From the Jewish State to the Islamic State | Learning by Proxy
The Middle East is perhaps the most complex region to understand. That land was the cradle of civilisation and history that old is ofter hard to reconcile with.
The Middle East is a cradle of civilisation. Humans began settling in the Middle East, 10,000 years ago. Recorded history exists for 6000 years ago. The region has played an important role throughout history. Even so, if you were to read recent history, it would seem like the region has only been a source of strife and violence.
I started writing this blog 2 years ago and this is the 100th edition. I have also been reading about 50 books a year. This blog is a condensation of a lot of things that I have read over this time.
It is a very short story about the Middle East. I hope you like it.
Before Jesus, everyone between Europe and the Hindu Kush was either Jew, Pagan or Zoroastrian. Judaism is the original of the Abrahamic religion. These religions share the creation myth; Adam and Eve; the garden of Eden. The bloodline from Adam and Eve progresses towards Abraham.
Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. Their bloodlines lead to two prophets. Isaac's leads to Jesus of Nazareth and Ishmael's leads to Muhammed Ibn Adb'Allah. Both considered the prophets of the god.
At least, that is the story. It fits so well, I suppose it may be just that - A story. Prophet Mohammed was born in the 7th Century. Even if the story of Abraham is for real, it implies an ability to trace origins back more than a millennium. In this age of information, how many of you can trace your family trees back a thousand years?
The new always strives to replace the old.
Roots of Anti-Semitism
The Romans were in control of what is Israel today when Jesus was born. It was under Roman rule that Jesus was crucified. The gospel writers were writing their gospels in a land that was still controlled by the Romans. To appease their rulers, they put the responsibility of Christ’s death squarely on the Jews. The Jews were mere bystanders.
First Sin - Jews = Christ Killer
The fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Islam took place almost at the same time. Persia was rich and prosperous in the 10th century. The Roman Empire had turned into the Byzantine Empire and almost all the trade went from the North to the South. The Scandinavian people called the Rus got into the business of trading people. They used to engage in the trafficking of the people of the south. Persia was growing rapidly and needed slaves. The well-built Rus would mow down villages in Eastern Europe and take them for slaves. These Eastern European people came to be known as Slavs. This also happens to the origin of the word slave.
Business was roaring and by some accounts the wealth that the ‘Rus’ amassed was incredible. The gateway to the Mediterranean during this time was a marsh that turned into a city called Venice. Venice became incredibly rich and powerful thanks to human trafficking. It served as a portal for trafficking to Persia.
Ciao comes from the Venetian word sciàvo which literally translates to 'I am your slave.'
The Jews also wanted to get in on the business. They would subjugate people from Netherlands and Ireland to trade. This seeded further bitterness between the Jews and the Christians; because who would sell a good Christian into slavery?
Second Sin - Jews = Christian Traffickers
They say that the Jews were the original investment bankers. They added not a lick of value to the system but made a lot of money. They were thus considered lazy. Further, their orthodox ways were a constant source of friction in a world that was fast moving forward.
The truth is that while the Jews engaged in usury, this perception was created by Christian families such as the Medici, who were themselves involved in usury. They held incredible sway at the church and wanted to monopolise the banking business. In 1500, almost all the money in Europe was in some way or the other, controlled by the Vatican.
Third Sin - Jew = Lazy
By the time Christianity became a dominant religion in Europe between 1000 AD and 1500 AD, anti-semitism had found its roots.
In the meantime, south of Europe, Islam was spreading across the lands. From Persia in the east, which extended into India, up to what is Spain today. One must understand that 1000 years ago the idea of a country was not the same as what it is today. There were several castles/forts around which agglomerations formed. Kings or their relatives occupied these forts and they fell to others quite often. So long as someone pledged allegiance, the land became a part of the kingdom.
The death of the Prophet divided Islam. Prophet Mohammed discovered the word of god; we call it the Koran today. When the Prophet passed on, there were two factions that emerged.
One faction believed that the successor of the prophet had to be related to him by blood. They believed Ali Ibn Ali Talib, who was the cousin of the Prophet, was the successor and imam. They are called the Shia. The other faction believed that the Prophet was to be succeeded by someone who is strong enough and appointed Abu Bakr as the next Caliph. 90% of the Muslims in the world are Sunni.
