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Exclusive Book & Movie Reviews: Little Help for Israel Why Blame Israel? The Facts Behind the Headlines. By Neill Lochery. Totem Books, 2005. 208 pages, $14.95

by Mitchell Bard

Publishers continue to crank out books on the Middle East without regard for whether the authors add anything to the public’s understanding. This book exemplifies the problem as it is yet another chronology of events with no original research or insights. Worse, it is badly written, jumping from descriptions of historical events to more contemporary incidents. Chapter 1 typifies Lochery’s scattershot approach, jumping from the 2000 Camp David summit to a discussion of Jerusalem to a skimpy history of Zionism to a review of the mandatory period. Some digressions are bizarre; for example, his discussion of the Suez campaign meanders into a commentary on statements made by Tony Blair’s wife about suicide bombers.

Lochery apparently knows little about U.S. Middle East policymaking, offering a number of generalizations and devoting a disproportionate amount of space on events such as Ronald Reagan’s visit to Bitburg that had nothing to do with Israel.

In jumping through history, Lochery also makes analogies between events and leaders that seem inappropriate, dubious, or outright wrong. For example, he suggests that King Abdullah of Jordan was unable to make peace with Israel for reasons similar to those that led to the failure of the negotiations in 2000. Lochery says the problem was that Abdullah “was not in a strong enough position to be able to force a deal through” and that Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were “in a similar boat.” Abdullah may not have been strong enough to make peace, but he was assassinated before he was really tested. Barak was absolutely prepared to make a deal with Arafat and offered the Palestinians almost everything they said they wanted. Arafat’s refusal to accept Barak’s offer had nothing to do with his authority; he was simply unwilling, Dennis Ross has said, to end the conflict.

Lochery concludes with a series of standard prescriptions for making peace. Overall, the reader is likely to be more confused than enlightened after reading this book.

Sources: Mitchell Bard is the AICE Executive Director