My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Gelvin is a great writer who excels writing about complicated history in a very readable way. I’ve read the second edition of The Modern Middle East: A History as well as The Arab Uprisings, and he has a similar style in each of these books: explaining the events in the context of world-historical developments, with a touch of humor.
This is mostly good, but sometimes the blow-by-blow of the story is sacrificed for the thematic focus. In this book, his major theme is nationalism, and how both Israeli and Palestinian nationalisms developed. Like all nationalisms, he believes that both are invented in the context of the conditions of the modern world rather than natural. He also ties in the rise and fall of the Cold War order.
It’s a good book overall. Gelvin tilts toward the Palestinians, which is good for readers who have a difficult time seeing that perspective but would best supplemented with another point of view for those already tilting that way. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is definitely an issue where it’s good to hear the story from a number of different points of view.