Wow. I haven't done a book review on this blog in over two years.
Normally, the only book-length material I read nowadays is fiction. I watch the news on a near-daily basis, which is depressing enough, without delving into the depths of how bad things really are.
First of all, the title is a misnomer. The book is about equally devoted to Hamas
as it is to the Islamic State
(aka "ISIS," "ISIL"). The authors justify this by comparing Hamas' actions against Israel with ISIS's actions against, well, just about everyone else.
The book itself is derived from a study Mr. Sekulow and his team conducted for the University of Oxford. As a result, the book's first several pages retain an "academese" style of writing. That is, books written for academics, by academics, often have a lengthy, explanatory preamble: "This is a study on the (insert topic), and it's effect on (whoever/whatever). First we will discuss (this), then we will examine (that), and we'll conclude with (another thing)."
Fortunately--and unlike most academics-for-academics books--once you get past the introduction, Rise of ISIS, is a quick and easy read. I finished it in two days--and I'm a slow reader.
Oh, there are some graphic narratives, based on after-action reviews, official reports, and survivor testimonies we hadn't heard of because they didn't make into nightly newscasts. But to many of us who're aware of ISIS's modus operandi already know it's part of the mosaic of brutality they've painted across Syria and Iraq.
In each anecdote of atrocity, the authors illustrate ISIS's (and Hamas's) use of protected sites, like schools and hospitals, for military purposes; along with using civilians as human shields. So when inevitable civilian casualties are inflicted, America (and Israel) are blamed. Once again, this isn't new to any of us who're keeping tabs on our jihadist enemies.
In short: Rise of ISIS is a good beginners guide for anyone willing to learn about two of the world's most notorious terrorist organizations.
This willingness to learn is crucial if you're going to give Rise of ISIS to a novice on middle eastern affairs. About 20% of the reviews currently on Amazon.com are 3-stars, or less range: 25 x 3-stars, 25 x 2-stars and 40 x 1-stars.
However, the other 80% of readers did praise the book: 408 x 5-stars and 46 x 4-star reviews.
I haven't read a book--in either fiction or non-fiction--that has so many 5 & 1-star reviews piled on it.
I suspect a considerable number these are partisan-based. So you might want to verify someone's political/social leanings before handing Rise of ISIS off to someone.
The authors' conclusion drew the ire of some of the 1 & 2 star raters: That the minions of ISIS (and Hamas) are fanatical jihadists that cannot be appeased and can only be dealt with by force.
I'm one of the readers who liked the book and agree with the authors' conclusion.
However, while Rise of ISIS appears to be well researched, it's only enough for me to give it a 3-star rating. If the stories of ISIS's (and Hamas's) violence and brutality were new to me, I'd give it a 4-star rating. And if the authors focused on ISIS, instead of diverting readers' attention to Hamas, then the book would certainly deserve an additional 5th star.