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Karl Sabbagh

Palestine: A Personal History

The Sabbagh family have a long history in the region of Palestine, and in this book Karl Sabbagh interleaves the history of his family with that of Palestine and the disputes between the occupants leading up to partition in 1947. Now there are two sides to every question and Sabbagh's account clearly takes one side. How much is this acceptable? Well, my feeling is that everyone has a right to tell their side of the story. On the other hand an author writing a historical account should try to be unbiased. So which is Sabbagh doing? The answer is: a bit of both.

In the first part of the book he is writing about the history of the area, and I constantly felt that his story was too one-sided. I think that Sabbagh, who has written a carefully considered account of a scientific fraud, could have done better in this case. For instance any society is likely to have a westernized component. For the Palestinian Arabs this is seen as a plus - they were perfectly able to run a modern state. However for the Jews the same 'modernity' was seen as a minus - they were interlopers in an Oriental country. I almost gave up reading the book at this point.

That would have been a pity, because when the book gets to events within the living memory of Sabbagh's family the tone changes. One reads the story of the many injustices which the Palestinian people have suffered - a story which is frequently hidden by the western media and deserves to be heard.