TAKING SIDES: America's Secret Relations with a Militant Israel by Stephen Green

TAKING SIDES: America's Secret Relations with a Militant Israel

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Over the years many charges have been levied against Israel, and against American support for Israel; this particular mishmash differs chiefly in drawing upon raw US government files. Green is admittedly ""not a Middle East area studies expert""; he has no apparent training as a historian (his background is in international relief); he doesn't know the languages, and doesn't think it matters. (For a key Israeli diary, he relies on a publication of the Association of Arab-American University Graduates, Israel's Sacred Terrorisms) Admittedly ""selective"" too, he typically identifies first-US-ambassador James G. MacDonald as ""an ardent Zionist""--but, in the same sentence, doesn't identify Secretary of Defense Forrestal or Undersecretary of State Lovett as notoriously ""anti-Zionist."" His opening chapters deal with Israel's much-debated birth. Where others have seen Truman's erratic support for partition as exacerbating the Palestine problem (by encouraging Arab resistance), Green simply repeats the old charge that Israel ""got a diplomatic blank check."" Inveighing against the ""myth"" that newborn Israel won a ""miracle victory"" over the invading Arabs, he quotes the preeminent historian of Israeli-American relations, Nadav Safran--selectively. What Safran actually said was that, from its then-tiny population (700,000), Israel raised a larger army than the Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, etc., invaders; that--the next sentence--""the Arabs had an enormous advantage in firepower and organization. . .""; that Israel's ""improvised ragtag army"" had also been fighting a civil war. The succeeding chapter--this is all discontinuous--praises Eisenhower for cutting off aid to Israel in 1953 to force Israeli compliance with a UN hydroelectric scheme for the Jordan River valley: ""in not one instance [since]. . . has an American President stood his ground so firmly."" The chapter after takes a different, less one-sided tack--discovering a good Israeli in moderate Ben-Gurion-foe Moshe Sharrett (interim P.M., 1954-55), airing Sharrett's contacts with Nasser, maintaining that the US missed a chance to foster peace, utilizing a recent scholarly source. Then it's on to the Suez War--substantially as reported by Edgar O'Ballance, Donald Neff, and others--and to allegations concerning the Israeli bomb, Johnson's pro-peace utterances/pro-Israel acts, and the 1967 Liberty affair. (For the latter, where Green's clams to new knowledge are particularly exaggerated, see James Ennes' 1980 exposÉ-inquest.) Overall, Green argues that, with less American support, Israel would have been less belligerent--an appealing argument post-Lebanon, but historically blinkered and internally compromised. There isn't much here that a careful reader can put stock in.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow