Scoop Review of Books

Scoop Link: Review – Side by Side – Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine by Jim Miles

Side by Side – Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine. Ed. Sami Adwan, Dan Bar-On, Eyal Naveh. New Press, New York, 2012.

Reviewed by Jim Miles
Full Review: Review – Side by Side: Israel and Palestine | Scoop News

This is an intriguing work of historical writing. For the parameters that it has set itself it succeeds. It is written as would be expected with both sides choosing their words carefully as descriptive words and active verbs can influence the perceptions of the reader. It is a good primer text for the situation in Palestine/Israel, but there is much more material that can extend both these narratives by providing much more detail and more importantly, more context.

Parallel lines never meet.

In an issue as critical as this, where the choice of words, perhaps the choice of a definitive article (the) can shape the course of events, the choice of title is perhaps equally important. Did the editors purposely choose the title word parallel in order to indicate that these two stories lie side by side but will never meet? Or was it more a choice indicating that the stories have a long storied past and will continue to have a long storied future? Both?

More correctly, having read many dozens of books on both sides of the issue, the story lines presented here are not truly parallel, never meeting, but could be much more accurately described as tessellated, or more commonly presented as a jig saw puzzle. The information presented in both stories is not aggressive, it is not challenging, there are no contradictions (perhaps the colouring of perceptions as mentioned above as one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist), no antagonism, no confrontation.

The two stories are highly complementary and could be melded together, fitted together in a tessellation – shaped brick work to make a single sidewalk – or more fittingly, the irregular shapes of a jig saw puzzle that when arranged correctly form a single picture. It might be difficult for someone new to this information to see how they can be fit into a whole, but the writing has been carefully enough worded that each narrative can fit within – can fulfill – the other.

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