A Concise History of the Middle East, Book Review

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_x0093_A Concise History of the Middle East_x0094_, 9th release is a novel written simultaneously by Goldschmidt Arthur and Lawrence Davidson, with 555 pages in total. The book was published in the USA by Westview publishing house, a Persian Book Group member. _x0093_A Concise History of the Middle East_x0094_ is a book about the history of the Middle East, displaying a vivid picture of early Islam all the way to the modern age of this region. It's recommended to anyone who may be interested in the history of the Middle East.

Principal Arguments

The writers' main intention was to create a concise summary of Middle Eastern countries' combined history in isolation and correlation with each other. Apart from being an escapade of the mind requiring consideration, specifically after chapter 11, it also looks at the gratitude of the Western customs to the evolution of Islam. Notably, the authors' general tone remains abound with prejudice construal, which warrants particular admiration in the politically burdened Orientalism field.

A short clarification of the transformations of the analysis unit from civilization to reigns, nations, alongside different issues, together with a brief conjectural description of the knowledge of record is pertinently explored in the first several chapters. Further, by convoluting on tribalism, with a focus on the tribe along with clan of Prophet Mohammad (Quraysh along with Hasbimate), Bedouin traditions as well as principles, and the position of Mecca as the backdrop for additional examination is accomplished in the initial mega-section of the volume (Chapter 3 to 10).

Ideally, the authors write about the early period of the life of Prophet Mohammed, his revelations, hostility to pagans, together with immigration to Medina up to his demise. They further enlist the Islamic philosophies of belief, typically known as the five pillars of Islam. One of such philosophies is Shajada, which is the authentication that no other god exists apart from God Himself and that Mohammad is His herald. The other one is salat, which is a rite prayer to God who is previously testified in the fundamental pillar. Further, the third one is Sarwin, which is fasting at the time of the Ramadhan to comprehend better what is to be poor, among other principles that it bears (Goldschmidt and Lawrence 33-44). The fourth one is Zakat, which is allocating a particular split of earnings for the unfortunate that their life is previously experienced at the time of fasting. The final one is Hajj, which is the pilgrimage for confederacy with the entire Muslim faith (Goldschmidt and Lawrence 33-44).

Together with the five pillars mentioned above, the authors also write about other beliefs including jihad, which is the fight according to God_x0092_s way, exhortation, sexual associations, and exhilarating liquor (Goldschmidt and Lawrence 45). The book concludes that Islam is more than a conviction, but also a lifestyle. Accordingly, the declaration becomes the decisive jingle utilized in opposition to Islamism (ideologically as well as politically loaded Islam), all through the book. The muddled antagonism alongside fleeting friendship among the Arab Muslims after Prophet Mohammad_x0092_s bereavement is also discussed in the book. Accordingly, the religious distinctiveness of Arabs fortified them until the passing of the spiritualist.

In summary, the extensively highly praised text has been lengthily modified to mirror the most current erudition as well as the most current proceedings in the Middle East (Goldschmidt and Aomar 4). Correspondingly, as a preface to the narration of this unstable area, from the early stages of Islam to the current day, the book is differentiated by its comprehensible style, expansive scope, alongside impartial statement. As such, the author is trying to illustrate the progression of Islamic institutions together with culture, the West's influence, the modernization attempts of the governments in the Middle East, the struggle for opinionated autonomy, the root of Israel-Arab divergence, the role of Iran along with Iraq in the post 9/11 Middle East, and more.

Other reviews claim that the authors would have done more analysis of ideas as well as motives in the first chapter of the book. Even though the history part is excellent, it is tedious (Gilbert 101). Though essential in its right, the historiography that digs into probable historical causes, insights, and trends is important, but it comes at the end of the book. Nevertheless, the overviews of Islam alongside contemporary Israeli history were increasingly helpful. Accordingly, the authors rooted the Islamic belief in history and described the manner in which it is currently being practiced (Bard 34). Nonetheless, based on these reviews, one cannot fail to recommend the book to anyone requiring a concise as well as a helpful overview of the Middle Eastern history. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware that the authors have their perspectives on some polarizing subjects, and they are entitled to express them.


The author is specifically biased on numerous issues. Accordingly, belatedness is seen in his handling of the Arab-Israeli variance. In elucidating the source of the conflict, the authors seem to fall of the Jews side of the story more than the Muslim side of it. Even though the Middle East has been an essential item of global diplomatic and political discourse since the First World War, the excellent packaging of the region does not do justice to the complexities of the political problems affecting the nations and people of the area (Matar and Zahera 129). The authors divide the region's issues into several categories among them being the Arab-Israeli inconsistency and the Persian Gulf limiting the comprehension of the entire region. Accordingly, the authors outline the cause of the conflict by explaining that today's disorder has its basis in the order of the post-World War I era.

Notably, as the authors exemplify, the biggest of these issues (the Arab-Israeli conflict) originated from the Balfour Declaration to the Jewish individuals for a national homeland that, in reality, had minimal concerned for the welfare of the Jews. They further indicate that neither Sir Winston Churchill nor Lord Arthur Balfour, the two designers of the post-Ottoman Middle East, had anticipated the devastating outcomes of forcibly establishing a Jewish state in a region confiscated from the Palestinians. Additionally, by responding in an autocratic and arbitrary approach to further its political interests, the British forced European perceptions of national autonomy, which were unsuited with the conventional nomadic as well as tribal backgrounds of the Arab world.

