Yambert, Karl (ed). The Contemporary Middle East: A Westview Reader. Boulder, Colo.; Oxford, Westview Press, 2010.
Anthologies of the Middle East always face the dilemma of focus and comprehension. Compilations that choose focus inevitably exclude some significant countries, topics or periods. Conversely, broader collections lack coherence, impact and analysis. Ideally, wide-ranging compiled works might end as companions or readers, useful for the students and the general public. With its thirty one chapters and 422 pages, The Contemporary Middle East fully claims the choice of comprehension, and consequently, risks inconsistency. Yet, this reader benefits from three elements that tight the chapters together. First, the Middle East is an academic subject of its own, an area study rooted in the discipline of history and continuously supported by tools of political science. Thus, most of the contributors to this book are either historians or political scientists. Second, the chapters are selected from books published by the Perseus Books Group, especially by Westview in the recent years. Third, the editor has done a remarkable work of organization to give the collection a formal continuity.
That being the case, the volume does not fill any gap in our knowledge of the Middle East. It does not attempt to critically examine policies or conventional information on the region. Moreover, in few instances, expertise intermingles with propaganda. This is the case of some chapters on the key issues such the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran and Hezbollah. The book runs another eminent risk; by the incorporation of opposing views and interests on particular policies or perception of specific countries, the anthology might seem confusing at times.
The book is divided into four parts. The first part introduces the reader to the history and background of the Middle East. Colbert C. Held and John Thomas Cummings open authored the first chapter highlight the cultural diversity, differences of language, religion and ethinicity of the region. Next, David L. Long, Bernard Reich, and Mark Gasiorowski analyse the Middle East, its political systems and its geopolitics. In the third chapter, Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr. and Lawrence Davidson explore the roots of what they call "Arab bitterness", in the West's policies towards Arab nationalism.
The second part comprises twelve chapters that discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although this issue is essential to...