by King Abdullah II
Jordanian King Abdullah II published his memoir in the historical, anecdotal, and topical book Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril. In an attempt to share his “memories, impressions, and views,” King Abdullah writes a detailed chronology of his life according to the events revolving around the Middle East crisis.
Throughout Our Last Best Chance, King Abdullah does a good job of balancing historical narrative with his own personal history. While it is hard to ignore an obvious bias of opinion, anecdotes of King Abdullah’s childhood remind the reader that the story of the Middle East conflict is also the story of King Abduallah’s life. Once such anecdote that caught my attention took place during an Israeli air raid. King Abdullah, around 5 or 6 years old, was hiding in the basement with his brother Feisal and other family members. Feisal dared Abduallah to run across the lawn and back. Abduallah writes that he “ran as fast as [his] legs would carry [him].” At one point there was an explosion during his sprint. Just the image of fulfilling a dare during an air raid harshly juxtaposes the normalcy of a childhood with the reality of war.
Perhaps it is his own childhood memories that lead King Abdullah to reiterate the need for peace for the future of our children. At every mention of peace, King Abdullah reminds the reader that today’s violence does not just affect the current generation, but future children. He is also eager to discuss how the Middle East conflict exists at the heart of global violence and terror. At one point he writes, “Resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict is in the national interest of the United States, Europe, and the rest of the international community. The Palestinian issue is of paramount importance to more than a billion and a half Muslims…” Such a statement rings true in the mind of the reader and, in this reader’s opinion, is evident in every report of global events.
Despite King Abdullah’s superior efforts to reach out to the greater public in order to educate and rekindle popular sentiment for peace negotiations, one aspect of Our Last Best Chance irked me. I was primarily bothered by the King’s writing style. At first King Abdullah’s writing comes across as clear and direct. Such a style is refreshing, particularly when dealing with such a heavy subject as the Middle East conflict. By writing directly and simply, the King is able to reach a larger audience. From his writing style it is apparent that Our Last Best Chance is meant for all citizens and not just the politician, academic, or current events enthusiast who can rattle off facts about the Arab-Israeli conflict. (Perhaps it is also the King’s way of reinforcing the idea that the Arab-Israeli conflict affects everyone and not just those living in the region) Yet, at times, the King’s writing felt too simple. I even felt mocked by its simplicity. It seemed that I was not knowledgeable or intellectual enough to be spoken to as an equal. While I doubt such a sentiment was intentional or that every reader will feel the same way, the simplistic style led me to repeatedly take a break from reading.
Overall I found Our Last Best Chance to be an intriguing read. It was refreshing to hear from a leader in the Middle East in such a personal manner. King Abdullah does not hide the truth from the reader, or so it appears, laying his articulated opinion in the open for all to judge. The King does such a great job of discussing with the reader it becomes hard not to cheer for his ideas and hopes, especially when he makes statements such as, “Our people want peace. It is our responsibility as leaders to make this much-eroded dream come true.” However, as I heard in the podcast Thin Places, Thick Realities, by Krista Tippet, “there are no facts” when dealing with the Middle East conflict. “There are so many different histories…that create ways of living facts.” I believe that if a reader can approach Our Last Best Chance with the mindset that the Arab-Israeli conflict consists of multiple realities the book will illuminate a whole new dimension of the current state of affairs in the Middle East.
Go forth and read!