18 July 2014

Early Review of Mitchell Bard's Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam's Against the Jews

Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam's War Against the JewsDeath to the Infidels: Radical Islam's War Against the Jews by Mitchell G. Bard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mitchell Bard's Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam's War Against the Jews, is an information packed history of the Israeli/Arab conflict. Bard makes the argument that Muslim states, particularly those who are radical will stop at nothing to see Jews wiped from the face of the Earth. I was gripped with the intensity with which the Israeli Jews fear for their lives.

The book is useful; I would have liked a few more sources, especially for those areas speaking against Israel's enemies. I know I can search online, but when I'm in the middle of a book, the last thing I want to do is to go online and get distracted while trying to find some piece of information that I expect to be in a book like this. Bard includes several sources, but there are a few places where he doesn't—and in those places they would do a lot to strengthen his side of the argument. As I pointed out, Bard includes a fair number of sources; a bibliography would facilitate the further study of these issues.

Bard argues that the conflict is at that bottom a religious one rather than a political one. It could be political using religion to carry our its ends. It wouldn't be the first time and that interpretation can be gathered from Bard's book.

I'm reminded while reading Death to the Infidels to try to look at both sides of the issue. When so much smoke and mirror propaganda and spin is being used by both sides of the issue, it's very difficult to know where to stand. From my view, which is not in the thick of it, I can see that both sides have done atrocious things to the other; that many people: soldiers, as well as non-military fighters, as well as civilians not involved in the fighting—innocent men, women, and children have died in this conflict that goes on for so long that media in the West stops covering because it's no longer news.

My heart breaks for the Israeli Jews who just want a homeland and it breaks for the Palestinians who want the same thing. It breaks for all those who are caught in the middle of this religio-political melee.

It's difficult to read/research both sides because each side has its own suffering and each side has its spin-doctors. I tend to agree with what Daniel Gilbert writes in Stumbling on Happiness, “When pro-Israeli and pro-Arab viewers [of news] are shown identical samples of Middle East news coverage, both proponents claim that the fact clearly show that the press was biased against their side” (168). They also claim that the other side started it. Gilbert later writes: “Alas, the only thing these facts clearly show is that people tend to see what they want to see” (168, emphasis in original). Bard has made it easier to see the Jewish side, and the fear that keeps the Israelis from giving in to the demands of the Palestinians.

According to Bard, every time the Israelis have given an inch, the Palestinians have taken a mile and have continued to bring terror in the form of firing rockets and suicide bombings. He makes the point, however, that when Israel fires back in defense, they are reprimanded by other nations. It's also interesting that each side claims that the West, especially the U.S. is aiding the other side: the Palestinians say that the U.S. helps Israel; Israel says the U.S. helps Palestine. Books like Bard's are important; he's not afraid to go against the current “politically correct” flow and to tell it like he sees it. He pulls no punches in saying that those who want Israel's and especially the Jews' demise are not moderate and radical, but should rather be called radical and more radical. He quotes (with sources) several who call for the decimation/annihilation of the Jews even if it takes centuries. Because of the lengths to which these radicals are willing to go, Bard argues, Jews and Israel have a long, hard road ahead of the them.

Bard covers a lot of information in a short book, and all of it is important. Read this if you're interested in this heart-wrenching conflict that has cost so many lives and will cost many more before it's over, if it will /can ever be over. I for one hope (probably foolishly) that Bard is wrong, even a little. Alas, it's not very likely: just look at the new escalation that is in the news right now (18 July 2014).

NOTE: This book is due to be published in September 2014.

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13 July 2014

Review of Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal GrowthThe Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Growth by Miguel Ruiz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A simple, but not simplistic, twist on personal growth and self-help. Several times the author states that is takes a strong will to make and keep these four agreements. The beauty is that they are things that we should be doing anyway.

If you're interested in self-help, personal growth, or just plain, good wisdom, then I recommend this book. But, be careful: you may find yourself making some serious agreements with yourself that will change your life.

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04 July 2014

Review of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, SpyBonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, I enjoyed this biography. As I read/listened to it, I kept trying to connect it to what I know of Church history and history in general from this time. It was fascinating to learn new things about the Nazi party, such as: they started their own Church: Reichskirke (officially: The German Evangelical Church).

