Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Jonathan Spyer's The Transforming Fire: The Best Book on Israel in Thirty Years

By Barry Rubin

In my opinion, this is probably the best book on Israel to be published in 30 years. But it is even more than that, since it is also the story of the rise of revolutionary Islamism--and the struggle against it--as the most important issue in the Middle East and very possibly the world.

Dr. Spyer's participation in the 2006 war with Hizballah as a tank driver, intimate experience with Israeli society, role as a researcher, and participation in international diplomacy has given him a viewpoint unmatched by any other analyst.

Trust me on this one--as several friends already have and agreed with my assessment--this is a book you will want to read and be better for having read.

Published by Continuum (ISBN: 9781441166630), 240 Pages, hardcover $29.95

For a time, the Arab-Israeli conflict seemed a fight over real-estate and recognition, but in recent years it has transformed into an existential battle between Israel and radical Islamism. Today, Israel faces a rising force that is committed to its demise. Spyer provides a vivid account of what can now be called the Israel-Islamist conflict, outlining the issues at stake and gauging each side’s relative strengths and weaknesses. Israel faces not one united Islamist movement, but an array of states and organizations that share a wish to destroy Jewish sovereignty.

Combining narrative and argument, Spyer uses first-person accounts of key moments in the conflict to highlight the human impact of this battle of wills. A thought-provoking, balanced work, The Transforming
Fire provides a new understanding of a particular aspect of the larger conflict between radical Islam and the West, which may well become the key foreign policy challenge of the 21st century.

Table of Contents
Prologue. "Not all of us will be coming back"
1. History's Resurrection
2. Muqawama: Islamism's rise
3. A New Jerusalem
4. The Middle East Cold War
5. Conversations in the Season of Remembrance
6. Broken Borders
7. A Grave Missed Opportunity
8. The Verdict of Deir Mimas
9. The Transforming Fire

Jonathan Spyer immigrated to Israel from Britain in 1991. He is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel, and a columnist at the Jerusalem Post newspaper. Spyer holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a Masters' Degree in Middle East Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He served in a front-line unit of the Israel Defense Forces in 1992-3, and fought in the war in Lebanon in summer 2006. Between
1996 and 2000, Spyer was an employee of the Israel Prime Minister's Office. His articles have also appeared in the Guardian, Haaretz, London Times, Washington Times,Toronto Globe and Mail, the Australian, British Journal of Middle East Studies, Israel Affairs and Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

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