Book Review “Gaza in Crisis” by Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky

I completed this book yesterday so I figured I would give a review to people who like to read books about the Middle East and Palestine in particular. It takes two prominent authors Ilan Pappe (author of A History of Modern Palestine, the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, etc) and Noam Chomsky (Hegemony or Survival, Manufacturing Consent, etc) to supposedly discuss the history and political situation of Gaza. I put supposedly because it seems the book is overall more about Palestine, US/Israeli policy, and possible ways to pressure the US and Israel than about Gaza itself. Two of the eight chapters deal specifically with Gaza, mostly from 2004-present day. One chapter deals with the issue of a one state solution, another with US involvement in the Palestine question, one referring to the place of the Nakbah in Israeli history, Middle East peace plan, a conversation with the two authors about various subjects, and an overall scene of the area through Chomsky’s eyes.

Now at this point I must be honest, when it comes to Noam Chomsky, I treat him like Wall Street Journal readers treat a Milton Friedman. They may agree with his overall points perhaps 80-85% of the time, but the language he uses is just so repetitive and colloquial based that you would never want to cite him in any research. Noam Chomsky is not a political scientist or a historian, he is a Linguistics professor and innovator. So although his research may be amazing, his words (the first time you read them) shocking and charged, one would be hard pressed to see the man cited by anyone involving the Palestine question. As I know of he only has one book other than this one specifically about the Palestine issue entitled “The Fateful Triangle” from 1983, and a few articles here and there.

Now Ilan Pappe is another issue for he has been writing about the Palestine issue, almost exclusively from the mid 80s onwards. He is the author of around 10 books on the subject and is currently writing or putting out almost 8 more. He has written about the role of the British in 1948, the origins of the conflict, a history of the Husayni family, and about the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine in 1948. Sometimes like any author he comes off rather colloquial but nowhere to the extreme of a Chomsky.

As a person who has read every Pappe book and perhaps 27 or 28 Chomsky books it seems Pappe wanted to do more “Chomsky-speak” than his usual self. Usually in a Pappe book you see hundreds of citations with wide-ranging references and even to my disdain usual a good amount of his own. This book is more dialogue based, which the majority of Chomsky book are, which means less research and more recollection are the basis. This kind of book is full of repetition and not a lot of facts (if one is used to the subject) but can be a nice break from denser reads on Palestine.

I would not recommend this book to beginners or advanced readers on Palestine alike. For the beginner it will give the wrong impression on Palestine research and writing, in addition to assuming a decent basis in the subject. For advanced readers the book could be used as a break to ease the mind but will give little in terms of academic substance and should not be used for research in any way. I would recommend it to 4th year undergraduates in Middle East or 1st year Graduate students in Middle East who have a background, but not enough they could write over 100pgs on a subject.

Overall I would give the book a 6.5/10 because of my background, but I could see how others would rate it higher.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review “Gaza in Crisis” by Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky

  1. dear Mr Whitman,

    as i havent read as many books of both authors i might not be as informed about their style of writing as your are. I do agree about the repetitvness that was clear throughout the book but i still dont believe that it is enough reason to discredit the Authors as you have above, and attack them personally!!!
    This book sheds a light on a very important matter that affects both Palestinians and Jews alike, and how they both had been and still are victims of political schemes to ensure supply of resources and maintanence of power, i do recommend this book to be read by both beginners and advanced readers as for the fact that it will give the advanced readers an insightful look at a certain point of view in regards to the matter. as well as for beginners to provide an incentive to get more informed about the subject and take a stand on whether or not they support what they read.

    1. To each his own. The style to me was just dominated by Chomsky which is a shame because I very much like Pappe’s style of writing hence why I own all his books of date. Chomsky’s research is usually very good but his style is his style of which I got sick of once I stayed with Middle Eastern politics. I am afraid with beginners there are too many assumptions of knowledge of the reader which will polarize them. For advanced I believe it is just too sporadic in its content and not centralized like Pappe books and most good books on the Middle East are. Finkelstein’s last book on Gaza at least gave the reader 40pages of background of Israeli military and political contact with Gaza for example while this had little to none. For intermediates I would recommend it as a filler book, not an academic book to be used in a university. If you just got out of a class(es) on Israel-Palestine, this may be good for you, but beyond that I do not think it offers much to the debate unfortunately. I did and do not wish to attack them personally for I respect both of them for their respective works. Perhaps I just hold them to a higher standard considering both are more than capable of writing a fantastic book about the subject. Pappe’s historical research is phenomenal which Chomsky’s secret document research is the same. Unfortunately there is little of either in the book which is what I personally hoped for. But it is what it is. THanks for commenting.
      Chris Whitman

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