Rouleau's memoir offers a glimpse of the Middle East during a period of rising Arab nationalism, British and French withdrawals, coups, and the emergence of Islamist terrorism. Having experienced, sometimes first hand, events of historical significance, he offers a number of interesting anecdotes.
An Egyptian-born Jew, Rouleau was a Middle East correspondent for Le Monde from 1955 until 1985 when he joined the diplomatic corps of France, his adopted country. His access to figures including Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and Yasser Arafat provided him with many scoops.
But more than anything, Rouleau here showcases his own far-left views and anti-Western biases. Journalists should report the "who, what, where, when and why," but Rouleau makes clear he saw his role as an advocate. This might explain why anti-American leaders were so willing to grant him audiences. As Rouleau explains, Nasser granted him a career-launching interview because "in political spheres, I was considered to be 'progressive' and someone likely to be impressed by some of the achievements of Nasser's regime."
Rouleau freely admits his "relative sympathies for Nasser's regime" and his "defense" of the Republic of Yemen in 1962. He acknowledges that he was "obviously in favor" of the Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba and had contempt for the shah of Iran. However, most glaring is his animus toward Israel and the very idea of Jewish self-determination. Indeed, his first chapter on Israel and Zionism begins by absurdly comparing the Jewish state to Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism. Elsewhere, he accuses Israel of "cashing in" on Holocaust reparations. Later, he observes that Israeli officials thought him prejudiced. Small wonder.
Rouleau whitewashes the discrimination and violence routinely inflicted upon Middle Eastern minorities, including Jews, in the years prior to Israel's creation. He obfuscates on the decision by many Arab leaders, including in Egypt, to accommodate Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s.
A lack of self-awareness permeates Rouleau's book, and his penchant for historical revisionism diminishes its worth. Not once does Rouleau acknowledge that his worldview may have colored his reporting. Readers looking for the truth about the Middle East would be well advised to look elsewhere.