On the positive side, Rise and Fall meticulously traces the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), one of the Middle East's most interesting organizations, through the decades, and especially the years 1932-59, documenting its twists and turns as it sought either to overthrow the existing order in Lebanon and Syria or retreated back to a more cautious stance. Yonker, a lecturer in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Tel Aviv University, is true to Israel's Germanic scholarly tradition.
On the negative side, Yonker's disappointing study follows those twists and turns without seeing their larger significance for the two countries most involved or the surrounding region. His book reads like a cross between a medieval chronicle and an overly-long graduate student paper. Lists of facts, members, and other pedestrian data will leave most readers wondering why they should care about the SSNP. A typical sentence informs us that SSNP candidates for the Lebanese parliamentary elections in 1953 "were selected at a joint meeting of the Higher Council and Council of Deputies presided over by 'Abd al-Masih and included Adib Qadurra (Beirut—fourth district), Asad al-Ashqar (Metn), 'Abdallah Sa'adeh (Koura), Ali Halawa (Tyre), and Nadhmi Azkul (Bekaa el-Gharbi)." So engrossed is Yonker in these minutiae, he devotes only a few paragraphs to the larger topic of the SSNP's lasting impact on Levantine politics.
Other problems include a misleading title; it should be something like "The Rise and Fall of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party," for the SSNP's early history, and not the larger topic of Greater Syria, is Yonker's near-exclusive focus; King Abdullah I of Jordan and Hafiz Assad of Syria, the two other main protagonists of Greater Syria, receive only cursory mentions. Oddly, Yonker never introduces or explains Antun Sa'adeh, the SSNP's founder and the dominant character of his study. Eccentrically, he denies that the SSNP's ideology and aims in its heyday were, as near-universally accepted, fascistic, without offering an alternative explanation. Finally, the book contains too many Arabic mistakes (um, nahna) and other minor errors.