A thorough, proficient overview that quietly hums a pro-Jewish tune.



A history of the Jewish founding of Israel told through eyewitness accounts of both Arabs and Jews.

By beginning with the ancient story of the defense of Masada against the Roman onslaught in 66 C.E., U.S. Department of Defense intelligence analyst Gartman signals an emphasis on Israel’s ongoing vulnerability to attack by hostile outside forces. The idealism of the first migrants to Zion—those on the margins of Russian society, the Pale of Settlement, who were fleeing the pogroms of the 1880s—was tempered by the reality of the situation in Palestine: poor land for farming, Bedouin raids, malaria, dysentery, typhus, and back-breaking labor by shtetl Jews who had never done such manual labor. Theodor Herzl’s Zionist movement (aided by more pogroms) prompted waves of Jewish immigration that upset the entrenched Arab population, who believed the land belonged to them. Gartman traces how the delicate balance of power began to shift toward the Jews, especially with the British Balfour Declaration of 1917. The author employs extended extracts from documents by contemporary observers—e.g., an account by Khalil al-Sakakini, “one of the Arabs’ leading intellectuals,” of the riots that broke out between the Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem on April 4, 1920, and an early chronicle by Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion, who insisted that the Jews “were neither desirous nor capable of building our future in Palestine at the expense of the Arabs.” The ramifications of the Holocaust and Arab intransigence deepened the chasm between the two Palestinian neighbors, which, despite war upon war (delineated chapter by chapter), has not yet been settled. While Gartman does not bring new material to this work, he offers a tidy, compelling presentation and comprehensive documentation for a solid study.

A thorough, proficient overview that quietly hums a pro-Jewish tune.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8276-1253-2

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Jewish Publication Society

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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