The Sunnis are much more rigid in their beliefs and at the same time also more numerous. The Shia are a lot more liberal in their beliefs and also more accommodating.
In both sects, there have always been hardliners. They followed a very literal interpretation of the Koran as well as the Hadid (teachings of the Prophet Muhammed). For instance, the extreme Sunni forbade music and idolatry. They would teach their children that if they were to listen to music, they would have molten iron poured into their ears in hell. The obsession against idolatry meant that they decimated several historic sites and also burial mounds that were holy to the Shias. Many Sufi shrines were decimated and erased, especially if they were in Sunni controlled lands.
There were extreme factions and moderates on both sides.
In 1534, King Henry VIII wanted a divorce. Getting a divorce (annulment) at the time involved requesting the Pope to secure a papal annulment. The Vatican refused to grant the annulment - because - politics. King Henry had had enough of it. He decided to create the Church of England and separate England from the clutches of Rome. He also decided that all the people in England were henceforth to become Protestants.
The Catholics who were being forced to convert to Protestantism in England fled across the Atlantic. They were so religious that they were willing to die at sea rather than convert to another version of Christianity. Many did.
The first settlers went to North America thinking they would be able to find the northern counterpart of the Mayans, enslave them and become rich; much like the Spaniards did in the south. The population density was rather low in North America and hence it was not possible to walk into cities and take them over. They had to build them all by themselves.
The 'ethic' of hard work was sown at this time. If the white immigrants were not convinced to slog akin to slaves, the entire colony would perish.
Until they figured out ships could sail all the way from Africa to America.
The lands in the south were far more fertile and the climate more amenable to farming. Slavery and farming went hand in hand. It was the AI / Automation of the 17th Century. Between the extermination of the Indigenous people and the exploitation of the Africans, the Americans were very busy!
Eventually, all the farming moved from the north to the south. Factories started to pop up in the north which processed the produce (mostly cotton) and distributed it to the large population in the north.
America became a country that was deeply divided and remains so to this day. The southerners always proclaimed the superiority of their race, while the northerners (who sailed in the same boat for centuries) changed course once commerce other than farming took root in the north. Not like they grew a conscience, they just did not need slaves as desperately anymore.
At the turn of the 20th century, America was still a relatively weak country which was sparsely populated and not very well explored. The only advantage that they had was geographic isolation. In fact, they realised it was an advantage when war broke out.
War and Energy
The first world war changed a few things in the way America saw its place in the world. Being rather immune from the war, due in part, to the geographic isolation of the country and the difficulty in reaching their shores. They realised that they could make a lot and I mean a LOT of money through war. America never stopped waging war ever after.
You can find American fingerprints in every 20th-century war. Even if it was some senseless fighting in the middle of Africa, they needed to figure out a ‘go-to-market’.
Look at them trying to get in on the action between Russia and Ukraine. Biden’s greatest regret will not be that he could not save Ukraine, but that he could not sell weapons to Russia. Every time a country has gone to war without American weapons they have had a problem, more on that later.
The first world war showed the world the true power of industrialisation. Industrialisation depended on machines and thus on energy. America realised that there was a need to meet their energy needs and that would mean that they had to ensure an uninterrupted supply of Oil to the states.
At this time, a racist bigot by the name of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was leading the English Navy and he had just finished the upgrade of the entire Naval fleet to coal, only to realise that oil was the way to go. He would again embark on the modernisation of the Navy but would also push the government to own the oil, that the Navy needed.
At the turn of the 20th Century, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was digging across what was the remnants of the Ottoman Empire to look for oil. They had found some encouraging signs that the region might be rich in oil.
The Anglo-Persian Oil Company was later renamed British Petroleum. The company found oil in Iran and extracted a very favourable deal. 20,000 Pounds for a 60-year lease of ALL oil resources in the country AND access to all infrastructure including roadways, railways, and ports. The Shah of Iran did not realise the potential gains to be had. When the Iranians had second thoughts, the British manufactured a coup d’état and placed a new Shah, they selected, in power.
In 1902, Ibn Saud ascended to power in Saudi Arabia displacing the Rashid Tribe.
The house of Saud was strongly aligned with Wahhabism, which is an extreme form of Sunni Islam that subjugates women and follows a very strict interpretation of Sharia law.
