A dense but intensely observed, eye-opening book.

THE UNSPOKEN ALLIANCE

ISRAEL’S SECRET RELATIONSHIP WITH APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA

Rhodes scholar and Foreign Affairs senior editor Polakow-Suransky tracks the rise and fall of an ignoble “collaboration” between two countries with deeply troubling histories of racism.

How could the young state of Israel embrace apartheid South Africa and become its greatest arms supplier? According to the author in this pointed exposé, the 1967 Six-Day War propelled Israel from a socialist to imperialist state, and the moral rectitude of early founders David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir gave way to the realpolitik of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. While Meir had cemented relations with several African countries in the late ’50s by virtue of their shared dream of redeeming their respective lands from oppressors, the reaction to Israel’s increasing aggression was opprobrium. Nonetheless, Israel’s economy needed a market for its sophisticated arms exports. Similarly, South Africa was growing increasingly isolated among democratic nations because of its repugnant apartheid policies. However, the country had a rich source of uranium needed for nuclear weapons. By the early ’60s, the pieces for “savvy sourcing and subterfuge” were in place, as Polakow-Suransky systematically demonstrates. Thanks to secretly purchased South African yellowcake, Israel developed its own nuclear capabilities, while defense officials Peres and Moshe Dayan ensured the arms industry maintained a good relationship with South Africa, their “ideal customer: a developing country with a defense-conscious, right-wing government that did not have close ties to the Arab-Muslim bloc.” The author traces the fallout as world opinion excoriated both regimes, though most chilling is his prescient analogy between the now defunct structure of apartheid and Israel’s current “circumscribed existence” for the Palestinians.

A dense but intensely observed, eye-opening book.

Pub Date: May 25, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-375-42546-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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

NIGHT

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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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