Kirkus Star


The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947
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How Jewish terrorists defeated British rule.

Terrorism scholar Hoffman (Security Studies/Georgetown Univ.; Inside Terrorism, 2006, etc.) draws on British, Israeli and American archives, uncovering much new material, in this history of Zionists’ determination to oust the British from Palestine. Terrorism, carried out by two rival groups—Irgun and the more extreme Lehi—resulted, after 30 years of violence, in British withdrawal and the creation of Israel. Britain’s presence had been authorized by the Mandate of Palestine, a consequence of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. By 1929, despite improvements to infrastructure and standard of living, both Arabs and Jews were seething with resentment. “The situation was…like the Wild West,” one British commander remarked. And it worsened: In the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of Jews fleeing the Nazis pressed for permission to immigrate, incensed over Britain’s quota; Arabs, threatened by an increase in population, formed marauding guerrilla bands. With British soldiers fighting the war, the police force was inadequate and demoralized. In 1938 alone, 5,708 terrorist incidents occurred. Of more than 90 protagonists in this teeming drama, Menachem Begin emerges as one of the most violent, the mastermind behind the horrific bombing of the King David Hotel in 1939. “We fight, therefore we are!” he exclaimed. British leaders, some openly anti-Semitic, vacillated as terrorists fulfilled their mission to make Palestine ungovernable. Never, a statesman said ruefully, would the region be a place “in which Jew and Arab would settle down together….” Winston Churchill, with considerable understatement, admitted that Britain’s Mandatory administration had been “a thankless, painful, costly, laborious, inconvenient task.” Hoffman concludes that the “rise of Israel was the product of many powerful forces in addition to terrorism.” But the Irgun’s success, he chillingly notes, laid the groundwork for today’s globalized terrorism.

An authoritative, sweeping, important history that shows how terrorism “is neither irrational nor desperate but instead entirely rational and often carefully calculated and choreographed.”

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0307594716
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2014


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