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This Heated Place: Encounters in the Promised Land

by Deborah Campbell

Early in This Heated Place, an Arab acquaintance tells author Deborah Campbell – at the time a Canadian student at Tel Aviv University during the Gulf War – “What you see depends on where you are standing.” Later in this synthesis of political reportage, travel document, and personal memoir, an interviewee attempts to sum up the current feeling in the Middle East: “In a war situation,” he tells her, “you’re either for or against, and that’s the difficulty. The middle ground becomes untenable.”

And that’s the difficulty with this book: too much of the writing occupies this middle ground, and is therefore untenable. Hard questions are asked, such as how many Israelis “have become hostage to the settler minority?” There is little doubt that the settlers are a central concern in the current crisis. In the last 10 years they have doubled in population to 400,000 in over 150 settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. The state subsidizes these settlements, enticing new immigrant families, urged on by Sharon’s call to “grab the hilltops … creating facts on the ground.”

But facts on the ground are hard to come by in the Middle East. Campbell finds that “muddying of history” is common practice and that the newspapers of both sides often mirror each other. They also often speak in half-sentences, telling half-truths that serve only the purpose of the speaker. The media’s dominating punctuation marks are ellipses, indicating not only omission but suppression.

Readers seeking to learn about the hard facts on the ground are advised to go elsewhere. Though the much of the book makes for interesting reading, Campbell relies too heavily on anecdotal experience. As a result, This Heated Place lacks the authorial voice steeped in fact that is so necessary to understand this complex and bloody struggle.


Reviewer: Doug Beardsley

Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre


Price: $22.95

Page Count: 168 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 1-55054-967-7

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 2002-10

Categories: Children and YA Non-fiction, History