Middle East Books
Searchable Book Database - Click here to find books by topic, country or title
This page links to detailed bibliographies for each country in the Middle East as well as topical bibliographies about religions and sects, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, women and other special topics. In addition to the searchable database, we provide some short lists of recommended books about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, about Islam and the history of the Middle East and Iraq, and links to other bibliographies.
Your suggestions and reviews are welcome. The list is meant to provide a broad and balanced spectrum of views
The listings below together cover all current MidEastWeb book listings with some overlap.
Israel and Palestine -andate Palestine
Women in Judaism
If a book is in the list or data base, it does not necessarily mean MidEastWeb thinks it is a good book. For those seeking other bibliographies, there are links below to smaller and more specialized ones in English. This listing does not include many valuable sources in Hebrew or Arabic or any periodicals.
Do not take information in any book at face value and be sure to read opposing views and especially, read primary source documents where possible.
Note - The books listed below are only a small sample of the books in the data base - use the searchable data base or individual topic pages to find books quickly by topic, author title, country or period.
Click here to find books by topic, country or title
As a first bibliography, a very small number of books are listed below for:
Islam and the Arabs
Ben-Ami, Shlomo, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli Arab Tragedy, Oxford University Press, 2006.- This book is must reading for anyone interested in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under the Barak administrations, because Ben-Ami was a major protagonist. Don't learn about the history of the conflict or about statistics or numerical details from this book however, as there are numerous blatant errors due to carelessness in editing or ignorance.
Bregman, Ahron and Jihan El-Tahri, Israel and the Arabs, An Eyewitness account of War and Peace in the Middle East, NYC, TV Books, 1998. Based on the BBC/PBS TV documentary prepared for Israel's 50th anniversary, this book provides unique first-person interview materials. It is also unique because it is edited by an Israeli and an Arab who agreed about the content. Because of the nature of the approach - a TV documentary, the book provides a series of close-up vignettes rather than an exhaustive or scholarly history.
Chacour, Elias, Blood Brothers, Chosen Books, 1984.A Galilee priest tells of his fight for brotherhood and coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis.
Carter, Jimmy, Palestine peace not apartheid, Simon & Schuster, 2006.The former US President spoils a compelling case for peace by numerous factual errors, glaring omissions, careless use of language and extravagant claims. You will "learn" from this book, inter alia, that Lebanese leaders are neutral between Israel and Syria, and that Transjordan was carved from a remote desert region of the British Mandate. You might then be surprised to find from other sources that Lebanon has been at war with Israel since 1948, and that Transjordan constituted about 72% of the area of the British Mandate for Palestine. Carter gives no sources for his fantastic assertions. This may be the only book that many Americans read about the Middle East, which is a pity.
Collins, Larry and La Pierre, Dominique, O Jerusalem, Touchstone Books, 1988.Gripping history that covers mostly the 1948 struggle for Jerusalem.. It is told with a distinct pro-Israel bias, but you will have trouble putting this book down no matter what your convictions, and it will help you understand a key issue in the conflict.
Gelber, Yoav, Palestine 1948 War, Escape and the Emergence of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, Sussex, 2000. Gelber provides valuable insight into the actual origins of the Palestinian Refugee problem in a book that is neither "Zionist narrative" or "Palestinian narrative" but rather an attempt to understand and write history. This book sheds more light than heat, and is a refreshing and enlightening relief for those who have had enough of tendentious "just so"narratives and one sided polemics. An important book from an Israeli historian who should get more recognition abroad.
Golan Galia, Israel and Palestine: Peace Plans and Proposals from Oslo to Disengagement, Princeton N.J., Markus Wiener, 2006.An in depth discussion of the peace plans.
Harsgor, M. and Stroun M. Israel-Palestine: L'Histoire au-dela des mythes, Editions Metropolis, 1996 (also published in Hebrew by Givat Haviva 1997).If you can read Hebrew or French, this comprehensive and moderate book will give you a wealth of information about the Palestine-Israel conflict from a dovish Zionist standpoint.
Herzl, Theodore, The Jewish State, Dover Publications, 1989.Online Downloadable Book This little pamphlet was written by Theodore Herzl to help popularize the Zionist movement. It is available as a free downloadable e-book at MidEastWeb. It is essential reading to understand the mindset of the father of political Zionism.
Kaufman, Edy, Salem, Walid and Juliette Verhoeven, eds. Bridging the Divide: Peacebuilding in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lynne Reinner, London and Bolder, CO, 2006.This volume of essays provides a valuable history of peace efforts and a listing of peace groups that should make it an essential reference for anyone interested in Israeli-Palestinian peace. Scholarly and distinguished contributors including Tamar Hermann, Walid Salem, Edy Kaufman, Mohammed Dajani, Gershon Baskin, Menachem Klein and Riad Malki make this a creditable joint effort. A systematic timeline and explanation of events and meetings that are not well known would have improved the value of this book for the average reader, and it could have benefited from less professional jargon of the social sciences. More seriously, unevenly edited contributions, and occasional polemics and distortion of facts and confusion between civil society groups, peace groups, and actual terrorist groups mar what should have been a wonderful and praiseworthy effort. It is not the best book about people to people peace efforts that could have been written but it is the only one we've got now.
