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How unfortunate that the fascinating and dramatic story of Israeli agents, a double agent, and saboteurs in Egypt during the early 1950s should be rendered without suspense or style. It's as if Golan patched together notes and quotations from the four surviving saboteurs, three men and one woman (Susannah), with scant attention to anything but chronology and facts. We learn a little about the Israeli intelligence operation: the recruitment of Egyptian Jews in 1951, their violent activities in Cairo and Alexandria in 1954, their torture under interrogation. We learn much (in three-fourths of the book) about their struggle for survival in the dread Egyptian jails until they were exchanged for Egyptian war prisoners in 1967. This is hardly an adequate account of the unsuccessful mission that caused a political crisis, the Lavon Affair, over which defense minister Pinhas Lavon was dismissed and David Ben-Gurion resigned. Ultimately, it is the undigested personal accounts of the saboteurs that give the story some merit, by providing the reader with an intellectual and emotional challenge. On the one hand, the saboteurs tell how they placed bombs in movie theaters, a post office, and the US Information office in order to undermine President Nasser's new regime (though the general view is that they attempted to disrupt relations between Egypt and the West). On the other hand, they describe the horror and humiliation of their prison existence. Can we reconcile their terrorism with their sufferings? Or, paradoxically, sympathize with them because their operation was as much a political and moral failure as it was a tragedy--all of which they unintentionally make plain in their ineptly presented story.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row