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  • Can We Talk About Israel?

  • A Guide for the Curious, Confused, and Conflicted
  • By: Daniel Sokatch
  • Narrated by: Daniel Sokatch
  • Length: 11 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Middle East
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Summary

Bloomsbury presents Can We Talk About Israel? by Daniel Sokatch, read by Daniel Sokatch.

From an expert who understands both sides of one of the world’s most complex, controversial conflicts, a modern-day guide for the perplexed - a primer on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian issue. 

'Can’t you just explain the Israel situation to me? In, like, 10 minutes or less?' This is the question Daniel Sokatch is used to answering on an almost daily basis as the head of the New Israel Fund, an organization dedicated to equality and democracy for all Israelis, not just Jews. 

Can We Talk About Israel? is the story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, grappling with a century-long struggle between two peoples that both perceive themselves as (and indeed are) victims. And it's an attempt to explain why Israel (and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) inspires such extreme feelings - why it seems like Israel is the answer to 'what is wrong with the world' for half the people in it, and 'what is right with the world' for the other half. As Sokatch asks, is there any other topic about which so many intelligent, educated and sophisticated people express such strongly and passionately held convictions, and about which they actually know so little? 

Can We Talk About Israel? is an easy-to-digest yet penetrating and original look at the history and basic contours of one of the most complicated conflicts in the world.

©2021 Daniel Sokatch (P)2021 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

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  • Buretto
  • 30-10-21

Not completely sincere in its promise

At the start, after hearing the introduction, I merely hoped that the book wouldn't be a mass of wishy-washy equivocations, of the 'bad people on both sides' vein. I don't think you can't get the truth by presenting a balance of biased accounts. But, by the end, I would have gladly accepted that. I can't be sure if the author is being disingenuous, or honestly is blind to his own prejudices, but this book is deeply slanted. For example, Palestinians are repeatedly referred to as terrorists, or in one way or another purveyors of terror, whereas even the most heinous of Israeli bad actors are merely presented as overly stressed IDF soldiers or ultranationalist settlers (read: lone nut). There is almost no effort made to personalize Palestinians, or dive into the psychology of occupation (at least the perspective from those who see it as such), and no prominent Palestinians are presented aside from Yasser Arafat. On the other hand, numerous Israeli political figures are detailed and their actions deeply analyzed, Along the way the author worships Yitzhak Rabin and vilifies Benjamin Netanyahu. This is significant, as it underscores the running theme that questionable actions on this side of the conflict are the unfortunate results of political intrigue, or the perhaps overly strong response to unprovoked Palestinian aggression. The author also conveniently fails to acknowledge Israel's role in helping create Hamas. The massive rationalizations become hard to take after a while. I had been hoping for an honest account, but this singularly fails on that count. The author only really seems motivated to lean the other way when discussing the quick trigger on claims of anti-semitism. He rightfully distinguishes between honest criticism of government and policy and historical prejudice. But by then, we've moved away from Palestinians, and are taking evangelical Christians in America to task. Again perhaps rightfully, but what happened to presenting the story from the perspective of the people inhabiting the land that they consider to be Palestine? It's lacking, and the book suffers because of it. I've edited to give the book 3 stars, as it does give a good deal of background, just not quite circumspect enough for my liking.

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  • Dalia
  • 10-06-22

Mixed feelings

I came into this as someone very knowledgeable in history and this conflict and thought many of his historical event descriptions were lack luster and left out important details. Overall I think you would be better off listening to the podcast ‘Unpacking Israeli History’ hosted by Noam Weissman. Noam gives you much more nuance and detail into historic events related to israel and the conflict. Also, I think Noa Tishby‘s ‘Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth’ is better than this book for people new to this topic. I will say that I really liked Daniel Sokatch‘s ending and focus on peace and coexistence. I can tell he really cares about both nations and hopes for a better future.

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  • CD
  • 13-02-22

Worth your time

Daniel Sokatch has pulled back the veil, succinctly, on one of the most fraught discussions (and reality) of many a people and interested parties. As a Jewish American I found this often triggering and insightful book so worth my time that when I finished it, I started it again. I’m so grateful to have found this resource that has validated my pride as a Jew, my empathy as a humanitarian, and my sorrow as a witness of this extreme example of complex situations.