Jeremy Salt, the Unmaking of the Middle East: A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands

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Jeremy Salt, The Unmaking of the Middle East: A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. ISBN 9780520255517.

Jeremy Salt claims that his purpose in writing this book is to inform the general reader about the background to events in the Middle East. He begins his discussion on the assumption that the strategic and commercial issues of certain Western governments have been the cause of confrontations in the Middle East. He dismisses discussions of cultural, civilizational and political differences between the West and the Middle East as no more than justification for Western strategic and economic interests. However in so doing he fails to take into consideration the very factors which help the observer to understand the causes and consequences of events as they unfold. Furthermore much historical information is left out so that what comes across is a very one-sided view, most evidently in his treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The purpose is to leave no doubt in the mind of the reader that the West, in particular Britain and the US, is the cause of aggression.

In the first chapter the author provides an extensive overview on the debates on civilizational differences. He takes great issue with the term "clash of civilizations," used by Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington to describe the cultural and religious differences between Muslims and the West in particular. The chapter concludes that Huntington's use of the term "Islam's bloody borders" is untrue. In Huntington's view the Muslim manner of dealing with the "clash of civilizations" is, more often than not, to resort to violence. Salt then continues to give a descriptive account of the relations between the West and Middle Eastern countries with the sole purpose it seems of proving that it is in fact Britain and the United States that are the cause of military conflict.

Salt begins his narrative with a description of how the actions of the European powers led to the downfall of the Ottoman Empire. He gives a lot of detail of the suffering and casualties of Muslims during the First World War and the conflicts leading to the Great War. Attention is then turned to the settlement of Jews in Palestine and the development of hostilities between Jews and Palestinians. It is in this section that the bias is most apparent. He asserts that Britain lacked a susceptible minority in Palestine, "so Britain created one by fostering Zionist settlement". Anyone with any knowledge of modern Jewish history would immediately be aware of the absurdity of this statement.

The distortions are too numerous to elaborate in this review. It is only possible to give a couple of examples. At one stage Salt provides detailed figures on Jewish immigration from the 1920s through to the 1940s. He does note that the numbers increased markedly after the National Socialist party came to power in Germany, but he gives no explanation for the Jews' departure from Europe. The point of the documentation of the growth in population is to explain the anger of the Arab population. Of course this gives only a part of the picture. The statistics have no meaning without an explanation of the displacement of these Jews and of the antisemitism which led to the Holocaust. …