My Enemy's Enemy is the first comprehensive study of pre-state Zionist policy toward Lebanon. Laura Zittrain Eisenberg identifies early Zionist perceptions
about Lebanon, considers efforts to construct a lucid Zionist policy toward that country, and characterizes the nature and course of Zionist-Lebanese relations prior to 1948.
Research reveals that pre-state Zionist attention to Lebanon consisted primarily of repeated attempts to establish a political alliance between the Jewish community in Palestine and the Maronite Catholic community in Lebanon. In examining the intra-Zionist debate for and against a pro-Christian policy toward Lebanon, Eisenberg moves effortlessly through the ideological, political, and economic rationales for the Zionist-Maronite partnership and uncovers the
basic flaws in Zionist assumptions about the relationship's potential for success.
Largely neglected by traditional scholarship on the Arab-Israeli condition, the Zionist-Lebanese relationship from 1900 to 1948 was surprisingly active and amicable. Zionist curiosity was naturally piqued by Lebanon, an Arab country with a sizable non-Muslim population enjoying political predominance. Friendly overtures from the dominant Lebanese Maronite Catholic community encouraged many Zionists in the belief that
Lebanon offered special opportunities for ending their isolation in the region. By the early 1930s, the striking similarity of circumstances in which the two groups found themselves suggested to many that the minority Jewish and Christian communities
in the overwhelmingly Muslim Middle East shared common goals and suffered common opponents.
The desire to translate these mutual concerns into meaningful political advantages led individuals in both camps to propose a "minority alliance." Reflecting the old political adage that "my enemy's enemy is my friend," this strategy called for Palestinian Jews and Lebanese Christians to join forces and coordinate economic and political resources in confronting their common Muslim foes
and pursuing their similar national
Zionist strategists trying to chart policy toward Lebanon did so in the context of the fractious nature of domestic Lebanese confessional politics, French mandatory control in the Levant, different policy preferences among themselves, and the Palestinian Arab and British problems facing their movement within Palestine.
Eisenberg concludes that although the alliance-of-minorities concept was a logical one for Zionist foreign policymakers to explore, it was an unwise policy to pursue. Continuing delusions about the feasibility of a Zionist-Maronite partnership throughout the pre-state period served as a faulty premise for a resultantly faulty policy.
Based upon extensive archival research, interviews with former diplomats, and the Hebrew and Arabic press of the period, My Enemy's Enemy brings to light the long and rich history of Zionist-Lebanese interaction prior to Israeli independence and establishes the historical roots of contemporary Israeli involvement in Lebanon. By identifying the
motivations and activities that characterized
the optimistic pre-state Zionist approach to Lebanon, Eisenberg expertly conjures up Lebanon's place in the early Zionist imagination.