" If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking "
Gulag, written by Anne Applebaum tells the history of Labour Camps during USSR. The book have the details on the Origin of Gulag, Life & Work in the Camps, how camps evolved over the years, the condition of the camps during Second World War. The book describes the conditions of camps located at Solovetsky, Norilsk, Vorkuta, Kolyma and others. Harsh working conditions in the camps, the scarcity of food & clothing, how people survived through the camps, condition of women and how different types of prisoners lived in the camps.
The conditions of the camps during Stalin and after Stalin's death. The changes made to the camps when Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Mikhail Gorbachev led USSR. and finally how Gulag came to an end.
The Fall of the Ottomans, written by Eugene Rogan describes the events and the wars fought by Ottomans in the First World War and how the Great Ottoman Empire came to an end. The Ottoman empire finding it hard to keep its large territories secured, finds an ally in Germany and eventually jumping into First World War. The book describes the fights in Dardanelles and Gallipoli, fought by Ottomans and its ally Germany against British Empire (which included Indians, Australians, NewZealanders among others) and French forces. The Ottomans empire worried about the loyalty of Armenians, deported and killed Armenians in large numbers. The book also describes the Siege of Kut (a town in Iraq) and the fall of Baghdad in quite detail.
The Arab Revolt started by Sharif Hussein which was aimed to get the Independence from Ottoman rule and to create an Arab Kingdom, British used the Arab Revolt against Ottomans in the Middle East to defeat the Ottoman army. The greatest loss was the Jerusalem and eventually entire Palestine falling to the British hands, with the full support of British and the Zionist forces working relentlessly to occupy land of Palestine to create a Jewish State. Ottoman forces lost the major cities of Middle East one by one to British forces. Finally accepting its defeat in First World War and with that the Great Ottoman Empire came to an end.
King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, written by Alexei Vassiliev, is a great biography of King Faisal son of Abd Al Aziz. The book covers life of adolescent Faisal, as a Viceroy of Najd, his relationship with his Father Abd Al Aziz and his brothers (specially elder brother Saud), his marriage with Iffat. The book also have chapters on the Yemen conflict, discovery of Oil in the Kingdom, dealing with Aramco, his relations with Egyptian leader Nasser, death of Abd Al Aziz and ascension of Saud as the King, Pro Israel foreign policy of US, the Six Day War with Israel and Oil Embargo by the Kingdom.
King Faisal played a significant role in modernizing and reforming the Kingdom during his reign and took initiatives by making huge investments in education, healthcare and infrastructure. Under King Faisal, Saudi Arabia experienced significant economic growth due to its oil resources. He helped establish the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and played a vital role in the oil market.
King Faisal was austere in his lifestyle and a staunch advocate of Islamic values. King Faisal hated Zionism and was a vocal advocate for the Palestinian cause and supported Arab states during conflicts with Israel. King Faisal was assassinated on March 25, 1975, by his nephew, Faisal bin Musaid. King Faisal was a great leader and worked relentlessly for his people.
Drinking the Sea at Gaza, written by Amira Hass who lived in Gaza Strip for many years and wrote for Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Amira Hass is well known for her reporting on the daily lives of Palestinians living in Gaza. Gaza is under Siege from a long time and this book tells about the everyday life of Gazans.
Palestinians living in Gaza could not move freely to West Bank or Israel, they needed exit permit which was most of time not given, If a male is less than 40 years or single he will not get exit permit. Even if someone gets the exit permit they needed to return back to Gaza same day. Palestinians start to queue up at Erez checkpoint at 3 AM, so they can go to Israel or West Bank. Inhumane policies of Israel which resulted in high unemployment, made everyday life of Gazans extremely difficult. And whenever a bomb blast or any other attack took place in Israel, it resulted in complete closure of Gaza.
The book also mentions the Deir Yassin Massacre, in which more than 100 Palestinian villagers were massacred by Jewish militia Irgun and Lehi. Names of the Palestinian villages and cities were changed, Isdud was renamed to Ashdod, Majdal renamed to Ashkelon, Beit Daras renamed to Beit Ezra and a large number of other villages were renamed once Israel occupied the land.