Kimmerling, Baruch and Migdal, Joel S, The Palestinian People: A History, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2003.This book is a valuable summary of the conflict as it evolved from the Palestinian side. However, it bears evidence of a conscious and tendentious attempt to create a retrospective Palestinian identity, and is noticeably colored by political opinion. A Palestinian view of this book: "This remarkable book recounts how the Palestinians came to be constituted as a people. The authors offer perceptive observations on the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel, the successes and failures of the Oslo process, and the prospects for both Palestinians and Israelis of achieving a peaceful future together. A dispassionate and balanced analysis that provides essential background for understanding the complexities of the Middle East." Rashid Khalidi, University of Chicago.
Laquer, W. and Rubin, B. The Israel-Arab Reader, Penguin, 1995.Basic source documents in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Lewis, Bernard, The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years, Touchstone Books, 1997. Lewis is a highly regarded scholar and authority on Islam in the US. This account is essential for putting events in the Middle East into perspective.
Morris, Benny, 1948: A History of the First Arab Israeli War Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2008. This book by the dean of Israeli history of that period goes a long way toward providing an authoritative and balanced history of the crucial war of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is not perfect, but it is comprehensive, and it is reasonably conscientious history, as opposed to "narrative" or "faction." Morris doesn't admit his earlier distortions, but he does correct many of them, as well as addressing some of the other weeds that have been planted in this historical field. For a long review see Benny Morris: 1948 - A book that can make a difference.
Morris, Benny, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, Cambridge University Press, 1987.This book documents the role of the Israeli government and leadership in helping to create the Palestine refugee problem. It is not kind to Israel and Zionism, and it fails to set the context of the actions against the background of the Arab and Palestinian attempt to dismantle Israel and expel its Jewish inhabitants - a fault remedied in Righteous Victims. However, it is so clearly the objective work of a professional historian that it must be accepted as basically factual whatever your sympathies. Morris's own conclusions are unfortunately contradictory. On one page he seems to be declaring that Arabs were expelled, according to a plan. On the next page he claims there was no plan, and that most of the Arabs left of their own accord for a variety of reasons, as though he has not made up his own mind about the evidence. Morris's research formed the basis for numerous "Post-Zionist" histories critical of Israel. Most of these are derivative polemics that achieve their aims by selective quotes. It is worth reading the original if you want the truth.
Morris, Benny, Righteous Victims : A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999, Knopf, 2000. A balanced and readable history of Israeli-Palestinian relations, from which partisans of either side will draw their own conclusions, and those who seek truth will find that it is complicated and illusive. Morris documents the subjugation and humiliation of Jews under Islam, the miserable state of Palestine under Turkish rule, the plans by Zionists to force Arab immigration, the Nazi associations of the Mufti, the perfidy of the British against both sides, the flight and expulsion of Palestinian Arabs, and the history of each war. If you are going to read one book about the Israel-Palestine conflict, read this one.
Oren, Michael, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, Oxford University Press, 2002. This book has won praise from both friends and foes of Israel, and is probably the best history of the war to date. "Michael Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, deserves credit for producing the most detailed, the most comprehensive and by far the best-documented history that we have on this short but fateful war...Throughout the book, Oren uses the full panoply of sources in four European languages, Hebrew and Arabic. He is one of the first writers to take advantage of the thousands of official documents that were recently declassified under the 30-year rule. The products of this prodigious archival research, and of the interviews that Oren conducted with about 60 policy-makers, are used to very good effect. The result is a fast-moving and action-packed narrative that sheds a great deal of new light on all the major participants in the war and on the conflict and cooperation between them." Avi Shlaim in The Guardian http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,728941,00.html
Rabinovitch, Itamar, Waging Peace : : Israel and the Arabs, 1948-2003, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2004 - A veteran Israeli negotiator gives his perspective on peace negotiations since 1948. Surprisingly, this is not a "Blame the Arabs" book. This book by a veteran diplomat who was inside the negotiations and gives a broad historical perspective has to be at least as valuable as Clayton Swisher's vaunted account. Click for reviews and purchase information.