Ibn Saud commissioned the search for oil in Arabia and found oil in the early 1930s. Two American companies smelling the opportunity to profit moved in to explore the region further. Standard Oil of California (SOCAL), one of the broken pieces of the Standard Oil Company that Rockefeller had built and Texas Petroleum Company (Now TEXACO) started drilling oil in the region.
SOCAL found oil and then set up a joint venture called California Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASCO) to carry on operations in 1936.
As the world then plunged into the Second World War, it became clear that it was a war of energy as much as it was a war of attrition. The President of America moved in and turned CASCO into the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO).
The house of Saud was never again dependent on the Hajj Revenues for the survival of their kingdom and the oil money made them exceedingly rich.
Rise of Anti-Semitism at Scale
In the early 20th century, a man from Austria moved to Germany. He tried his hands at politics and ended up in jail, where he read a lot of rubbish. Adolf Hitler was a rabble-rouser and Franz Von Papen thought he would be a great conduit to assume power just like McConnell thought Donald Trump was a great conduit to power. Hitler would be the puppet and Von Papen the puppet master.
Hitler went ahead and usurped all powers and thanks to the self-education that he undertook, he determined that the Jews had to be done away with. They were lazy. They ensured German defeat in the first world war. They were not a pure race.
Hitler decided that he wanted to purge the land of this lazy race. He started with the purge, rounding up Jews and killing them in various cities. Then in true capitalistic fashion scaled the activity with the concentration camps. The camps were not only used for killing people but also for performing a lot of experiments to "advance science". After the second world war, those “scientists” were later brought to the US under Operation Paperclip.
Many Jews who escaped Nazi Germany went to the US. They were white, so the Americans were not too averse to the idea of taking them in. But even more importantly, at the beginning of the 20th century, America was not filled with the sharpest minds in the world.
Americans had the ability to engineer and invent. The centre of gravity of scientific discoveries still lay in Europe. The Americans were scientifically bankrupt. Take a look at this famous picture of the Solvay Conference, not ONE American
Terrorism - The political doctrine
Terrorism has always been about politics and subjugation. The British used it in their colonies. The Japanese are famous for their technique. Hitler mechanised it and then the Jews used it as well.
It is merely convenient for the west to term it as an Islamic movement. Terrorism has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with politics and control.
The Europeans were the original terrorists. For the entirety of the first millennium AD, they waged wars with each other. The reason for their military superiority and weapon innovations. Almost all of the minds in Europe were preoccupied with killing more efficiently. For a thousand years.
Newton found the formula for projectile motion not to explain motion, but to make weapons more efficient.
The Americans and British have terrorised more people than any country, religion or race ever can or ever would.
At the juncture in history when Hitler was coming to power; the Zionist movement took shape. There were many Jews who thought there should be a Jewish state. The promised lands. That state would be the protectorate for the Jews. While there were many Jews in many countries in the world, there was not a single nation that was majority Jewish or where Jews could never be persecuted.
With that thought, a group set out to find land. A land that could be turned into a country.
In 1916, Palestine was still a part of the Ottoman Empire, which had sided with the Germans. As the Germans lost the first world war, the control of the land slipped into the hands of the British.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, and the Haavara Agreement between the Zionist Federation and the Third Reich was reached to facilitate the emigration of German Jews. The land around Palestine was important to the Jews because much of their religious history is from the land. Much like the Muslims go to Mecca; the Jews went to Jerusalem. Jewish immigration dramatically increased during the mid-1930s. In 1935, 62,000 Jews entered Palestine, the highest number since the mandate began in 1920.
In 1947, Palestine was a country that was under the British much like India. It was under the mandate of the British so it was known as Mandatory Palestine. It was a majority Arab state with over 90% of the population being Arabs. Nothing called Israel existed.
As the Third Reich ascended, the British were aghast with the number of Jews seeking to emigrate to Britain. They wanted them to go elsewhere and clamped down on Jewish emigration to England.
Starting in 1939 and throughout the Second World War, Britain reduced the number of Jewish immigrants allowed into Palestine, following the publication of the White Paper of 1939. Palestine was also British lands and they did not want a deluge of Jews in their territories. Once the 15,000 annual quotas were exceeded, Jews fleeing Nazi persecution were placed in detention camps or deported to places such as Mauritius.
