Reviews

A View from the Eye of the Storm; Terror and Reason in the Middle East by Haim Harari

Wesley Burnett

The book turns into one of the three basic types of literature dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the pro-Israeli diatribe.


A View from the Eye of the Storm

Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 222
Subtitle: Terror and Reason in the Middle East
Price: $24.95
Author: Haim Harari
US publication date: 2005-04
Amazon affiliate
Amazon

Haim Harari, a prominent physicist, is an Israeli whose roots in the Holy Land go back six generations. He begins his book with the proposition that something has gone fundamentally wrong among the Arabs and that Israel, though a convenient scapegoat, isn't responsible for all of it. The problem, he says, is that a substantial proportion of the Arab population has gone mad and plunged the world into what could soon become the Third World War, if it isn't that already.

With this as his start, I had hopes of something new, but alas it didn't happen. The book turns into one of the three basic types of literature dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the pro-Israeli diatribe. The other types are the pro-Arab diatribe and the supposed factual, balanced assessment. This third type is generally irrelevant because nobody agrees on or cares much about the facts. It's emotions that matter. As a man of science, Harari assures us he'll reason with the facts. But out of kindness, he'll spare us the nuisance of documenting those facts. And at that point the reader has reason to get nervous.

Harari admits that Israel has made a few mistakes and done some bad things. But, it's generally good, generous, wise and pure even if the rest of the world reviles it. The UN is a let-us-hate-Israel club, and the press universally misrepresents the truth about Israel.

He's not entirely wrong. Nobody can accuse the UN of being pro-Israeli though America's extreme right wing often does exactly that. The English language edition of Al-Jazeera and such western oriented on-line newspapers as the Jordanian Times are certainly and predictably anti-Israeli though they maintain a modicum of sanity. But most Arabs don't read the English language newspapers, and one cringes to think what goes on in Arabic. It would be nice to dismiss that kind of journalism as the ravings of the lunatic fringe, but it isn't, and Harari is right that a constant diet of invective creates a popular culture of hate and paranoia. The subject of Arab fulmination is Israel while America and the West generally are just adjuncts. Or so, until 9-11, we liked think. That day it came home to us that the miscreants really are out to get us, and now we wonder why we didn't catch on sooner. Harari wonders when Europe will catch on at all.

But his accusation that the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune are consistently anti-Israeli simply contradicts experience and intuition. It demands careful documentation. Is it only a couple of stories and an editorial here and there? Or has he evidence of a general conspiracy? I'd like to know how he came to know the facts he claims are true. He's not telling. You have to trust him; he's a man of science. But his evidence is anecdotal and that's not science. He also admits to being angry and well he might be, but an angry man telling anecdotes isn't acting as a scientist, he's acting as an angry man telling anecdotes. They are a dime a dozen.

He really tests our credulity, for example, when he claims that the world media never explained the truth of the April 2002 siege at the Church of the Nativity. Oh? As Harari explains the facts, they accord well with my memory, and my only source would have to be the world press stories of the time since I've had access to no others. A syndicated columnist, Robert Novak, wrote about the Church of the Nativity at the time, and these editorials seem to be the basis of Harari's claim that the world press is out to get Israel. But Harari never mentions Novak. Novak is adamantly anti-Israeli and specializes in dubious reasoning and ambiguous facts. Reading him makes decent people want to take a bath, but Novak is not the same thing as the world press.

So this is another tedious pro-Israeli rant. But that doesn't mean Harari's wrong. Yes, we are dealing with madmen, suicide bombers prove that, and no matter what their legitimate complaint, nothing justifies deluding someone into acting as the trigger of a bomb intending murder and mayhem among children, women and the old. And he's absolutely right that contending with terrorists tests our fundamental concepts of justice and human rights. He's also right that Americans must stop confusing arguments about abortion, tax subsidies to the rich, the Ten Commandments in public places, and evolution in our textbooks with the serious work of killing terrorists and liberating people and countries from the tyrants who provoke terrorism. Nice thought, but he fails to understand that when it comes to religious lunacy, America is an emporium.

Harari tries to be optimistic. Someday the Middle East will be at peace. Why that should be isn't clear since the Holy Land hasn't had a calm day in the last 3000 years, and Lord knows what lies between here and tranquility. I first met the facts in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in college in 1964. The instructor went on to argue that all that history really isn't important because Israel is a reality, the fact that matters. And when all is said and done, the Arabs and Israel need each other too much. So, he argued, it's time to cool it and get on with life. But, damn, 40 years later and they're still at it, and worse than ever.

Maybe Harari's wrong. Maybe there isn't a solution. A problem that can't be reasoned through to an acceptable solution is an anathema to science and the positivism of American popular culture. We don't want to believe such things exist. But this may be one. And the reason is that irrational emotions run so deep that fact and reason really don't carry much weight. Harari may intend to reason with the facts, but like so many authors on the subject, he drowns in the emotions provoked by Israel and Palestine.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.