In that connection, the authors seem to be increasingly biased towards Arabs, as they represent the atrocities leading to the conflict as a form of forced concepts to the Arabs. Ideally, the Jews had the right to establish their sovereign state given the differences in their culture and ways of living (Matar and Zahera 203). Moreover, the forced concepts of national autonomy were not only incompatible with the ways of life of the Arab world, but also the Jewish world. In that regard, the concepts influenced everyone in the Middle East, and thus, the conflict did not originate from the surprising outcomes of establishing a Jewish state in a region confiscated from the Palestinians. Nevertheless, it is increasingly hard to determine the source of this bias because the religious status of the authors is not recognized.

On another note, the authors emphasize on the beginnings of the Islamic religion to its current practice and neglect to emphasize on the early days of other faiths in the Middle East. Notably, the region houses various other religions such as Judaism and Christianity (McHugo 110). Neglecting them does not bring out the full picture of analysis of the sources of the problems in the region. In other words, the authors increasingly focus on the Middle East as an area mainly occupied by the Islamic faith, and other religions are insignificant. In light of that, it is increasingly difficult to the reader to understand how these religions have contributed to the transformation of Islam since the time of Prophet Mohammad.

In that regard, the authors would have presented their arguments in a more elaborative manner for easier comprehension. Ideally, they would have mentioned that the rivalry between superpowers (the U.S and the Soviet Union), and the obsession of the U.S with the Soviet Union blinded the U.S to the actuality behind the political dynamics of the region (Mearsheimer and Step 313). Besides, it created an enmity between two schools of thoughts within the political establishment of the U.S. these include the globalist as well as the regionalist.

The globalist strategy was known as the _x0091_Israeli first' policy. The plan emphasized the support of the U.S for the Israeli military pre-eminence in relation to the Arabs, in addition to a U.S-Israeli association as the key to sustaining the region's stability (Nets-Zehngut 112). Accordingly, this was the strategy adopted during the presidency of Nixon with its focus on supporting the status quo rather than attempting to resolve the conflict. On the other hand, the regionalist approach that dealt with the Israelis and the Arabs in an increasingly even-handed way was Carter's presidency hallmark with its focus on a comprehensive settlement of the conflict, including a declaration to the Palestinian issue.

Additionally, resolving one side of the conflict (the Egypt-Israel relations) was the outcome of military conflict as opposed to negotiated settlement as purported by the authors. Accordingly, the attempts by the Nixon administration alongside the diplomatic intransigence of Israel blocked peace consultations and left the Egyptian president devoid of any other alternative but fighting resulting in the Yom Kippur War (Porat 970). Sardonically, it took a fight to attain peace between the two rivals in addition to making the regionalist policies to facilitate a wave of peace that had been scorned by the previous globalist policies.

In regards to the Persian Gulf, the authors underscore the significance of the Middle East to the West since the discovery of oil in the region in addition to its evolution into the economic lifeline of the developed west. As such, the stability and security of the Gulf were overriding. Nevertheless, the authors would have insisted on how the U.S perceived the political developments in the Persian Gulf via the filter of the Cold War (Christison 534). As such, they would have related how the inviting association between Iran and the U.S under the Shah acted as a fortification against the encroachment of the Soviet. Apparently, when the welcoming relation unveiled with Shah's overthrow in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the U.S lost its key client in the Gulf and now, it had to deal with the probable issue of the revolutionary ideology of Iran being exported to the nations in the Gulf in addition to threatening the flow of oil.

These different perspectives would have allowed an easier understanding of the state of the Middle East, in the past as well as presently. Nonetheless, the various omissions of important aspects of the conflict between Arabs and Israelis, alongside the issues of the Gulf nations, limit the understanding of the whole book. Notably, giving a detailed explanation, giving the different perspectives highlighted above, would give the book a rich insight into the issues that have affected and are still affecting the Middle East.


The main aim of the writers was to invent a succinct version of Middle Eastern countries' societal history in isolation as well as in association with each other. Notably, the authors explain the early period of the life of Prophet Mohammed, his revelations, hostility to pagans, together with immigration to Medina up to his demise. Correspondingly, as a preface to the narration of this unstable expanse, from the early period of Islam to the current day, the volume is differentiated by its understandable style, extensive scope, alongside reasonable statement. Nonetheless, the book portrays the Arabs as the people that caused the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Works Cited

Alpher, Joseph. The Future of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Critical Trends Affecting Israel. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2005. Print.

Bard, Mitchell G. The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America's Interests in the Middle East. New York: Harper, 2010. Print.

Christison, Kathleen. Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U.s. Middle Eastern Policy, Updated Edition with a New Afterword. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. Print.

Gerteiny, Alfred G. The Terrorist Conjunction: The United States, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and Al-Qā'ida. Westport, Conn: Praeger Security Internat, 2007. Print.

Gilbert, Martin. The Routledge atlas of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Routledge, 2012.

Goldschmidt Jr, Arthur, and Aomar Boum. A concise history of the Middle East. Westview Press, 2015. Print.

Goldschmidt, Arthur and Lawrence Davidson. A Concise History of the Middle East. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2010. Print.

Matar, Dina and Zahera Harb. Narrating Conflict in the Middle East: Discourse, Image and Communications Practices in Lebanon and Palestine. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013. Print.

McHugo, John. A Concise History of the Arabs. , 2013. Print.

Mearsheimer, J. John and Stephen M. Walt. The Israel Lobby and U.s. Foreign Policy. London: Penguin, 2008. Print.

Nets-Zehngut, Rafi. "The Israeli national Information Center and collective memory of the Israeli-Arab conflict." The Middle East Journal 62.4 (2008): 653-670.

Porat, A. Dan. "It_x0092_s not written here, but this is what happened: Students_x0092_ cultural comprehension of textbook narratives on the Israeli_x0096_Arab conflict." American Educational Research Journal 41.4 (2004): 963-996.

October 25, 2022

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