Ross, Dennis, The Missing Peace : The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, N.Y. 2004.Ross's account of the failed negotiations is required reading for everyone interested in the Middle East Peace Process and America's role in it. Ross's insights about the culpability of different Middle East leaders - and he spares no-one - are valuable. However, reading between the lines, Ross's account makes it clear that the entire peace process had become a show that might fool American audiences, but which shied away from facing the major of issues of concern to Israelis and Palestinians. Ross has published, for the first time, the closest thing we have to definitive maps of the American compromise offers to the Palestinians and Syrians. Ross's maps should abolish the "bantustans" myth forever. Not least, this book is valuable for its history of the conflict, which provides a bit of perspective for the novice sets the scene for those with more knowledge. Click here for MidEastWeb review Click here for other reviews and purchase information.
Rubin, Barry, The Truth about Syria, Palgrave MacMillan, 2007 - Rubin explains the unpleasant truth about Syria, taking us inside a mini-Soviet regime. Syra's rulers don't want peace or prosperity. They want to be rich and to stay in power. Review: Truth About Syria Amazon Reviews and Purchase Information
Sachar, Howard M. A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.A comprehensive overview of the subject, told from the Zionist point of view. A good reference, but too detailed and compendious for casual reading by most.
Said, Edward, The Politics of Dispossession, Random House, 1994.Professor Said was probably the most able and distinguished spokesman of the Palestinian cause. This collection of essays presents his positions regarding Israel and the Palestinians, as well as his differences over the years with Palestinian leadership.
Scham, Paul, Walid Salem and Benjamin Pogrund - Shared Histories - A Palestinian-Israeli dialogue, Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek Calif, 2005 - This superb book was generated by the simple premises that pervade the approach of MidEastWeb as well: listen to both sides of the stories; history cannot be ignored in resolving the conflict. Those who think that this approach will produce bland rubbish or euphemistic generalizations will be disabused. The leaders and participants of this project have managed to produce a serious and constructive dialogue between working historians that really does present major facets of the history of Palestinian Arabs and the Zionist movement from many facets. Regardless of whether or not you agree with every word, this book is a joy to read and offers interest and information on every page for both beginners and professional historians.
Segev, Tom, One Palestine, Complete, Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt, N.Y. 2000.An important book for those who want to understand the British Mandate and the development of Jewish-Arab relations in Palestine. Segev missed a chance to write a definitive history, and instead provides us with "the flavor" of the mandate period. Of interest is his insight that the Jewish state came into being despite the Holocaust, rather than because of it. This is a typically Israeli view and is probably justified by history, but it is probably not the accepted view elsewhere. The Amazon reviewer who remarked that it is all trees and no forest may not be far from the truth, but Segev's personal glimpses tell us things about the Mandate that we would not learn otherwise. At $12 in paperback, this book is worth buying. Click here for reviews and purchase information.
Shlaim, Avi, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, W W Norton & Company; 1999.This book will complement the account in "Righteous Victims." It should not be the first book you read though. Shlaim has written the book to back a "post-Zionist" view of history, and his accounts are not always objective.
Swisher, Clayton, The Truth About Camp David : The Untold Story About the Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process, Thunder's Mouth, Nation Books, 2004. Swisher's book is too narrowly focused on the last period of the negotiations, when the die had been cast more or less, and too interested in vilifying Ehud Barak to find the truth. People forget too easily that Camp David was the end of the process not the beginning. Swisher, who is fairly young, seems to think the entire Middle East, and certainly the peace process, began its existence in 1999. A book that focuses on the end game is bound to distort history. Still, it is an important counterpoint to Dennis Ross's book, and it is pretty inexpensive, so you ought to read it. $10 for a big fat book is a good deal, and it is valuable as long as you keep your eyes open and don't believe everything you see (as in all cases). Click here for reviews and purchase information.
Tessler, Mark A. A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Indiana Series in Arab and Islamic Studies), Indiana Univ Press, 1994.A reasonably balanced and detailed history that is probably the best at presenting history as each side views it. Readers should be conscious that Tessler has omitted detailed discussion of the crucial 1948 war, which is in my opinion essential for understanding the formative factors of the character of Israel and the thinking of its leaders. Disproportionate emphasis is placed on the Holocaust. There are other faults of omission and commission, as well as some apparent errors of fact and misspellings of Middle Eastern terms. These prevent this book from being a definitive text, though it is apparently being used as such in American universities. However, it is almost readable despite its great volume, and provides numerous statistics and copious maps.
Wasserstein, Bernard, Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City, Yale University Press, 2001.From the NYT Review of books (Amos Elon): Wasserstein shows how, despite all restrictive measures against Palestinians from a demographic point of view, the great effort to "Israelize" the city, the "united" city, is failing. He writes clearly and dispassionately on a theme that has been more cliché-ridden than most and long monopolized by propagandists and hucksters. He rightly assumes that even if the Jordanians had not opened hostilities in June 1967, Israel would probably have been unable to resist the temptation to take East Jerusalem. His book is the most sober and in many ways the fairest description I know of official positions and popular sentiments on both sides between 1967 and 1999.
