From Publishers Weekly
Journalist Goldstone (Making the World Safe for Tourism
) puts scarce Mideastern water resources front and center in this flawed biography of Aaron Aaronsohn (1876–1919), a founder of NILI, a group that spied for the British in Palestine during WWI, and a pioneering agronomist and hydrologist. Goldstone is best at depicting British diplomacy and intra-Jewish politics leading up to the 1917 Balfour Declaration supporting a Jewish homeland in Palestine—a British declaration influenced, she shows, by a 1916 memo from Aaronsohn on Palestine's potential to absorb million of Jews. Goldstone makes errors (such as stating that Israel lost the Sinai Peninsula in the 1973 Yom Kippur War) and offers the tendentious, unsourced claim that in 2003, right-wing Jewish lobbyists hoped that a defeated Iraq would be used as a haven for persecuted Palestinians run out of Israel. Above all, she never makes a case for her thesis that Aaronsohn's plan for regional sharing of water resources could have prevented the longstanding Arab-Israeli conflict. (For another account of Aaronsohn's life, see Lawrence and Aaronsohn,
reviewed on p. 46.) 8 pages of b&w photos. (Sept.)
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"[A] spry scholarly detective story... Goldstone honors both Aaronsohns, closing with notes on how Aaron''s plans for equitable water rights in Palestine might have led to peace today."
"[A] well-researched, resourceful, politically balanced... account of the life of the man who made the fatal mistake of taking issue with the leaders of the Zionist movement... Hers is the first true biography."
(H.V.F. Winstone, author of THE ILLICIT ADVENTURE
"How we got to the Middle East of today is at the heart and soul of "Aaronsohn''s Maps" by Patricia Goldstone. Goldstone has dug deep to come up with the bio of the agronomist, diplomat and spy who helped found Israel. There''s more than a touch of T.E. Lawrence in this child of Jewish settlers in Palestine: Aaron Aaronsohn''s spy network helped the British take Jerusalem in World War I; he compiled the first maps of water in the arid region; his sister, also a spy and possibly Lawrence''s lover, was captured and tortured to death. Aaronsohn died in a plane crash in 1919; his vision for a peaceful Middle East died as well."
(San Diego Union Tribune
"[O]ffers the intriguing notion that, had Aaronsohn lived, his unique survey of Palestinian water sources could eventually have facilitated a peaceful boundary with Lebanon and Syria."
"Aaron Aaronsohn''s fascinating story will come as a major surprise to most students of Middle Eastern history... a tour de force."
(Winnipeg Free Press