The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry's findings published in 1946 divested the White Paper and caused Britain to ease restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine. The Zionist movement which was active even in Hitler's Germany decided to take advantage of this change in policy and make a push for a Jewish State.
After the Second World War, they demanded the creation of a Jewish state at the United Nations. The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was created. This committee under pressure from the British created the state of Israel.
The British were the ones who had initially followed a policy of appeasement with Hitler and hence felt responsible for the Holocaust. They felt that creating a Jewish state would be making reparation for the same. Israel was created on 14th May 1948 by declaration.
“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”, said Gandhi. The people leading the Zionist movement had not heard it.
They thought an eye for someone else’s eye, leaves the whole world one-eyed; justice served.
While the Arabs living in Palestine were not too happy about the creation of Israel, they just felt that they would have to deal with a new government, run by Jews instead of the British. They went on with life as usual.
David Ben-Gurion, one of the architects of the Zionist movement as well as the first Prime Minister of Israel was dismayed. They had already created a plan called Plan Dalet (Plan D) to empty Israel of all of the Arabs while at the same time taking over the entire country of Palestine, eventually.
The anticipation was that once the state of Israel is created, the Arabs would put up a fight and at that time, they could be exterminated. The Arabs went on with business as usual. Ben-Gurion at this point altered his strategy and decided to plant fear in the hearts of the Arabs and sent the Haganah to do the job. The Haganah was a Zionist paramilitary force, not very different from the Schutzstaffel (SS) which Hitler used to round up Jews and kill them on the spot. The Zionist movement worked hard to secure weapons from the Soviet Union for the activities of the Haganah.
The Haganah, went all over the Israeli territory, rounded up villages full of Arabs and killed them in the dead of the night. Each night they would go after a new village. The effect was chilling, many of the Arabs living in the surrounding villages would hear of the massacre and leave. They would go to live with relatives in what was then Palestine, hoping to come back once the uncertainty subsided. They were gravely mistaken.
The Israelis appropriated their homes and just moved in!
What Israel did to the Arabs was no less than the Holocaust. Killing the men, looting the villages, raping and murdering their women and then taking over their properties.
As news of these activities spread through the Arab world, the anger and the hatred for the Jews as well as those who supported them grew. This would sow the seeds for the extremist take over of several Muslim institutions as well as countries across the Middle East.
The upper echelons of the American polity were completely penetrated by the Jews in the 1950s. This meant that in spite of the actions of the Jews there was going to be full and unconditional support to the Jewish state without any questions being asked on the global stage.
The rich routinely rob the poor, it’s called the economy. God forbid a poor robs the rich, for that we have the law. The instrument of law exists solely for the protection of the rich from the poor.
They justify this by offering up the explanation that in a land without law, there would be no enterprise and no innovation. If anything that you create could be robbed, what would be the incentive to create.
While this seems reasonable, anybody who buys into it has never been to court or had to face litigation. Law is a sword that can only be wielded by the rich.
Wilbur Wright of the Wright brother fame was distraught when he found his plane designs being copied by Glenn Curtiss. He sued Curtiss and during the ensuing patent battle that lasted years, he died of heartbreak, aged 49. He could not digest the battle. It almost bankrupted the brothers. The company that the brothers created is today called Curtiss Wright.
To make matter worse, we have imposed western law throughout the world. Before the 1500s; if we had to come up with a one-word definition of Europe, it would be Murder. The Europeans were very “Instinctive” people, and what they did out of primal instinct had to be pardoned. In a land such as that, if you had to punish every murderer, everyone would be in prison.
Therefore the law of the West looks at the intention and not the outcome. This was imposed on the East through colonialism.
When we extend such a law to international justice, obvious problems arise. The poorer economies cannot fight this battle, they just cannot afford it. Even if they do fight it, they are left feeling the outcome was unjust.
Unleashing the Extremists
The injustice being done to their Muslim brethren coupled with the lack of willingness on the part of the West to take any action against the Israeli state created fertile grounds on which extremist ideology could thrive.
The house of Saud was being questioned about its alignment with the American infidels. The proximity of the Shah of Iran to the west was offered as proof that he did not care about the fate of the Muslims.
No other person was making more noise about this than an Iranian Shia religious leader exiled in Iraq; Ruhollah Khomeini. The newly created state of Pakistan lost its Anglophile founder a year after its independence. Going from one weak leader to another, the country soon started travelling from one Coup to another.
