Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May-June 2007, page 70


Christians and a Land Called Holy: How We Can Foster Justice, Peace, and Hope

By Charles P. Lutz and Robert O. Smith, Fortress Press, 2006, 168 pp. List: $15: AET: $12.

Reviewed by Rebecca Baldwin

BECAUSE IT IS A very approachable book, Christians and a Land Called Holy might best be used to educate those who lack a background in the religious aspects of the conflict in the Holy Land. The authors deftly evoke the centrality of this place to the Abrahamic faiths, quoting Donald Bridge, who explained, “You cannot take a taxi or climb off a bus or go for a stroll...without stopping at some physical spot and saying ”˜God did this HERE...it happened HERE. Not because the places carry some sort of aura of holiness or grace but because our faith depends on things that God said and did in particular places at a certain time.’”

As the title indicates, Lutz and Smith view Christian involvement as the untapped mediator in the region. But life under occupation has greatly disrupted the livelihoods of Palestinian Christians. Those who remain are often described as the Holy Land’s “Living Stones.” Christianity’s historic first peoples—the “traditional buffer to the most radical Islamist thought”—are now the community most at risk for flight from the land of their birth.

Mainstream Christian groups must be involved with the Holy Land, the authors argue, not only because of the significance of the area but to counter the prominence of Christian Zionism and its influence on U.S. Middle East policy. Cited as examples are Evangelical meetings with Bush administration officials at a time when Catholic and Protestant groups were denied such high-level meetings, and books written by Christian Zionists which claim that those, including Christians, who do not believe in complete restoration of the Holy Land to Jews are heretics. “Because of that way of reading the Bible,” the authors maintain, “people are dying.”

Rebecca Baldwin is a candidate for a masters of science in strategic leadership at Mountain State University and treasurer of the Church of the Nazarene in New Galilee, PA.

Hezbollah: A Short History

By Augustus Richard Norton, Princeton Press, 2007, 200 pp. List: $16.95; AET: $13.50.

Reviewed by Margeret Hall

AUGUSTUS RICHARD NORTON, professor of anthropology and international relations at Boston University and a former U.S. Army officer and U.N. military observer, has written the most fluent survey of Hezbollah to date. This extremely accessible yet scholarly read covers the Lebanese resistance group from its inception to the current Lebanese political crisis, aided by a collection of poignant photographs and maps.

Norton’s overview begins with the early inceptions of Shi’i politics to the formation of Hezbollah with the help of Musa al-Sadr and the so-called “Iraq Connection.” A majority of influential Hezbollah clerics were educated in Iraq before Saddam Hussain expelled all foreign Shi’i. The expulsion from Iraq and funding from Iran’s new Revolutionary government coalesced after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. As former Israeli Gen. and Prime Minister Ehud Barak explained, “When we entered Lebanon...there was no Hezbollah. It was our presence there that created Hezbollah.”

A child of Iraqi education, Iranian funding and Israeli aggression, Hezbollah continues to evolve. At its creation it was solely a “resistance group”—or, to Washington, a “terrorist organization.” Domestic politics and social welfare were seen as being outside the scope of the organization. Norton goes on to demonstrate how, throughout the years of Israeli occupation, Hezbollah developed a broad-based social network, developing a loyalty which it later used to its political advantage.

In analyzing the July 2006 war and its foreshadowing of the current political conflict, Norton chronicles the events from the 2005 Hariri assassination until the July 2006 Israeli war and assesses the interests of such players as Syria, Israel and the U.S. Although the results of the July 2006 conflict are still being debated, Norton concludes that Israel not only failed to achieve its stated goal of vanquishing Hezbollah, but served to increase Hezbollah’s popularity on the Arab street.

Margeret Hall is director of the AET Book Club.