The book also explains the failure of Oslo Accords, condition of Palestinians inside Israeli Jails and Shabak interrogation which involved squeezing the mens testicles.
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, written by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, explains how Israel Lobby controls the U.S. Foreign policy. No other organization have as much effect on U.S. Foreign policy as AIPAC, which is a Pro Israel lobby. Anyone in U.S. congress who condemns or questions U.S.'s unconditional support to Israel, would have to face AIPAC and its people, thats why no one dares to condemn Israel.
The book also mentions the role of other Pro Israel individuals and organizations e.g. World Zionist Organization, Zionist Organization of America, Christians United for Israel. A significant role is also played by Christian Zionism and Evangelical Christians in pushing the policies which are Pro Israel, even if it undermines U.S. interests. The Israel lobby also have a great impact on Public Discourse, College campuses, Academia and Mainstream media, the lobby makes sure that people have a positive impression about Israel. So when you see Alan Dershowitz write all the Pro Israel articles in Newsweek, The New York Sun, Jerusalem Post and others, it shouldn't be a surprise.
The book provides significant evidence that Neoconservatives and Pro Israel members of the Bush Administration e.g. Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Dick Cheney played a major role in America's decision to invade Iraq, which was actually Israel's war on Iraq fought by America.
The book also talks about U.S. foreign policy on Syria, Iran and the Israel-Lebanon War. Neoconservative's policy to spread Democracies in Middle East countries by using Military firepower, failed. It actually resulted in strengthening groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
The Palestine Nakba, written by Nur Masalha explains how Zionism and European Settler Colonialism led to the Nakba (`The Catastrophe`), in which Palestinians were massacred and their villages were destroyed, Zionist armed groups expelled around 750,000 Palestinians. Although May 15, 1948, became the official day for commemorating the Nakba, Nakba started before 1948 and it did not end in 1948, in fact its still ongoing today. Zionist Colonisation of Palestine started in year 1881.
The book breaks the myth in which Jewish forces are portrayed as David and Arab forces as Goliath, it also exposes the Zionist lie that land of Palestine was barren, empty & underpopulated, waiting to be made fertile and populated by Israel. Names of Palestinian villages, cities, public squares were changed to Hebrew sounding names, Zionist 'reclaiming by renaming' project is a major factor in the colonisation of the land of Palestine. Jewish National Fund (JNF) build Forests & Parks on the destroyed Palestinian villages to completely destroy the traces of Palestinian history and identity.
There are great efforts made by Israel to wipe out the Palestinian history and silence the Palestinian voices e.g. Palestine Research Center in Beirut was destroyed and archives from Orient house in Jerusalem were looted.
When Israel celebrates its Independence day, Palestinians mourn the Nakba.
Gaza, written by Norman G. Finkelstein, in which he shows how Israel justified its massacre of Palestinians in Gaza in the name of self defense. Israel has subjected Gaza to a illegal blockade.
During Israel's Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09 around 1400 Palestinians were killed, of whom up to four-fifths were civilians and 350 children. According to Richard Goldstone who directed the U.N. report documenting Israeli war crimes and possible crimes against humanity Operation Cast Lead was designed to punish, kill, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population. Israel and its cheerleaders started a smear campaign playing their usual cards, calling Goldstone as Antisemitic, Self Hating Jew, Holocaust denier. Goldstone later recanted. Israeli military deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians & civilian infrastructure.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Israel repeatedly exploded White Phosphorus munitions in the air over populated areas, killing and injuring civilians, and damaging civilian structures , including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse and a hospital.
During Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 around 167 Palestinians were killed (including 35 children).
During Israel's Operation Protective Edge in 2014 at least 2131 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, 1666 of the dead were civilians, including 521 children and 297 women.
The book covers Israel's massive and deliberate bombardment of Palestinian homes in Shuja'iya, Khuza'a and Rafah areas of Gaza, even Ambulances were not spared and were targeted. The book also have chapters on the brutal Israeli assault on Mavi Marmara which killed 9 Turkish passengers. Despite overwhelming evidence of Israeli War Crimes, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, U.N. Human Rights Council covered up Israel's unlawful acts and protected the perpetrator by whitewashing Israel's war crimes.
