Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace

Article excerpt

Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace. By Avi Shlaim. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2008. 723 pp. $35.

Shlaim, a Baghdad-born Israeli and professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, has written a substantial biography of King Hussein of Jordan. Lion of Jordan represents a hagiography of the "plucky little king," who led his country for almost fifty years through peace and war.

Shlaim's biography would carry more weight if it included some criticism of Hussein. It would have been better if the word "lion" had not appeared in the title, as if produced by the king's private office. His obvious admiration for King Hussein severely hampers his ability to provide his readers with a more balanced and critical biography.

Further, the book's authority is undermined by Shlaim's obsessive criticism of Israel. For example, when Shlaim examines the September 1970 Jordanian civil war and mentions that some 3,400 Palestinians may have died, he refrains from criticizing the Jordanian king for ordering the crackdown on the Palestine Liberation Organization. Instead, Shlaim states that King Hussein acted with "courage and decisiveness" to "defend his rule against the combined Palestinian-Syrian challenge. …

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