Weizmann, Haim, Trial and Error, Hamish Hamilton, 1949; Schocken, 1966.Haim Weizmann was instrumental in getting the British government to issue the Balfour Declaration in 1917, was head of the Zionist movement for many years, and the first President of Israel. His autobiography is an essential part of the history of political Zionism up to the creation of the state.
Israel and Palestine Since 1918
Israel/Palestine before 1918
Palestine & Palestinians
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Ajami, Fouad, Dream Palace of the Arabs : A Generation's Odyssey,Vintage, 1999.- An analysis of political change in the Arab world since 1967.
Antonius, Georges, The Arab Awakening, the Story of the Arab National Movement, Hamish Hamilton, 1945. A respected classic.
Darwish, Adel and Gregory Alexander, Unholy Babylon: The Secret History of Saddam's War, London, Diane, 1991.This fascinating book documents how the Saddam Hussein monster was created, and how the West, including the US encouraged his aggression until it was too late.
Esposito. John L.,The Islamic Threat : Myth or Reality? (Third Edition) 1999. Esposito examines radical Islam and concludes that it is not a threat to democracy or the West.
Hourani, Albert, A History of the Arab Peoples, Harvard University Press, 1991.A respected classic.
Lewis, Bernard,The Arabs in History , Oxford University Press, 1993, 2002 Amazon This classic study by one of the world's premier historians of the Middle East considers the achievement of the Arab peoples and their place in world history, from pre-Islamic times to the present-day. Maalouf, Amin and Rotchschild, Jon, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, Schocken Books, 1989. Amazon
Saad-Ghorayeb, Amal - Hisbu'llah: Politics Religion, Pluto, 2002. A guide to understanding the Lebanese Shi'a religious-political-terrorist group that got the IDF to leave Lebanon, and to understanding the religion and politics behind the Iranian Shi'a revolution.
Telhami, Shibley,The Stakes: America and the Middle East, Westview Press, 2002.
Tibi, Bassam,The Challenge of Fundamentalism: Political Islam and the New World Disorder, University of California Press, 1998, 2002. Amazon Written by a devout Muslim, this book is essential reading for anyone who still has any illusions that radical Islamist fundamentalism can coexist with, or evolve into democracy, and for anyone who confuses Islam with political Islamist fundamentalism.
Islam-Middle Ages & Ottoman
Islam Today and Islamism
Middle East and North Africa
Countries of the Middle East
Note - The above are only a small sample of the books in the data base
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RECENT BOOKS ABOUT IRAQ
Braude, Joseph, The New Iraq: Rebuilding the Country for Its People, the Middle East and the World, NYC, Basic Books, 2003. ISBN: 0465007880 Buy-Review This currently popular book offers a vision for rebuilding Iraq.
Butler, Richard and James C. Roy, The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Crisis of Global Security, NYC, Public Affairs, 2001. ISBN: 1586480391Buy-Review Former UN inspector Butler explains the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction that Iraq is supposedly developing.
Cordesman, Anthony, After the Storm, Boulder, Westview Press, 1993.Documents the after-effects of Gulf Storm.
Darwish, Adel and Gregory Alexander, Unholy Babylon: The Secret History of Saddam's War, London, Diane, 1991.This fascinating book documents how the Saddam Hussein monster was created, and how the West, including the US encouraged his aggression until it was too late. It has been reprinted several times and remains the classic book about the war.
Hamza, Khidir, Saddam's Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man Who Built Iraq's Secret Weapon, NYC, Touchstone Books, 2001. ISBN: 0743211359Buy-Review Khidir Hamza claims he was in charge of the Iraqi nuclear program, and details Saddam's plans to acquire nuclear weapons. His credentials have been challenged by some, but he makes a very convincing case.
Kristol, William and Lawrence F. Kaplan, The War over Iraq: Saddam's Tyranny and America's Mission, NYC, Encounter Books, 2003. ISBN: 1893554694The neoconservative case for US intervention in Iraq.
Pitt, William Rivers and Scott Ritter, War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, NYC, Context Books, 2003. ISBN: 1893956385Buy-Reviews Former UN inspector Scott Ritter claims in this book that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. If you want the opposite opinion, read his other book instead.
Ritter, Scott, Endgame: Solving the Iraq Crisis, NYC, Simon and Schuster, 2002. ISBN: 0743247728.Buy-Reviews Former UN inspector Scott Ritter claims in this book that Iraq has developed weapons of mass destruction, and that decisive action is required before it is too late.
Solomon, Norman et. al. Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You, NYC, Context Books, 2003. ISBN: 1893956393Buy-Reviews A recent and popular book that makes the case against intervention in Iraq.
Tripp, Charles, History of Iraq, London, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002.This recent history of Iraq is quite popular.
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Note - The above are only a small sample of the books in the data base
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