Israel's military intervention in Gaza has been equipped to a large extent by U.S. supplied weapons, munitions and military equipment paid for with U.S. taxpayers money.
To Start A War, written by Robert Draper explains the grave mistake made by George W. Bush and his administration Dick Cheney (Vice President), Donald Rumsfeld (Secretary of Defense), Colin Powell (Secretary of State), Condoleezza Rice (National Security Advisor), George Tenet (CIA Director) on the decision to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein.
Bush was being fed straight lies and fabricated information from all sides in President's Daily Brief (PDB) and other meetings. The whole lie that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), Chemical weapons (CW), Biological Weapons (BW) was used to justify and sell the war to public, Congress and U.S. allies. The intelligence community knew little to nothing and didn't had any evidence to justify the WMD claim. Bush's idea to export democracy and free people of Iraq were about to fail badly.
Some highly influential figures were desperately trying to tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11 perpetrators and Al Qaeda, to justify the war with Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz (Deputy Secretary of Defense) and Douglas Feith (Under Secretary of Defense for Policy) were doing their work to build a case, to make sure Bush decides to go to War with Iraq.
News reporters, writers, editors and news organizations also have their great amount of share in creating the environment for Iraq invasion. Careers could be made by wars. It was equally true that wars could be made by careerists, including those in newsrooms.
There were no WMDs found after the invasion (which many people already knew before U.S. invasion), but more than 200,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Shouldn't Bush and people who were in his administration held accountable for the deaths of civilians.
Palestine Inside Out, written by Saree Makdisi sheds light on the everyday life of Palestinians living in West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem under brutal Israeli Military Occupation. Palestinians are denied to move unimpeded within their own country, to exit and return, to develop large parts of their territory, build on their own land, access natural resources or develop their economy. Palestinians are always worried about their permits, checkpoints, curfews, clossure, military raids, Jewish settler violence, all of which is a great physical and mental harrasment. Even Donkies need a permit to cross the checkpoints. The ever increasing illegal Jewish settlements are encircling Palestinians.
It's a routine for Israeli Military to raid Palestinian homes, especially during nights to let Palestinians know that they are always under watch of Israeli military. Settlers break into Palestinian homes, attacking Palestinian families. Israel's discrimination towards its non-Jews (Arabs) citizens is visible in every aspect of life.
Gaza is under blockade from so many years, construction and factory workers are out of work as they can't import raw materials to work, farmers can't export their crops, fishing is also banned, most Gazans are so poor they can't buy anything. The real target of Israeli violence in Gaza is not Hamas or its rocket launchers but the people of Gaza themselves.
The book also explains how Palestinians have lost faith in corrupt Palestinian Authority (PA), as PA does not serve the interests of Palestinian people but on contrary, it fundamentally serves the needs and requirements of Israel. PA does not represent the Palestinian people and have lost its legitimacy.
D-Day, written by Antony Beevor explains the Allied Operation Overlord, the battle for Normandy. Allied force's massive cross channel Airborne landings which started on 6th June 1944 was followed by Seaborne landings. Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, Americans landed on the beaches codenamed Omaha and Utah, British at Sword and Gold, Canadians at Juno.
Allied Air Force was superior to German Luftwaffe, U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) and Royal Air Force (RAF) bombers dominated the sky and bombed many cities and towns in France to destroy German forces, and their communication and reinforcements. The allied bombings were not always precise due to which a large number of French civilians were killed and at some occasions Allied bombers, bombed their own troops on the ground.
German forces fought fiercely, making it difficult for allied forces to move further within France. One by one allied forces got control over french cities and towns, German forces fearing encirclement launched counterattacks, but the Allies ultimately prevailed. Fierce battles were fought at Cherbourg, Montebourg, Sainte-Mère-Église, Saint-Lo, Bayeux, Villers-Bocage, Caen, Falaise, Brittany and other places. German commander Choltitz surrendered in Paris on 25th August 1944.
