, and therefore inclined to be flawed, and to err.
His criticisms of Israel's leadership post-Ben Gurion may be well founded, as may be his criticisms of Israel's actions and poor judgment calls as regards the Palestinians in some instances, but he does not seem to be able to temper these observances.
Perhaps, under Mr. Friedman's strict pedagogy, Israel can become a better country--maybe, unlike, say, Sweden, Israel can evolve into the very model of a modern major state, without having to go through the equivalent of that awkward, adolescent Viking period that the Swedes did? Maybe, as Mr. Friedman seems to demand, Israel will shortly be born, full blown, like Athena, into a country that always makes decisions that live up to the most exacting moral and ethical standards, while executing brilliant pragmatic political judgments. Who knows?
le 4 septembre 2003
I was excited about this book but in the end it disappointed me. It purports itself to be a jurnalistic account of the Lebanese Civil war and the Israeli situation in Jerusalem. Unfortunatly the book consists of half and half reporting and cute little stories. We learn about the bombing of the jurnalists own house and we learn about the newsrooms of Beirut. While we should celebrate the authors guts in covering these viscious times it seems to me the reading was light and weak. More a travel jurnal then what I expected. The book, like everything on Lebanon, is biased, it takes the side of the palistinians brushing over their savagry in ruining a nice country while critisizing the christians for daring to defend themselves. It critisizes the Israelis for 'indiscriminate' shelling and says nothing fo the palistinians indiscriminate shalling that also ruines lives. The chapters on Israel are insteresting as an American Jews critique of the Jewish state, but most of the observations are repugnant. This idea that israel is some vast memorial to the holocaust, some remnant, is a revulting notion and it seems one elucidated by the author, he does not seem to understand the greatness of israel as the only country where free speech and free religion exist in the middle east, as well as democracy.
le 4 août 2003
I had this book on my "to read" list for about a year, and then it sat on my shelf for five months after buying it before I finally got around to reading it. Now that I have finished the book I have to wonder what took me so long. The book is exceptional. From Beirut to Jerusalem is the story of Thomas Friedman and his analysis of the Palestine/Israel conflict. Friedman is a three time Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and this book presents and even handed and fair look at both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The book is broken up into three sections: Beirut, Jerusalem, and Washington.
Beirut is the story of the Palestinians. When Friedman was a young reporter, he was assigned a beat in Beirut (the newspaper made a point to assign a Jewish reporter to cover Beirut). Friedman does a good job showing exactly how the PLO came to power and the importance (and the flaw) of Yasir Arafat in the Palestinian movement. Despite being Jewish himself, Friedman does not present much of a bias against the Palestinians in his reporting. Friedman shows how there truly is no central authority for the Palestinians and how amazing it is the Arafat was able to unify the PLO into any sort of centralized body. The one thing that surprised me was how the Palestinians (and Beirut as a whole) was essential tribal politics. Beirut was an example of what can go right in having a disparate group of Christians, Jews, and Muslims live together in a Middle Eastern city. Beirut also ended up being a disaster of what can go wrong: everything. When push came to shove, the different groups split apart, formed militias and held fast to tribal lines. It was in Beirut that the PLO found a temporary home (at least until Israel pushed north).
Jerusalem is the story of the Jews. We all know the story of how after World War II the Jews were given a state in the Middle East and it was on their traditional homeland of Israel. This displaced the Arabs (Palestinians) that were living on the land at the time. Friedman discusses the Utopian vision that Israel is because of the religious context for the Jews. The interesting thing is that Israel was very nearly formed as a secular state for the diaspora Jews, and it was only the Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews that initially held onto their religion (rather than their culture). American Jews viewed Israel truly as the Promised Land, and the Christian world saw Israel through the tinted glasses of the Old Testament. Surrounded on all sides by Arabs who do not want the Jews in Israel, the nation has never truly been at peace and it is in this section of the book that Friedman shows just how difficult peace in the region is.
Washington is the end of the book and Friedman ties several things together. There was a very clear progression from Beirut to Jerusalem as Friedman was transferred over to Jerusalem, but at the same time I felt that Friedman presented enough material that I could begin to understand the context of Jerusalem. Thomas Friedman presents his thoughts on how diplomacy could possibly work for the Israelis and the Palestinians (using the Egypt/Israel peace as a model), and also further explains just how complex the relationships are in the Middle East. We get to see the attempts of the United States to broker peace deals, and how these succeeded and failed, and in some cases, why. Friedman discusses the role the United States does play, and perhaps should play in the region (at least as it affects Israel and Palestine).
This is an absolutely fascinating book. Obviously, this should be used as a primer on the subject and if one feels interested, should lead into further research into the region, but this was a very informative and interesting book and while I was confused at times by the complexity of the situation and shocked at the enormity of the problem, I also felt that I read a valuable book on the region. I thought this was an excellent book and it should belong on any "must read" list for books on the Middle East.
le 21 juillet 2003
First published in 1989, this book provides you a strong foundation in understanding the Middle East current issues. The author explains how the French and the British in the 1920s created a set of countries after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire that represented no more than lines in the sand. Often these lines contradicted the ethnicity, and religious affiliations of the affected populations.
The French created Syria, and Lebanon. Syria was predominantly Muslim. And, so was Lebanon. But, the French installed a Christian minority in power in Lebanon who had a stronger affiliation with the French than the other groups. The majority of the Lebanese population were Muslims split between Sunnis and Shiites. Both the Sunnis and the Shiites would have preferred joining the Muslims in neighboring Syria, but had no say in the matter. The much faster demographic growth of the Muslims caused rising tension and ongoing violence with the Christian minority lead government.
