Sand’s text has excited virulent denunciation in some quarters. My lack of expertise in its original Hebrew and in the detailed context of many of Sand’s quotations inhibits me from making any reliable judgment. I can say only that common sense supports much of his narrative and that its content, where I am qualified to assess it, is admirably and candidly presented. It may be that this book comes too late to help men arrive at a sane and rational compromise in the Middle East. Some situations are beyond repair, however much we wish it otherwise. Ideology and religion provide the basic framework of human thought and also supply the often antique racks on which we are all stretched. As Genet observed, “Nous ne sortirons jamais de ce bordel”—i.e., there is, to put it chastely, no way out of this mess.
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Frederic Raphael is the author of numerous novels (A Double Life, The Glittering Prizes), screenplays (Eyes Wide Shut, Far From the Madding Crowd) and non-fiction books (The Necessity of Anti-Semitism, Popper: The Great Philosophers). His latest novel, Final Demands, will be published in March 2010.