Srodes establishes Sarah’s bravery, but she remains a mysterious presence, overshadowed by her brother.



A brief history of Jewish spies aiding the British in Palestine.

In the late 19th century, Ephraim and Malkah Aaronsohn and their children settled in Zichron Ya’akov, one of many Palestinian villages established in the 1880s by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, a convert to Zionism, who aspired to grow vineyards in the desert. Srodes (On Dupont Circle: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Progressives Who Shaped Our World, 2012, etc.) traces the family’s history as they confronted an inhospitable climate, turmoil in the Ottoman Empire, anti-Semitism, infighting among Zionists, and World War I. Despite the subtitle, the main character in this tense narrative is Aaron Aaronsohn, the feisty, often overbearing eldest brother. Drawing on sources such as Patricia Goldstone’s Aaronsohn’s Maps (2007) and Ronald Florence’s Lawrence and Aaronsohn (2007), Srodes offers little new. Aaron was a prodigy who taught himself botany, geology, and hydrology; noting his intelligence, the baron sent him to agricultural college in France, hoping to reap the rewards of his learning. Later, he was invited to study in America, where he connected with some prominent Jews, among them Felix Frankfurter, Henry Morgenthau, Louis Brandeis, and Oscar Straus. Besides developing his knowledge of agriculture, Aaron proved a stellar fundraiser for Jewish settlements. Srodes devotes much of the book to revealing the spy network in which Aaron and his sister Sarah played a major role. Facing the Turkish army, the British lacked accurate maps of the region. Aaron provided them and also intelligence gathered from dozens of Jewish spies. In 1917, with Aaron away, Sarah took over and expanded this network. She and a colleague traveled throughout the area posing as Germans, gathering what Srodes deems “priceless details.” Later in 1917, Sarah was tortured and died, making her a martyr for Israel. The author claims that T.E. Lawrence dedicated his Seven Pillars of Wisdom to her, although he has found evidence that Lawrence never met her.

Srodes establishes Sarah’s bravery, but she remains a mysterious presence, overshadowed by her brother.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61902-613-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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