The Arabs: A History by Eugene Rogan was extremely interesting. There were two sections of the book that I really enjoyed for different reasons.

The first section I really liked was the early history. It was filled with a bunch of information about aspects of Arab history previously unknown to me. Yes, I knew the 30,000 foot view… warring tribes, never trusting each other enough to work together. This book gave me important details and spoke to the political intrigue, back-biting and ruthlessness.

An interesting tidbit was the fact that Abu Ghraib prison, infamous as the site of American abuse and torture during the Gulf War has a long history of being used for far more savage purposes. Opened in the 1950, it served as a maximum-security prison with torture and weekly executions. The prison was later used by Saddam Hussein to hold political prisoners, developing a reputation for torture and extrajudicial killing before it was closed.

The other section that was really held my attention was the intrigue surrounding the creation of Israel. The fact that the United States wasn’t always the chums they have been in recent history. When Israel, teaming with Britain and France, invaded Egypt in 1956, the United States demanded Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai and Gaza, and the Israelis complied. The United States was not openly hostile to Israel, nor did it regard its relationship as crucial.

What I like most is that this book is a fair look at the history of the Arabs. It is not slanted to be anti-Arab or pro. It does a great job of sharing information without imposing a political agenda.

by Chris Doelle