Beginners guide to Middle East politics


Paul McGeough: Kill Khalid. Allen & Unwin, 2009. ISBN: 9781741756005. Online

Kill KhalidPaul McGeough is known to readers of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age for his detailed articles about events in Afghanistan and Iraq. His book is a thoroughly researched account of Mossad's assassination attempt in 1997 on Khalid Mishal, the prominent member of Hamas. McGeough uses this event to take the reader through the complex and evolving politics of the Palestinians and their neighbours in Israel and Jordan.

McGeough has interviewed many people involved in those events as well as researched the history and politics of this troubled area. The book is quite long (417 pages). It is sometimes demanding, but McGeough's journalist background ensures that the writing is not too dense.

In 1997, Hamas was relatively new and Khalid largely unknown outside the region. Since then, Hamas has grown to become the political opposition to Fatah, the Palestinian party of Yasser Arafat. Hamas is the main protagonist against Israel and Khalid one of its leaders.

This book shows how the then new Israeli prime minister, Netanayu, agreed to Mossad's plan to kill Khalid and to remove his influence Hamas. The attack failed spectacularly and the consequences were incalculable.

Middle East politics is complex and changing. But since the creation of Israel in 1948, a constant factor has been the situation of the Palestinians. An old joke goes that if you understand Middle East politics, then it has not been explained properly. McGeough places events in their historical and political context and thereby gives the reader a grasp of the complexities and subtleties of regional politics.

He also describes the growing influence of Islam in politics. This has led to conflict between Arab countries and leaders independent of their perceptions of Israel. The book illustrates just why the conflict, with its religious and political dimensions, is so difficult to resolve to the satisfaction of all players.

McGeough offers a valuable list of characters at the start of his work. This helps readers unfamiliar with names and the historical detail. Parts of the story read like an episode of Spooks, but this story is factual. The book is very topical in the light of Netanyahu's return to power in Israel, the rise of Hamas in Gaza and the recent conflict there.

Kerry MurphyKerry Murphy is a partner in the firm D'Ambra Murphy Lawyers where he represents clients at all stages of the Australian immigration process. He is a student of Arabic, former Jesuit Refugee Service coordinator, and one of Australia's top immigration lawyers recognised by last year's Australian Financial Review Best Lawyers survey.

Topic tags: Kerry Murphy, Kill Khalid, Paul McGeough, ISBN 9781741756005, middle eastern politics, hamas



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Existing comments

This was a very interesting review. My additional comments relate to the fact that I found it absolutely fascinating and a quite unexpected view of the life, suffering and total commitment of this Hamas leader. It sent me back to Michael Collins.

Also I think you dismiss the sheer excitement of the assasination attempt with the Spooks term -- it's details of the Palestinian medical staff and their management in an environment of total distrust is just one remarkable detail.
mary sheehan | 29 May 2009

The following quotations come from Hamas's own founding charter.

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

What's so hard to understand about the above? Israel is engaged in a battle for its very existence with a mortal enemy. That enemy, Hamas, is driven by its religion, Islam, to wipe Israel out.

What's the point of trying to enter into any negotiations with a group that is trying to destroy you? It's simple enough that you have to contain them or kill them, before they kill you.
Patrick James | 29 May 2009

Marcel Marceau did not say very much but I remember a comment attributed to him - "Religions divide". When institutional religions die, will we all come together and live happily ever after?
Ray O'Donoghue | 29 May 2009

Patrick, so what do a few words on a 20 year old charter matter when the reality is that the country has been Palestine and the jews have obliterated it and most of the Palestinians from their own land.

The zionist creed has always been "we want the land without the arabs".
Marilyn Shepherd | 30 May 2009


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