In My Mother's Footsteps, written by Mona Hajjar Halaby, Mona a Palestinian Christian tells the story of her family, Mona's mother Zakia Jabre lived in West Jerusalem in 1948. But when bombing and shooting by Jewish forces Irgun and Haganah increased in Jerusalem in 1948, Zakia left Jerusalem with her brother Afif on 14 May 1948 to reach Cairo, they thought they will come back to their house in Jerusalem after few weeks when things will get better, but with Israel's creation and its Absentees Property Law, Zakia's family lost their right to return to their house in Jerusalem.
Zakia married to Jean Hajjar in Alexandria, Egypt in 1949, Mona was born in Egypt. After some time Mona's family moved to Geneva, Switzerland. Mona got married to David Halaby and moved to California. Mona's mother Zakia always used to tell about her home, her family, her neighborhood, her school and childhood in Jerusalem. Mona wanted to see and know more about her family's past in Palestine, she visited Palestine and also taught conflict resolution in a school for one year in Ramallah. Mona was able to find her old house in Lower Baq'a, Jerusalem, in which a jewish family lives now.
Mona's mother Zakia, her sister and father flew from Geneva to Jerusalem to see their old house in Jerusalem.
This book is a journey of a daughter, discovering her roots and recovering her mother's beloved past.
The Longest Siege Tobruk, written by Robert Lyman, In 1940 Musolini ordered his army to invade Egypt, Italian forces entered in Egypt and were able to reach till Sidi Barrani in Egypt. In December 1940 British forces launched Operation Compass led by Richard O'Connor, Italian army was very weak in terms of equipment and morale. British army moved Italian forces out of western Egypt and Cyrenaica in Libya, a large number of Italian troops were captured as prisoners. Tobruk which was heavily fortified by Italians before, was now under Allied forces.
In February 1941 German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel landed in Tripoli with his Afrika Korps. Rommel launched Operation Sonnenblume, forcing British forces to retreat El Agheila, Mersa Brega, Agedabia, Beda Fomm, Msus, Benghazi, Mechili and Derna. General Neame and O'Connor were captured and taken as prisoners by Axis forces. Allied forces held on to Tobruk and defended Tobruk, especially Morshead's Australian division. Since Tobruk was surrounded by Axis forces, Allied forces were sent reinforcements and supplies from Alexandria, Egypt by sea.
Rommel made many attempts to capture Tobruk but was not successful. On 10 December 1941 during Operation Crusader Allied forces lifted the siege which begin on 10 April, 1941. Axis forces withdrew from Tobruk and Allied defenders who defended Tobruk was known as The Rats of Tobruk.
Endgame, written by David Rohde, after Tito's death Yugoslavia started breaking, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence from Yugoslavia in July 1991, Bosnia had to also, what was left of Yugoslavia would be totally dominated by Serbia, Serbs would discriminate against Bosnia's muslims.
On 11 July, 1995 Srebrenica fell to Serb Army. More than 8,000 Muslim men including boys were brutally executed by Serb Army under command of General Ratko Mladić who was backed by President of Republika Srpska Radovan Karadžić and Serbian President Slobodan Milošević.
Men were separated from their families, loaded in buses and trucks, many were handcuffed and blindfolded and shot in mass. Some of the men tried to escape by walking in the forests, few survived the marathon of death from Srebrenica to Muslim held parts of Bosnia. A large number of women were raped and a lot of mass graves were later discovered.
Srebrenica was betrayed, innocent lives could have been saved, to save U.N. and Dutch peacekeeper's lives from Serbs, NATO Air Strikes on Serb Army were not approved. U.N. promised people of Srebrenica they would be safeguarded and then delivered them to their sworn enemies. Poorly armed, poorly equipped and poorly run peacekeeping mission monstrously failed Srebrenica's defenseless people.
The Last Refuge, written by Hasan Nuhanović, the author tells his story of survival in the 1992-95 Bosnian War. In 1992 when villages in Eastern Bosnia were attacked by Serb forces, people started fleeing their villages for safe areas. Hasan was from Vlasenica, he was studying Mechanical engineering in Sarajevo when the war broke out.