Metaxas shows the many sides of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and does an excellent job of bringing the young pastor's internal and external struggles to the reader. Many people played many roles in the stand against Hitler's Nazi party during those years in Germany; it's interesting to see what role those leaders in the Protestant Church (particularly Lutheran) played.

Bonhoeffer and many of his friends and colleagues were punished and killed for their role in the downfall of the Third Reich.

If you're interested in the Lutheran Church, Church History, History before/during WWII, or the role played by the Church during the Nazi Third Reich, this is an interesting place to begin looking at those various topics/subjects.

As always, you'll just have to read it to discover if you'll like it or not.

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31 May 2014

Review of Jorge Luis Borges's A Personal Anthology

A Personal AnthologyA Personal Anthology by Jorge Luis Borges
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of my favorite anthologies. I continue to re-read several of the stories, poems and essays. Borges was a master of the author-identity concept. Many authors attempt to spin an identity separate from the "real" them which is the identity they present to their public, to their readers.

Borges writes that he wants the works in this anthology to be representative of his work; he wants these works to speak for him.

I don't read Spanish, yet, so I can't say how close to the original these translations are, but they are wonderful to read and I imagine are very good.

If you're interested in identity in literature, Latin American literature, influence, or in literature in general, read this. I highly recommend anything by Borges, but like any literature, you have to read for yourself to truly to discover if you will enjoy it. And, with Borges, you should try to read a wide swath of his work, because it varies. That's what makes this a great choice for introduction to his work, it gives a taste of his fiction, poetry and essays (which, you may know are not always non-fiction).

Enjoy!

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A Personal Anthology

25 May 2014

Early Review of Richard Jackson's Confessions of a Terrorist: A Novel

Confessions of a Terrorist: A NovelConfessions of a Terrorist: A Novel by Richard Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Advanced Reader's Copy Review:

The night I began reading Richard Jackson's Confessions of a Terrorist: A Novel, I didn't stop before finishing a third of it, it was difficult to put it down. Part of this is the style, it is written in the format of a Top Secret transcription of an audio or video recording of an interrogation of a MI5 agent and a terrorist/militant. There are no chapter breaks, so it's easy to just keep right on reading and the content makes it hard to simply close it and put it down.

Jackson, with this novel, seeks to shake up his readers' preconceptions and notions concerning those labeled as terrorists by the media. That seems to be one of his few aims: to show that those so quickly tagged as terrorists are human beings, having people they love, who love them; and who want people to hear them. Jackson writes: “I have rarely found artistic or media depictions of terrorists that seemed authentic or which corresponded to the completely normal, often intelligent, complex and committed people I had personally spoken to” (319). He presents the terrorist in this light; i.e. the opposite of the way they are usually presented in films and the media.

The author wants to put the readers in the room during the interrogation, to help them ask tough questions. Jackson lives up to his goal, stated on the jacket copy, to blur the line between the interrogator and the terrorist. There are passages that could catch readers nodding their heads in agreement and then, catch them feeling a twinge of guilt for doing so.

I read that it is in the style of Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I agree with that in that it is a story that takes place in an intense conversation between two characters: one a Westerner, the other a suspected terrorist. There the similarity breaks down. Jackson's novel is presented as a trascript (as I've already stated), with anotations by those higher up the chain of command; annotations that the fictional authority writes to convince others to expunge parts of the recording and the transcription to cover their collective backsides. Jackson recommends those who are inclined, should try to find as much information as they can, and to talk to militants, if possible.

If you enjoyed The Reluctant Fundamentalist, or are interested in a different perspective view on the issue of terrorists and their behavior, I highly recommend this novel. The author writes, “A novel like this is a small step, but a necessary one, to tearing down the veil of ignorance which currently lies over most of what we currently say and do about terrorism” (322). He also includes a suggested reading list for those interested in knocking down that “veil of ignorance.” I plan to re-read this novel, and to work my way through Jackson's "Recommended Reading" list on terrorism and terrorists.

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Get the Kindle version, here (the hardcopy is due out 3 June 2014):
Confessions of a Terrorist