Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey Inside their Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East, by Joel C. Rosenberg

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Joel C. Rosenberg, and Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

As a former student of politics and a lover of political thrillers of all stripes, I have come to really enjoy the work of Joel C. Rosenberg. I do not profess to know a great deal about the intricacies of the Middle East or its precarious political situation, outside of the primary tenets developed in the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st. Rosenberg’s fiction has been quite telling, at times predicting events that did occur, which has always left me paying close attention when he spins a tale. In this, a piece of non-fiction, Rosenberg not only offers his opinions about progress in the region, but he provides first-hand accounts of discussions and scenarios with the various actors who have/will be responsible for peace in the region, as well as the emergence of religious freedoms, namely for evangelical Christians. It’s a telling piece and eye opening at the same time.

Rosenberg makes clear in the opening portion of the book that he is no soothsayer or prognosticator of what will happen in the region, but has been able to engage in key meetings with various high-ranking officials to get their opinions on situations, as well as forecasting what is likely to come in a reform movement. Israel is no longer an automatic pariah to countries in the region, though it is not a one-sided situation where Arab and Muslim countries are prepared to simply ‘take a knee’ and let Israel have what they have wanted since 1948. As with anything, there is a balance, albeit precarious, to a peace in the Middle East and the harmony that will occur thereafter.

While not seeking to name drop or put himself on a pedestal, Rosenberg makes clear that he has been given some unique access to various world leaders in the past few years. Organizing delegations as a Jewish evangelical Christian (you have to read the book to understand) and Israeli citizen (in all honesty, a joint US-Israeli citizen for the past number of years), Rosenberg has broken new ground in getting leaders of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and even Saudi Arabia, to sit with him and share their visions for the future. These include both within the country, as well as throughout the region. All include a view towards a peaceful interaction with Israel and a stronger connection to the evangelical Christian base Rosenberg espouses.

As the title asserts, there are also enemies in the region who would seek to stymie progress, or who are not helpful to the peace process. Iran and Turkey are two of these countries and their leaders, while perhaps eschewing their own version of the truth, have taken a hard-nose approach to both Israel and the United States. Rosenberg is clearly critical, not only of these actors (tossing Russia in there as well), but also points to a lack of definitive political bullying by the Obama Administration when they had the chance. While there are moments of sycophantic, pro-Trump rhetoric, the book does not make the past president appear to be the saviour of the region or that his views are the only hope for peace.

Rosenberg uses the last portion of the book to explore the possibility of religious freedom in the region, particularly for evangelical Christians. There appears to be a move towards such freedoms, citing that a number of the leaders to whom he spoke were happy to allocate a portion of the country to open Christian religious practice, as well as the building of churches. This is, according to Rosenberg, progress that parallels the emergence of a peace with Israel, inching forward slowly but notably.

While a piece of non-fiction and surely meant to convey some of the region’s history and current political turnaround, the book is not a dry recollection of events. Rather, it is Rosenberg’s personal interactions and conversations with leaders in the region over a period of years. While there are moments of necessary paraphrasing, it is full of strong quotes and explanations that readers without a thorough understanding of the region of its leaders can digest with ease. I found myself flying through the chapters, as they are intriguing and offer insights I had not considered, even if it is clearly seen through the lens of the speaker at times and not always analyzed through every angle. Backed by substantive endnotes, Rosenberg shows that this is not a soapbox diatribe, but rather work supported by documentation to which the reader can refer if they choose.

I will continue reading many of the fictional accounts of the region that Joel C. Rosenberg develops in his novels, as they tell a story that few other authors can present. The nuances woven into their narratives are not to be dismissed as off-hand or fairytales, as Rosenberg has shown that he knows the region, its actors, and the possible fallout. Fans of his work may enjoy this to see where some of the ideas for his past (and future) novels come from, though this is also a great piece for those who enjoy a perspective or two on Middle East politics and the upcoming perspectives of key players.

Kudos, Mr. Rosenberg, for an intriguing look at the other side of your writing. I enjoy seeing your non-fiction writing, as it complements those novels I have come to enjoy for the past many years!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons