Books of Interest

Reading Rabkin's What is Modern Israel  (2016), you can only marvel that Israel continues to exist at all, given its unending criminal behaviour, from the 1920s, while it was still just a dream, until the present, the only change being in the details, the full scale wars of expansion giving way to smaller scale invasions of occupied territories and Gaza (there's no more land to conquer), and ever new bureaucratic torture techniques intended to drive the Palestinians either crazy or into voluntary exile. Even the latter, a soft version of the 1948 ethnic cleansing, is made difficult, as the Palestinians can only leave via Jordan, at the mercy of Israel. Why does the world, especially the US, which could bring Israel to heel overnight, let the horror continue?

Rabkin delves deep into the Russian Yiddish roots of Israel and brings together many startling facts which suggest that there was a much better option for Palestine and the Jews, one which was scuttled by secular Jewish fanatics inspired by their experiences before and after the Russian revolution. What is Modern Israel is packed with fascinating quotes and historical tidbits. Some of Rabkin's insights from his book and a podcast interview :

*He decries the use of 'holocaust' in depicting the tragedy of WWII, as it is a religious symbol, and the deaths were hardly a burnt offering to some god. Rabkin uses 'genocide'. He also insists that it is not the "Jewish lobby" and "Jewish state", but the Zionist lobby/ state, as most Jews are not Zionists, certainly not approving of Israel's bombings, invasions, and illegal settlements. The lesson of the genocide for Zionists was 'be strong and kill and hound suspected antisemites.' For Rabkin, it is the opposite: a rejection of Zionism and Israel as a Jewish state.

Review of Graeme Wood, The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State, Random House, 2016.

Wood is the most prominent media star exposing ISIS today. A Yale professor, Council of Foreign Relations guru, his articles on ISIS have appeared in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and on and on. He has an ambitious agenda, instructing the lay reader in Islamic theology and jurisprudence as he travels from one leading ISIS supporter or fellow traveller to another around the world. While providing a wealth of detail, his American slant, almost entirely overlooking the US as the chief culprit in abetting terrorism, is evident. But his book is worth reading, giving the reader a window into the people behind ISIS. None of them are monsters, but all of them challenge Muslims to better understand Islam and Islamic history.

Wood poses throughout his research as a possible convert to Islam and apparently fools one and all. This deception he would no doubt rationalize using a quote from the Quran about lying being okay in a time of war (taqiyya), but he used it in Egypt merely to string along a modest tailor, Hesham, who was sincerely trying to convert Wood, and believed Wood was genuine. This gave him otherwise forbidden access to Hesham's personal life, ridiculing him in the account. Others Wood interviewed were not so naive, but politely answered his questions, though his agenda was seen for what it is: a report for use by western academics, media and security forces to better 'fight the beast'.

Some of his interviews are revealing and colourful. He met multiple times with larger-than-life Muslims based in the West, both pro-ISIS and anti-ISIS activists and theorists. His professionalism as a researcher and writer produced a good overview of the different movements and actors in western radical Islamic circles, including Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other al-Qaeda factions, and their visions of revolution and apocalypse. He interviews leading western Muslim scholars and activists, mostly American converts, including  the Sufi Yusuf Hamza, the Salafi Yasir Qadhi for their critical analysis of ISIS (they are both targeted as apostates by ISIS), and Yahya Michot, who lies somewhere in between.

Reviews of James Petras, The End of the Republic and the Delusion of Empire, Clarity, 2016

Jeremy Hammond, Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Worldview, 2016

It is time to assess the legacy that President Obama bequeaths us. These two timely books contribute to this, Hammond focusing on the “special relationship”, Petras, more broadly on US imperialism. Both are pessimistic about the possibility of any change without an active, articulate citizens' movement that has staying power, thereby creating the conditions for a political renewal.


Hammond's work is detailed, documenting the period starting with Obama's 2008 victory and Israel's immediate response: its invasion of Gaza in December. Throwing down the gauntlet, which president-elect Obama refused to pick up.


There were more such attacks to come, involving seizing aid flotillas headed for Gaza, culminating in a repeat of that full scale invasion of Gaza in 2014, both killing thousands of innocents. Hammond's main point is to separate Obama's weak, nice words -- "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines" -- with his inability to move towards fulfilling them.

Okay, by bicycle ‘express’. But that was how i saw myself, galloping along the St Lawrence, a watchful eye out for the enemy yonder across the mighty river. The dirt road is now a bicycle lane (sometimes more, sometimes less) that followed--by a stretch of the imagination--the 18th century trail that once bound Canada together.


Forget the mindless 401 hurtling by, for the most part, out of sight and sound. Enjoy the exotic roadside wild flowers shouting “I’m alive and bigger and more beautiful than you!” Some otherwise grueling stretches of highway are transformed into zany public gardens, complete with giant monsters and noxious invaders.


Life in the womb of Upper Canada

Azizi Ansari's runaway bestseller Modern Romance is the perfect self-help book. Lots of data, thoughtful interviews with psychologists and 'victims', funny. The celebrated stand-up comic confirms the truth in the oxymoron, "the wise fool". And surprisingly, finds that humans pretty well figured things romantic out long before computers.

A few nuggets

Experiments on rats show the "uncertainty principle" in rewards: reward the rat when it presses the knob till s/he figures out it must press the lever to get the treat, but after that, only reward it intermittently. Their reward dopamine levels increase beyond the level when they always get rewarded for knob-pushing, like they're "being coked up". We are rats: in the human version of the experiment, women are most attracted to those guys who are in the 'uncertain' group, those who rated them high are second rate. No doubt this works the same for men.

Receive email notifications when new articles by Eric Walberg are posted.

Please enable the javascript to submit this form

Connect with Eric Walberg



Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergIV.html

'Connect with Eric on Facebook or Twitter'

Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

Purchase Eric Walberg's Books



Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergIV.html