Life at the Crossroads

Since January, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of and the Palestinian Authority president, Yasser Arafat, sealed the long awaited agreement to redeploy Israeli troops in Hebron and for Palestinian self-rule, the Authority's main seat in Gaza comes into central focus. Could this tiny strip, squeezed along the Mediterranean coast between and and packed with nearly a million inhabitants, become the nucleus of Arafat's projected Palestinian state? To attempt an answer, you need a lot of historical, economic and demographic information, not easily available between two covers.

Gerald Butt, a distinguished British correspondent, born and brought up in the Middle East and educated in London, has provided considerable such information in his slim but incisive book. He has used classical historical research, a tool most newsmen neglect these days, to connect Gaza 's long and turbulent past to its more familiar present.

A great merit of this book is that Butt places the grim present and uncertain future of Gaza in historical perspective. His first 10 chapters conduct us through the periods of the Biblical Philistines, 's Pharaohs, Babylon's Nebuchadnezzar and assorted other early rulers of Gaza, from Judas Macabee of the Jewish nationalists to Rome 's Pompey and Herod. The Knights Templar, succeeded by Arab, Turkish and Mameluke rulers, carry the turbulent drama, easy to imagine as a film, down to the 20th-century struggles of and Palestine.


Review by John K. Cooley - International Herald Tribune

John K. Cooley, ABC News correspondent based in and author of "Green March, Black September: The story of Palestinian Arabs." wrote this for the International Herald Tribune.

International Herald Tribune - February 24, 1997

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