Additionally, the Sunnis and the Shiites were often at war with each other. So, it is not like Islam is one unified monotheist religion at peace with itself. Instead, it is a very fragmented religion. It is undergoing the equivalent of the Reformation era that Christianity suffered 400 years ago when Catholics and Protestants were killing each other over minute difference in interpretation of the same religion.
As we know, the story of Israel is even more explosive than Lebanon. In 1921, the British carved out the former Palestine division of the Ottoman Empire into two. The Eastern half became Jordan, and the Western half became a contested territory between Palestinian Arabs and Zionist Jews. An ongoing migration of European Jews until and after the end of WWII caused a rising tension between the two groups. This turned into ongoing violent civilian unrest that the British could not control anymore. The Brits left, and the UN took over. In 1947, the UN declared a formal partition of the territory into a Palestinian State (West Bank, Gaza) and a Jewish State. The Zionist Jews declared Israel statehood in 1948. A day later all neighboring countries immediately attacked Israel. But, Israel held its own. While Egypt took over the Gaza District, and Jordan annexed the West Bank. In 1967, a second war erupted and Israel expanded its territory and occupied West Bank and Gaza District. The tension between Arabs and Jews has not abated since.
The tension between Israelis and Palestinians has lasted over 80 years. After reading this book, you realize how difficult a sustainable peace resolution is. Tribal politics are prevalent throughout the region, and lead to a winner take all mentality. Negotiations and diplomacy are skills that are not utilized much in this region. Thomas Friedman gives you a sense that the "Land for Peace" motto so promoted in the West is actually utopic. There has been many "Land for Peace" deals offered to the Palestinians during the past couple of decades, but they were always immediately turned down by Arafat and the PLO, and quickly accompanied by a rise in terrorism and suicide bombing. The Muslim Arab World just does not recognize Israel statehood. The Palestinians and their Arab brothers have little interest in sharing land peacefully with Israel in an official Palestinian state. What they really want, is for Israel to get out. Given that this outcome is even more utopic than the "Land for Peace" proposals, this conflict may last much longer.
le 20 mai 2003
In FBTJ Friedman delivers an informative, heartfelt overview of the conflicts in Lebanon and Israel. This easy, enjoyable read can be breezed through like an engrosing novel and leaves the reader with a solid base of understanding on the subject from all points of view. At the very least, those confusing daily media-bites about Israel, The Palestinians, Lebanon and the Middle East will become more meaningful news.
As well as historical and political content, the work contains personal stories which are revealing, touching, and at times very sad, that shed light upon the scope of this conflict. Particularly thought provoking are the stories of the many young foreign idealists who traveled to Israel to contribute peacefully to the mending of relations by working with the youth of both groups. After giving heart and soul to the effort, their hopes are dashed when many of the kids become engulfed whithin the deep-rooted, empassioned conflict during intifada(1988) and they leave the country jaded and heartbroken.
Although no authority on the subject, I believe the critics found here on www.Amazon.com of Friedmans impartiality towards either the Israelis or Palestinians are most likely impartial themselves. Any open-minded reader having not previously taken sides on the many controversial and debatable issues discussed in this book will appreciate and recognize this attempted impartiality. Those with set ideas who do not recieve a reaffirmation of their views will no doubt be disappointed by Friedman and will implore you to read a work which argues their point of view as opposed to one dedicated to impartiality. Don't listen to them. Read this book.
The last chapter, which presents some solutions to the crisis, can easily be criticized but Friedman at least can be commended for his brave, honest, and modest attempt at this. I recommend this book. Enjoy!
le 3 mai 2003
To be succinct, "From Beirut to Jerusalem" is a disappointment. It covers Mr. Freidman's experiences as New York Times and UPI reporter in those fractious Mideast cities. There is no doubt that the author has written a judiciously balanced and fair report. Though a Jew, Freidman is the antithesis of a Zionist. He tries to portray the Arab/Palestinian struggle, though he obviously has a better perspective on the cause of the Israelis. The first half of FBTJ deals with his posting in Beirut and this section is pure gold. Friedman excellently explains the backgrounds of all the fractious religious and political factions that tore Lebanon apart. Beirut was a true combat zone during his stay. Life was dangerous. Danger and death were random. We read in shock as his very apartment house is blown up- by a fellow tenant, no less! He fully and I believe, accurately reports Israel's disastrous excursion into southern Lebanon and the suicide attack on the U.S. Marine compound in 1983. And then? And then the author is transferred to Israel. While the first part of FBTJ is clearly written with a beginning, middle and end, the second half is a hodge podge. The Israel portion jumps around, repeats itself and spins back again with no continuity at all. This reviewer strongly suspects that two different editors worked on FBTJ. The one with talent handled the Beirut half. Moreover, FBTJ is sadly out of date. My version ended ten years ago-a veritable eternity for that part of the world. Hopefully, updated versions available. Finally, this reviewer's pet peeve came home to roost. The MAPS are of negative use! In a region where geography is so vital how can any responsible author or publisher be so careless? The bottom line is that FBTJ is a financial success but an artistic failure. I fear the author is far more talented at short, focussed newspaper columns written under pressure of deadline than the longer fare of FBTJ.