In Egypt, Nasser demanded the nationalisation of the Suez Canal in 1956. Britain saw this as an insolence that needed to be immediately put down and sent British and French troops on one side and asked Isreal to engage on the other side. The Egyptians blockaded the Suez effectively cutting all supplies of oil and goods to England. Britain was on the verge of bankruptcy and had to go hat in hand to the International Monetary Fund, which refused to loan money to Britain. Britain had to withdraw and suffer a humiliating defeat. This gave Nasser an aura in the entire Arab world, that no other leader possessed. Nasser maintained a stronghold on Egypt in the 50s and the 60s, keeping extremists at bay till his death in 1970. In the meantime, the Americans were funding an extremist militia group in Afghanistan to foil Russian ambitions; this group called themselves the Taliban.
While the Arabs talked about anger, not a single country came to help Palestine. Syria and Egypt fought the Israelis only because Israel was trying to encroach upon their territories.
As Israel continued to consolidate its power across Palestine, West Bank and the Sinai. They continued to exterminate and expel Arab residents in various Palestinian territories, the first signs of Palestinian resistance was formed in the shape of the Hezbollah. They continued to fight valiantly without any real support.
Israel often likes to say that if the Arabs stop fighting there will be peace; if Israel stops fighting, there will be no Israel. The truth is that Israel is the aggressor. It has always been trying to appropriate more land for the Jewish state and keep expanding itself.
This situation continued till the 1970s. The death of Nasser in 1970 brought Sadat into power in Egypt. In 1973, as the Israelis started to wage war against Egypt and Syria, known as the Yom-Kippur War, the Saudis and the Egyptians got together and introduced the world to a Spanish word - Embargo. The Organisations of Arab Petrol Exporting Countries decided to place an Embargo on all of the countries that supported Israel. This included the United States of America.
This action would change the future of the world, forever.
Cars lined up for miles in the United States, there was literally no Oil. The stock market crashed and the country was dealing with a full-blown catastrophe. It was in these circumstances that Henry Kissinger made a trip to Riyadh to find a solution and ensure that this situation does not repeat itself. The solution involved preferential treatment of the USA by the Saudis in return for a US Air Force Base that would protect the country from any aggression, even Israel.
There was a price that had to be paid to cosy up to the USA in this manner. The al-Saud regime had to let the extremists run loose in Saudi Arabia. To placate them, the kingdom, never the bastion of freedom, took a turn towards enforcing a very radicalised form of Sunni Islam.
Ruhollah Khomeini was exiled in Iraq at this time and was making a lot of noise about the illegitimate rule of the Shah. Sick of him, the Vice-President of Iraq, Saddam Hussain, had him sent to Paris. Saddam Hussain could not have done anything better for Khomeini, even if he had so wished.
Based in Neauphle le-Château in Paris, Khomeini started speaking to the western media about the atrocities taking place in Iran. He also started producing cassette tapes with his ideological messages in Paris and having them smuggled into Iran for general consumption. It was the Facebook of that era. Within a year, the tide had turned in Iran.
The Shah was seen as a British puppet. The people of Iran were convinced that alignment with the West would mean the destruction of their way of life at the hands of Israel. In 1979, the Shah went into exile and Khomeini returned to Iran to a hero's welcome. As a religious leader, he was proclaimed Ayatollah Khomeini. In no uncertain terms, he proclaimed death to the west. Iran took a turn towards Shia extremism.
Americans left in a hurry, the movie Argo happened.
In the meantime, Pakistan fell to another coup, this time into the hands of Zia-ul-Huq who wanted extreme Islam to take roots in Pakistan. Overnight female television anchors were told that they had no place in the newsroom if they were not wearing the Burqa.
Shia Vs Sunni
Giving in to the demands of the extremists also meant a few other things. For the Shia, their saints and their burial grounds are very sacred. But Sunni Islam is against any kind of idolatry to the extreme. As the appeasement of the Sunni clerics reached a new height, many of the Shia holy sights were desecrated and completely destroyed. This further fuelled the flames that clerics like Khomeini were lighting. The sectarian violence and divisions got more entrenched. This resulted in the Shia majority country Iran going to war with the Sunni majority country Iraq.
