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Inaugural Washington Institute Book Prizes Awarded


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The Siege of Mecca, Yaroslav Trofimov's gripping account of the takeover of Islam's holy shrine in 1979, garnered the Gold Medal—and a $30,000 cash award—in The Washington Institute's inaugural Book Prize competition, the research institution announced on September 20, 2008.

Mr. Trofimov accepted the Gold Medal at a special awards ceremony at the New York Historical Society on March 10, 2009. Access complete video and audio of the author's remarks.

The Book Prize, established to highlight new nonfiction books on the Middle East, is among the world's most lucrative literary awards. Winners were announced before an audience of more than 300 journalists, diplomats, scholars, and members of the Institute's Board of Trustees at the organization's annual Weinberg Founders Conference in Leesburg, Virginia.

In addition to the top winner, two other books were recognized as well—Silver Medal winner ($15,000) Foxbats over Dimona, by Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez, the provocative account of how nuclear politics triggered the Six Day War; and Bronze Medal winner ($5,000) Worlds at War, by Anthony Pagden, a sweeping look at the two-millennia-old contest between East and West.

Winners were chosen by a three-person jury that included eminent Middle East historian Bernard Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jim Hoagland, and acclaimed scholar of American foreign policy Michael Mandelbaum.

"The goal of our Book Prize is to help Americans—from the White House to the average home—identify what they need to read in order be informed about the world's most volatile region," said Institute executive director Dr. Robert Satloff. "It is a new but essential way for The Washington Institute to fulfill its mission of injecting scholarship into U.S. Middle East policymaking."

Winners of the 2008 Washington Institute Book Prize

Gold Prize: $30,000
The Siege of Mecca
Yaroslav Trofimov (Doubleday)

Prize Jury Commendation:
"When armed men mainly from Saudi Arabia seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca and held it for two bloody weeks in 1979, they shook the foundations of the Saudi regime. Yaroslav Trofimov's riveting account of the siege, the incompetent bumbling of the Saudis, the incomprehension of the Carter administration, and the bloody climax reads like a thriller. But this book is much more: it is a penetrating look at the clash of materialist mania and Islamic zealotry that rumbles deep within the kingdom. Trofimov has pieced together long-hidden aspects of the story through painstaking research, often under difficult and even dangerous circumstances. Our understanding of the rise of al-Qaeda and the attacks of September 11 is now richer and more complex, thanks to this brilliant combination of social history and investigative journalism."

Read the publisher's announcement.

Silver Prize: $15,000
Foxbats over Dimona
Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez (Yale)

Prize Jury Commendation:
"Foxbats over Dimona is a meticulously researched yet conceptually bold analysis of the origins of the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six Day War. Provocative Soviet actions that have customarily been portrayed as inept or inexplicable are set out by the authors as part of a deliberate plan, which could have culminated in a Soviet attack on Israel's nuclear facility at Dimona. This book, piecing together long-overlooked evidence and clues, delivers all the suspense of a spy novel. It has challenged our understanding of the Six Day War, pioneering a whole new vein of research into the labyrinth of Soviet sources and prompting new scrutiny of events whose consequences resonate today."

Read the publisher's announcement.

Listen to an extended interview with the authors.

Bronze Prize: $5,000
Worlds at War
Anthony Pagden (Random House)

Prize Jury Commendation:
"Anthony Pagden ranges with great fluidity over the history of the long conflict between East and West, Europe and Asia, and ultimately Christianity and Islam. He treats distant past and immediate present, from Herodotus to today's jihadist movements, with equal erudition and a profound understanding of cultural and social forces in vastly different societies and epochs. Master of the broad brush and the fine detail alike, Pagden has painted one of the greatest duels in history on a large canvas that serves as an essential backdrop to today's headlines."

About the Authors

Yaroslav Trofimov
Yaroslav Trofimov is currently an Asia-based roving correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, reporting in-depth stories about religion and social change in a region that stretches from Indonesia to Pakistan. From 1999 to 2007, he travelled widely in the Middle East as a Rome-based correspondent for the Journal, reporting extensively from Saudi Arabia and from the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez
As journalists for Israel's leading broadcast and print media and as historical researchers, Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez collaborated for 20 years to expose the extent of Soviet military involvement in the Middle East.

Anthony Pagden
Anthony Pagden is distinguished professor of political science and history at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was educated in Chile, Spain, and France, and at Oxford. In the past two decades, he has been the reader in intellectual history at Cambridge, a fellow of King's College, a visiting professor at Harvard, and Harry C. Black Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University. The author of numerous prizewinning books, he contributes regularly to such publications as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the New Republic.