Fallen Pillars: U.S. Policy Towards Palestine and Israel Since 1945
By Donald Neff. Institute for Palestine Studies, 1995, 350 pp. List: $15.00; AET: $10.00.
Reviewed by Andrew I. Killgore
For readers of the Washington Post, there is a simple rule for picking out books on the Middle East that are or are not worth reading.
Simply apply the "opposite test." If the Post says a Middle East-related book is good, it's bad. If the Post says it's bad, it's good. Admittedly, the "opposite test" will not be as easy to apply for those who did not experience it firsthand in Baghdad in the mid-1960s where the concept originated.
The governments of Iraq were so perverse in those days that all of their pronouncements were deemed by experienced Iraqis to be fake. For example, an official statement that current imports of medicines, coordinated by official committees, were sufficient for all of Iraq's needs was considered by alert Iraqis as confirmation that even such basics as aspirin were unavailable. Or, an announcement that prison sentences of dissident Kurds had been commuted meant that new arrests had been made.
The Washington Post's review of Fallen Pillars, Donald Neff's fourth book on modern Middle Eastern history, says it is "biased, tendentious, selectively constructed and generally misleading." In short, not worth looking at. But confirming the "opposite test," Fallen Pillars is none of these things. Rather, it is comprehensive, detailed, dispassionate, determinedly honest, fearless, and overall, the history of American policy toward Palestine and Israel over the past half-century.
Neff clears away confusing Middle East underbrush by demonstrating simply that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulted from the steady pressure of (Jewish) immigrants struggling not just to share, but to displace the local majority (Palestinian Arab) population from Palestine, and that all else--Cold War competition in the Middle East and the overall Arab-Israel dispute--were derived from that central reality. He demolishes the general misperception so assiduously propagated by Israel and its Jewish nationalist supporters in the United States, that the conflict resulted from aggressive actions by Israel's Arab neighbors.
The Post's "formula" for reviews of Middle East-related books that its editors know they will not like--"non-reviews" is more accurate--requires a Zionist reviewer. Therefore, the reviewer usually is Jewish, never a Muslim and only occasionally a Christian. If none of the facts presented in the book can be refuted, the book's substance has to be ignored.
In the case of the late, great George W. Ball's 1992 book on U.S.-Israeli relations, The Passionate Attachment, oxymoronic "Zionist historian" Walter Laqueur was the reviewer. As one unwilling to acknowledge the validity of any criticism of Zionism, the state of Israel, its leaders, or its international supporters, Laqueur was unable to write anything honest about the book at all. Therefore, this non-review, which did not even pretend to touch on the substance of the book by former Undersecretary of State and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Ball, was an insult to a truly great American statesman, the great majority of Americans who are not obsessed with Israel, and a disgrace to the newspaper itself.
Reviewer of Fallen Pillars Tad Szulc is no Laqueur. Rather he is a respected writer-journalist, and a nice guy. Still, he is obliged, in the narrowly provincial Washington Post manipulative formula, to put down Donald Neff and Fallen Pillars. But Szulc does so unconvincingly and seemingly half-heartedly. For example, he alleges a "propagandistic tone" to Fallen Pillars, but makes little effort to substantiate the charge, much less refute the irrefutable historical facts Neff presents. Instead, Szulc unworthily stresses that Neff's publisher is the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington, DC. This is a "formula" device to denigrate objective truth (pay no attention to what the author says--only plant doubt about why he says it). …