by David Hirst - £14.99 Faber and Faber (2011)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780571237425 | ISBN 10: 0571237428
A magisterial history of Lebanon and the Middle East, from the end of Ottoman rule to the Hizbullah and Hamas wars of today, by David Hirst, the veteran Middle East journalist and author.
‘Beware of small states’, wrote the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, of nineteenth-century Europe: they are the victims of greater states, yet a source of danger to them too. Lebanon - a country no bigger than Wales, chequerboard of competing sects, crossroads of East and West - might almost have been designed to be the ‘small state’ of the Middle East. It is the battleground on which the region’s greater states pursue their strategic, political and ideological conflicts - conflicts that sometimes escalate into full-scale proxy wars.
With extraordinary skill and lucidity, Hirst charts the intricate interplay between a uniquely complex country and its geopolitical environment through all the broad historical experiences of the modern Middle East: the transition from Ottoman Turkish rule to European colonial domination; the loss of Palestine to the settler-state of Israel, and the wars and ceaseless violence that followed; the pan-Arab nationalist idea, the struggle for independence and the revolutionary seizures of power that it inspired; and, with the failure of nationalism, the rise of fundamentalist Islam, begetter of Hizbullah and Hamas, that is pre-eminent today.
For Hirst, this history of Lebanon is also a history of the whole Middle East, and, above all, of the central drama - the Arab-Israeli conflict - which has plagued it for nearly a century.
(Price & availability last checked: March 2019)