Hasan's father Ibro, his mother and younger brother Braco, all four of them were always on the run, with very little food and really harsh conditions. Hasan with his family managed to reach Srebrenica where they lived their last couple of years, when Srebrenica finally fell to Serb forces in July 1995.
Thousands of Bosnian muslims climbed the mountains, walked in the forests to reach Srebrenica, food was hard to find and people were willing to risk their life to get food for themselves and their family. Hasan knew a little bit of English and started working as an interpreter for United Nations peacekeeping forces in Srebrenica.
Hasan survived the Bosnian war but his father, mother and younger brother did not. On 11 July, 1995 Srebrenica fell to Serb Army, more than 8,000 Muslim men including boys were brutally executed by Serb Army under command of General Ratko Mladić who was backed by President of Republika Srpska Radovan Karadžić and Serbian President Slobodan Milošević.
I Saw Ramallah, a memoir by famous Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti, translated from Arabic by Ahdaf Soueif. Mourid Barghouti was born in Deir Ghassanah village near Ramallah in 1944, the author describes his journey back to Ramallah and his village Deir Ghassanah. When the Six Day war broke out in June 1967, Mourid was in final year of BA in English Literature at Cairo University in Cairo. Now he was not allowed to go back to Ramallah.
Mourid describes his thoughts as he crosses the Allenby bridge over Jordan river to enter the West Bank to visit Ramallah and his village Deir Ghassanah, the last time he crossed the Allenby bridge was in 1966, now he was crossing it again in 1996 after thirty years. Mourid tells about his family and friends, relatives and their sons and daughters who now live in Amman, Cairo, Lebanon, Paris, Budapest, Geneva, USA.
Mourid tells about his elder brother Mounif who was born in 1941 in Jericho, Mounif used to send him money when Mourid was studying in Cairo. Mourid married to Radwa Ashour, they had one son Tamim Barghouti.
Mourid mentions the assassination of Ghassan Kanafani and Mourid's friend Naji al-Ali, a famous Palestinian Cartoonist who was shot in London on 22 July 1987, after a few weeks he died. Mourid Barghouti's memoir reflects the collective Palestinian experience of displacement and longing for home.
Memoirs Of A Mujahed, a memoir by Hamou Amirouche, the author describes what was going on in Algeria which was colonized by France. In May 1945 just when Germany surrendered to Allied Forces in World War II, Algerian people marched and voiced their anger towards French colonization, French army committed the brutal massacre in Setif, Guelma and Kherrata to suppress the Algerian voices, killing around 45,000 Algerians.
May 1945 events played the major role behind the Algerian war of Independence which broke out in 1954. Colonel Amirouche Aït Hamouda who was part of National Liberation Front, commonly known by its French acronym FLN (Front de libération nationale), led the guerrillas in Willaya III.
Hamou's father, Ameziane Ahitous Amirouche was a blacksmith, originally from Ihitoussen but lived in Tazmalt for some time. Ahitous was arrested by French forces for his involvement with North African Star, known as ENA (Étoile Nord-Africaine). Hamou joined the freedom fighters in 1957 and served as private secretary to Colonel Amirouche. Guerrillas attracted B-26 and T-6 bombers, most of the time they never stayed more than 24 hours in any village, guerrillas got a lot of help from villagers. The author also describes the French army's dirty plots Blue Bird and Bleuite.
Colonel Amirouche sent Hamou and a group of fighters carrying mail and funds to Tunisia. After a long trek of around 42 days, crossing the Aurès Mountains, the group was able to reach Tunisia. Colonel Amirouche was killed on March 28, 1959. Hamou studied in Tunisia and was later sent to USA for studies.
Hamou studied in USA and visited his family in Algeria in 1963. The author got married to Mary Elizabeth Doyle (Betsy), a Catholic of Irish origin. Hamou returned to Algeria with his wife in 1967 and worked for 20 years in the Ministry of Industry and Oil. The author returned to USA in 1994, at a time when the Civil War was going on in Algeria.