You can’t mention thought provoking and Middle East without also mentioning Bernard Lewis, Robert Fisk and Noam Chomsky, three of the most prominent Western commentators on the region. As with anything to do with the Middle East, their books raise strong feelings and plenty of controversy.
Lewis has been quoted as saying “Mr. Chomsky’s views on Middle Eastern history are about as reliable as my views on linguistics” (Chomsky is a professor at the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT). I’m not sure what Robert Fisk says about the other two.
Lewis is a leading scholar of Middle Eastern history and an expert on the Ottoman Empire. His book What went wrong is widely regarded as a key read if you are trying to understand what is going on there. He was summoned to the Pentagon after 9/11 on the strength of it. He is the most establishment figure of the three, but has his own unique views on subjects such as Western style elections in the Mid East.
Fisk is an award-winning journalist who has spent 30 years in the Middle East reporting for the British newspaper The Independent. He is the only Western journalist to interview Bin Laden, was opposed to the Iraq invasion, is sceptical of authority and if would be fair to say that the establishment is not terribly fond of him. He has an on-the-ground understanding.
Chomsky is one of the world’s most controversial authors. A brilliant linguist, he is also a long time political campaigner. Acerbic and with anarchistic leanings, he calls himself the conscience of America. The Americans politely call him a political dissident. His views on politics encompass some controversial views on the situation in the Middle East.