While the underlying context is complex, on the surface it was a conflict of Shia and Sunni Muslims. While the US had been chased out of Iran, they desperately wanted a way to get back in. The Iranian army was stocked with American weapons which the Shah had bought before being exiled. The US tried selling parts and arms to Iran first. When Iran did not budge and went about buying arms on the black market, the US turned to Iraq. They sold arms to Iraq. And then went back and tried selling arms again to Iran. And could not keep it silent - both sides found out!
All of this while providing weapons to the Taliban. Ronald Reagan was almost thrown out of the White House for this until he found a bunch of others who could take the fall on his behalf.
It is no wonder that every country in the middle east sees the Americans as godless and immoral.
While not at a country level, sectarian differences have ripped through most of the Islamic world. The Shias are at the receiving end of most of it. The only way to resist was to show they still had power. The politics of power is terrorism.
The extreme forces within Saudi Arabia did not remain constrained though. Seeing an opportunity to consolidate power, they wanted to fight on the side of the Sunnis and bring down the Shias. This was to be the jihad for Sunni dominance. Unfortunately, the only secular leader in the entire Arab region was leading Iraq - Saddam Hussain. While Saddam Hussain was the leader of the Ba'ath party which was Sunni led, he did not prescribe to the extreme version of it that Saudi Arabia liked. He was far more secular in his views. His excesses that America tends to highlight were related to holding on to power and not being religious in nature.
At this time, a young extremist from Saudi Arabia went to meet the king to request funding. If not in Iraq, on another Sunni battlefield, he wanted to fight the infidels. In Afghanistan, the Soviet-Afghan War was in progress. The royal house rebuffed his request. Coming from a wealthy family involved in the construction business, Osama Bin Laden managed to put the money together anyway and joined the Mujahideens in Afghanistan.
The radical and religious extremists had found a voice by the early 1980s across the middle east. To make matters worse, they were in power in most of the large nations in the region.
There were still voices, that felt unheard. Voices that felt Palestine needed to be avenged. Voices that wanted the supporters of Israel to suffer. They needed a state to act. They could not find any state that was willing to fund and support them. They considered all of the leaders of these states to be infidels.
The Americans got involved in the Kuwait-Iraq war in the 1990s. Part of the reason was to protect their oil assets in Kuwait. While Iraq was repelled, George Bush Sr. was unable to get Saddam Hussain. The Bush family did not sleep well for the next decade.
As the 1990s came to a close, Sunni extremists were devising ways to send a clear message. The biggest backer of Israel had to be hurt and they had to feel the pain that Palestine feels every single day. All that planning culminated in 9/11.
While the evidence pointed to Saudi Arabian links to all of the terrorists; to cure the Bush family of their collective insomnia; George Bush Jr. went after Afghanistan and Iraq. He did that with fake evidence. Using the US clout at the UN, a resolution was also passed to go to war along with the UK.
During his two terms, Bush did not even manage to even get close to Osama Bin Laden, mainly because he was not even looking in the right places. He did manage to turn Afghanistan into a battleground and killed Saddam, the only secular Muslim leader.
Since the creation of the Jewish State, the extreme elements of Islam had to contend with the two-faced dealings of the Saudis. While Iran was totally entrenched in extremist thought, it was a Shia majority state which would represent only 10% of the Muslims.
The Sunni extremists wanted a state of their own, where they could set the rules, which they could call their own and from where they could wage war against the West and those against Islam (Israel). The death of Saddam Hussain conveniently presented them with a country that they could take over and much like the Jewish State of Israel, it gave birth to the Islamic State or ISIS.
If you asked the Palestinians, they would say, the Israelis occupied their lands and threw them out. Reparations are needed. If you asked the Israelis they would say, this was the land that Moses was promised. It was theirs all along, even before Islam came to be.
The world we live in is a result of several decisions that people took before us. None of them lives to suffer the consequences of their decisions.
Is it right that we keep looking back to see what was, before determining right and wrong today?
Or should we busy ourselves to set things right from where they are today and look forward to what will be?
Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Rivalry That Unravelled the Middle East by Kim Ghattas
Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan by William Dalrymple
Unworthy Republic by Claudio Saunt
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappé
The History of Christianity by Diarmaid MacCulloch
Silk Route by Peter Frankopan