A HISTORY OF ISRAEL from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, two vols by Howard M. Sachar
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A HISTORY OF ISRAEL from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, two vols

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Clearly there can be no such thing as an ""authoritative"" study of this controversial subject; yet Sachar, a George Washington University historian and US government consultant, has produced an exceptionally comprehensive and objective chronicle of European Zionism and, above all, Israeli development. The failure of most pre-WW I Jewish settlements in Palestine is brought out, including ""serfdom"" in Rothschild vineyards; and the book details both British fulfillment and British betrayals of the pledge to create some sort of Jewish homeland in Palestine, as well as the Allies' refusal to allow significant Jewish immigration during and after WW II. The 1949 borders of the new state were ""a time bomb for Israel,"" in Sachar's view. The machinery of government and parties is explained with reference to the coalition system--Sachar frowns on Ben-Gurion's pragmatic alliance with the Orthodox--and to the influx of immigrants from the Mideast and Eastern Europe who were unschooled in Zionism. A persistent theme becomes the danger of materialism in general and the laziness of public employees in particular. Sachar also finds space for the grievances of the Arab minority in Israel; Jewish and Arab literature; and the social character of the ""Oriental"" community. Familiar topics such as the Lavon Affair, Israeli relations with West Germany, and the three major wars in 1956, 1967 and 1973 are crisply and usefully summarized; but the emphasis on Israel's fear of diplomatic isolation turns into a stern allusion to Masada (the Roman destruction of ancient Jewry) at the book's end. Some readers will be startled by frank references to the ""shabbiness. . . claustrophobia and joyless existence"" of 1960s Israel; others may feel that Sachar tones down the disputes over the US role in the Yom Kippur War. Yet, beyond any of its very smoothly assembled particulars, this is a major resource and a challenging evaluation which, if it fails to match the sharp specificity of Noah Lucas' handling of domestic factionalization in The Modern History of Israel (1975), contains a far fuller account of diplomatic and military policy.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1976
Publisher: Knopf