Thursday, August 28, 2014

Three good books on Israel.

I know from some of my email that there are a lot of folks out there with no idea how Israel came to exist in the Middle East.  If you don't understand that, it's tough to make sense out of events there now.  People tend to view the Israelis as this great military force trampling on the poor Arabs, who only want to live in peace. I remember a big newspaper add during the 1982 operation in which Israel cleaned out the nests of terrorists in Lebanon.  It was two pages.  On one side, it showed the flags of those countries who "condemned"  Israel. On the other side, it showed one flag only ,in support of Israel, and that was the U.S. flag.

Part of that is just plain antisemitism. Or , racism if you prefer. I get a kick out of hearing blacks constantly complaining about racism, when in fact most people bend over backwards to avoid giving that impression. They let minorities literally get away with murder rather than run the risk of being construed as being "racist."   But there doesn't seem to be any problem with people saying anything they want to about Israel, and the more outrageous and untrue, the better. If you think I'm exaggerating, look at some Israeli blogs and check out some of the comments from "Ahmed" and "Memhet."  Personally, I delete stuff like that from my blog and ignore the ignoramuses that write it.

If you are curious about the history of the Israelis, here are three good books on it.

This is a novel. It was made into a movie starring Paul Neuman.   Uris was known for his research into his novels, so though this is fictionalized the basic facts are accurate.   It's not hard to read, and if you do go through it you'll learn about how the Jews came to be in the Middle East, and how hard the British among others tried to keep them out.

  Genesis 1948   is a military history of the Israeli War of Independence. Essentially, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine, creating the Israeli state and a Palestinian area as well. But the combined armies of Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and a few minor players like the Saudis, Moroccans, et al tried to overrun the new country.

With very few arms and no army to speak of, the Israelis withstood the attacks and held out until a truce could be arranged. Just how they did that is really fascinating reading, and Kurzman does a good job of avoiding dry history by telling a lot of the story from the perspective of people who were at the actual events.

There's a lot to it , and there were a lot of twists and turns in that particular plot. There were different factions in Israel, including some frankly terrorist groups, and there was fighting between them and the Israeli government. It's not a boring book.

This is a military history book. It's one of mine that I kept when I started giving away my professional library from my Marine Corps career.  It can get a little detailed if you are not interested in military history, but on the other hand it gives a good general synopsis of what happened in the region between the declaration of the State of Israel in 1947 and the Yom Kippur War in 1974.

It will explain how Gaza came to be the enclave of Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas, and why there has never been any real attempt on the part of any Arab country to make peace with Israel except Egypt. Anwar Sadat, who pioneered that peace, was murdered by the Muslim Brotherhood as a reward for his achievements.

I knew some Israeli Officers at Quantico, and I liked them.  They were all Sabras, or native born Israelis, and I liked their straightforward approach to things, and their values.  They were professionals. Their army may not be as spic and span as ours, but they know how to fight and they do it well. If they didn't , there wouldn't be any Israelis now because there wouldn't be an Israel.

In 1982 and 1983 I got to see the Israelis in action, in very tough circumstances. Because of the stupidity of the U.S. State Department, and the asinine personal ambitions of the toads it sent to Lebanon during that period, we didn't get to work directly with the IDF.  Our political masters didn't want to offend Yassir Arafat or the other Arabs.  But I did get to see them work and we liked them. Friction between the IDF and the USMC existed, solely because the State Department forbid us to exchange liason officers, but it was marginal and not deeply rooted.  You don't put foreign military forces next to each other without liason officers and expect they won't bump into each other sometimes.

Well, if you've been following events there on the news, any of these books will help make sense out of what is really a fairly complex situation.


  1. I can't imagine anyone has not at least seen the Exodus movie. What I find fascinating and no one touches upon is the connection between the Ottomans that controlled the region and their alliance with Hitler during WW2. And going back further how, the much glorified Lawrence of Arabia disobeyed orders and introduced the southern muslim tribes to the region and how much of today's conflict is rooted in all that history.
    An interesting read on the dynamics going on at present:

    1. Silvius, those are both good points. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who later played such a big role in stirring up trouble after WW2, actually visited Hitler in Berlin during the War. The Ottomans controlled that part of the world until 1918, when they were replaced by the British and French. The Arabs supported the Germans in WW2, while the Jews provided the British with a brigade of troops. That wasn't all altruism, of course, since the Jewish soldiers came back to Israel and trained the Haganah. It's al rings, within rings, within rings as the saying goes.

  2. when I hear all these dumb-asses going on about how evil the Jews are I just imagine them raising their right arms and saying "Sieg Heil"

    1. Yeah. Most of it is ignorance. I am constantly amazed at the degree of ignorance in the general public. I have to be careful what I say though. I once said the Palestinians were the Mexicans of the middle east and many Mexicans were deeply offended. :-)

  3. I read Exodus in high school, about twenty years ago. It has remained one of my all-time favorite books. And is one of the main reasons I roll my eyes whenever some blowhard on campus pontificates about the evil of the existence of the Israeli state.

    1. I just dug out my copy and read it again, I think the last time was when I was still in the Marine Corps. It is a good movie, too, if you ever see it on the old classics channels.