THE PALESTINE TRIANGLE: The Struggle for the Holy Land 1935-48 by Nicholas Bethell

THE PALESTINE TRIANGLE: The Struggle for the Holy Land 1935-48

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Britain, by trying to bring the two sides in the Palestine imbroglio to a compromise consistent with her own interests, was attempting ""to square, or triangularize a circle,"" writes Nicholas Bethell. ""The more she tried, the more vicious the circle became. And when finally the whole construction snapped, she was too weary and disillusioned even to try to pick up the pieces."" Bethell's assessment of British policy in Palestine recalls America in Vietnam: she should not have gotten involved in the first place. But no one could have foreseen the results of conflicting promises to Jews and Arabs given in exchange for support in World War I. No one anticipated the shift in British strategic interests, the Arab revolt of the 1930s, World War II, the Holocaust, or the exhaustion of Britain herself and the demise of the Empire. To this well-known story of the Palestine mandate during the crucial years 1935-48, the British journalist and author (The Last Secret, 1974) injects fresh insights via recently available British and American documents and dramatic testimony from many of the participants, especially British soldiers serving in Palestine. There is the confusion of the English Tommy who had just fought the Nazis and was now fighting the Jews; the boarding of the Exodus; and attempts to live normally with the knowledge of being on the LEHI (Freedom Fighters of Israel) ""hit"" list. New answers to old questions appear. The Irgun did warn the British to evacuate the King David Hotel, Bethell finds, but the manager received the message only minutes before the blast. The British could have allowed a few more Jews into Palestine in the light of World War II, Malcolm MacDonald concedes almost 40 years after authoring the restrictive 1939 White Paper. The 1944 assassination of Lord Moyne by the LEHI, Bethell reveals, put an end to Churchill's pro-Zionist activism. And, to illustrate the British-American rift over the refugee problem, he cites Truman's condemnation of the British as hard-hearted while they accused him of buying the Jewish vote. Although the Arab case is presented, emphasis is on the Jewish-British struggle, including both British anti-Semitism and Jewish propaganda. Scholars will find some quotes unattributed and an occasional error traceable to a lack of familiarity with the sources. But Bethell is a fluent writer and he has done some important digging; the result is a laudatory attempt to explain British problems in Palestine as well as Jewish and Arab reactions to them.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1979
Publisher: Putnam