Pre-Order Polakow-Suransky’s New Book on Israel and South Africa

by Kevin Jon Heller

I was going to wait until the book — entitled The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa — came out to mention it, but now seems like an opportune time.  You can pre-order the book from Amazon here, and here is the description:

A revealing account of how Israel’s booming arms industry and apartheid South Africa’s international isolation led to a secretive military partnership between two seemingly unlikely allies.

Prior to the Six-Day War, Israel was a darling of the international left: socialist idealists like David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir vocally opposed apartheid and built alliances with black leaders in newly independent African nations. South Africa, for its part, was controlled by a regime of Afrikaner nationalists who had enthusiastically supported Hitler during World War II.

But after Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967, the country found itself estranged from former allies and threatened anew by old enemies. As both states became international pariahs, their covert military relationship blossomed: they exchanged billions of dollars’ worth of extremely sensitive material, including nuclear technology, boosting Israel’s sagging economy and strengthening the beleaguered apartheid regime.

By the time the right-wing Likud Party came to power in 1977, Israel had all but abandoned the moralism of its founders in favor of close and lucrative ties with South Africa. For nearly twenty years, Israel denied these ties, claiming that it opposed apartheid on moral and religious grounds even as it secretly supplied the arsenal of a white supremacist government.

Sasha Polakow-Suransky reveals the previously classified details of countless arms deals conducted behind the backs of Israel’s own diplomatic corps and in violation of a United Nations arms embargo. Based on extensive archival research and exclusive interviews with former generals and high-level government officials in both countries, The Unspoken Alliance tells a troubling story of Cold War paranoia, moral compromises, and Israel’s estrangement from the left. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Israel’s history and its future.

And here are some early reviews:

“In this path-breaking book, Polakow-Suransky traces the evolution of the alliance between Israel and apartheid South Africa, from its murky beginning to its inglorious end, following the transition to majority rule. It is based on the most meticulous archival research supplemented by remarkably revealing interviews with decision-makers in several countries. Wise, elegantly written, and strikingly fair-minded, it deserves the widest possible readership.”
—Avi Shlaim, author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World

“Interesting, unique, and telling. Its lesson is very clear: doing the right thing may also be the best political option. It also tells us that sometimes we need others to save us from ourselves.”
—Yossi Beilin, justice minister of Israel, 1999-2001

“A major, long-overdue study of the rise and demise of one of the most intriguing alliances of our time. Polakow-Suransky has written a masterfully researched history that reads like a thriller unraveling the secrets of an alliance between two embattled societies under siege. Woven into the author’s fascinating narrative lies the disturbing debate about the degree of moral and political congruence that might have existed between the two allies—Israel’s political and defense establishment on the one hand and the Afrikaner ‘master race’ on the other.”
—Shlomo Ben-Ami, foreign minister of Israel, 2000-2001

“An intensely observed, eye-opening book.”
—Kirkus Reviews

I”m guessing the book won’t be at the top of Dershowitz’s wish list.

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