Having just won the American election, one cannot help but wonder if Barack Obama’s doctrine of change will include the continuing plight of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  With the world’s media having clearly been focused on said election campaign, perhaps the world’s leaders will now finally address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Middle East; a stalemate of a situation, which continues to offer nothing other than appalling suffering and inexorable stasis.  

Indeed, many view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as being centrifugal to world stability, which lends Israel, Palestine and Terror a resounding credence, if not credibility, way beyond the release of countless other political proliferations.  

Edited by Stephen Law, the fifteen essays contained herein, are of a fundamentally philosophical persuasion, which, like the subject they address, can make for (occasional) tempestuous reading. So be warned – these essays are loud and dense and opinionated and, as a result, rather inflammatory.  

In the first, ‘Terrorisms in Palestine,’ Ted Honderich nigh immediately asks if: ‘’terrorism now will secure a certain end or one of a range of ends, or will instead be the worst of things – useless killing, useless suffering, useless wrecking of lives.’’  Suffice to say, if one were to ask this question in Tel Aviv, the response(s) would invariably be polar to those, than if the same question were asked in downtown Philadelphia.  

Similarly, Honderich then writes of another contentious issue, which again, if asked in Berlin, would garner an altogether different response than if it were asked in Jerusalem: ‘’A homeland for the Jewish people ought to have been created out of Germany.  It was not the Palestinians who voted for Hitler in a German democracy and then ran the death camps.  It was not the Palestinians who for conclusive reasons […] should have given more than help to the Jews, more than compensation.  It is Germany, beyond question of doubt, out of which a homeland for the Jews ought to have been carved.’’     

The mere fact that this essay is placed right at the beginning of the book, suggests a great deal of philosophical and political shooting from the hip is yet to come.

In ‘Terrorism and Justice: Some Useful Truisms,’ the brilliant, corrosive and effervescent of literary troubadours that is Noam Chomsky, questions whether terror is in fact, the weapon of the weak.  As a result of  ‘hemispheric defence’ having been changed to ‘internal security’ during the 1960s, the writer equates 9-11 with previous American terrorist activities in Columbia and Cuba (under Kennedy), and then Nicaragua during the 1980s (under Reagan):  ‘’It is traditional for states to call their own terrorism ‘counterterrorism,’ even the worst mass murderers: the Nazis, for example.  In occupied Europe, they claimed to be defending the population and legitimate governments from the partisans, terrorists supported from abroad […] The US military had some appreciation of the Nazi perspective: its counterinsurgency programmes were modelled on Nazi manuals, which were analysed sympathetically, with the assistance of Wehrmacht officers.’’

Such high-octane writing is prevalent throughout the book, which makes for both imperative and interesting reading, as the ever influential Tony Benn explains:  ‘’This is a brilliant, timely and important philosophical debate about the meaning and legitimacy of terrorism in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine against the background of history.’’

Should America’s newly elected 44th President only read one book before his inauguration in January, let it be Israel, Palestine and Terror; especially the following (by Ted Honderich): ''The history of Palestine is partly in America, partly in New York, Los Angeles and Washington.  Right or wrong in Palestine is importantly American right or wrong, almost as much by commission as by omission.''

David Marx
Isreal, Palestine and Terror
Edited by Stephen Law
Continuum - £17.99