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The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 25, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

During the mid-1950s, the young state of Israel built diplomatic ties to postcolonial African nations on their common histories of oppression. But by 1987, Israel's alliances on the continent had completely changed—despite international sanctions, Israel maintained a close and covert relationship with South Africa; their military trade kept the Israeli economy vital and buttressed the faltering apartheid government. With recently declassified documents, Polakow-Suransky, an editor at Foreign Affairs, offers an important, provocative, and occasionally disturbing analysis of this clandestine alliance. He identifies two wars as decisive turning points in Israeli–South African relations. The 1967 Six-Day War and Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories alienated former friends and won it new enemies; and the 1973 Yom Kippur War left the economy in shambles, and created a powerful incentive for Israel to export arms to and cultivate its relations with the South African government. The author concludes his smart and readable study with a charged epilogue in which he writes that, as evinced by its policies towards Palestinians, Israel itself risks remaking itself in the image of the old apartheid state. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Hugely impressive . . . [Polakow-Suransky] probes in groundbreaking detail the illicit relationship Israel maintained with South Africa.”
—Dan Ephron, Newsweek
 
“The best-documented, most thorough, and most credible account ever offered of the secret marriage between the apartheid state and Israel . . . Polakow-Suransky is no knee-jerk critic of Israel, and he tells his story more in sorrow than in anger . . . [an] important new book.”
—Glenn Frankel, Foreign Policy

“[I]mportant, provocative, and occasionally disturbing.”
Publishers Weekly

“A meticulously researched book that reads like a spy thriller . . . Polakow Suransky spent seven years on his project, conducting interviews with key players from Israel and South Africa, mining South Africa’s apartheid-era archive and resurrecting documents and articles that the Israeli Foreign Ministry would prefer remained forgotten. Rich with intrigue and shocking details but written without a trace of stridency, The Unspoken Alliance is the most authoritative account to date of Israel’s scandalous dealings with the apartheid regime of South Africa.”
—Max Blumenthal, The Nation

“Sasha Polakow-Suransky does an impressive job uncovering untold elements about the level and details of the South African and Israeli relationship . . . We should read this book, if only to see yet another example of the interconnectedness of our geopolitical affairs.”
—CSIS.org (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
 
“A deft, pacy and revealing account . . . admirably dispassionate.”
The Economist

 “In this path-breaking book, Sasha Polakow-Suransky traces the evolution of the alliance between Israel with apartheid South Africa from its murky beginning to its inglorious end following the transition to majority rule. The book is based on the most meticulous archival research supplemented by remarkably revealing interviews with decision-makers in several countries. It is a wise, elegantly written, and strikingly fair-minded book which deserves the widest possible readership.”
—Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations, Oxford University and author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World
 
The Unspoken Alliance is 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, former Israeli Minister of Justice and Director General of the Foreign Ministry
 
“This is a major, long overdue study of the rise and demise of one of the most intriguing alliances of our time, Israel’s hidden partnership with white South Africa. Dr. 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. Weaved into the author’s fascinating narrative lies the disturbing debate about the degree of moral end 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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375425462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375425462
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,365,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book traces the birth, adolescence, and death of the decades-long secret alliance between Israel and South Africa. Based on years of archival research and hundreds of interviews with Israelis and South Africans, it carefully documents the ways in which the two pariah states--facing international criticism and domestic difficulties--engaged in mutually beneficial relations (mostly for economic reasons). Along the way, the reader meets a diverse cast of shady and colorful characters, giving the book something of a spy-novel feel. It's important to note that Polakow-Suransky is no lefty Israel-basher--far from it, in fact--and the final chapter on the Israel-Apartheid analogy is the most thoughtful and balanced take I've ever seen. It's hard to think of anyone who wouldn't enjoy this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book well written and very informative and Suranksy tries to remain pretty objective throughout. The author illuminates in great detail the economic and military ties that flourished between Israel and apartheid South Africa, along with the reasoning provided by right wing Israelis. And all the while the relations were a guarded secret and downplayed or outright denied on the world stage.
Definitely recommended to anyone interested in learning more about Israeli foreign policy during the apartheid era.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I purchased this book after listening to the foreign affairs podcast of the author's talk of the book. I was imtrigued by the most salacious aspect of the book; that 60's Zionist leaders willingly aligned with South African leaders who had been Nazi sympathizers during WWII. They did indeed and Polakow-Suransky does a great of showing why that occurred. He goes on to show how internal and external events affected the relationship. Very illuminating and insightful from the perspective weapons proliferation.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The history of cooperation between Israel and the defunct apartheid government of SA has been well served by this new authentic research. The addition of the top-secret document about Israel's offer (by non-other than the Nobel Peace prize co-winner, Shimon Perez) of nuclear weapons to a raciest and criminal state like SA under apartheid rule, only further emphasize the dangerous and unethical conduct of the Israeli State in the past. The worst part is Israel's refusal to admit this shameful episode in its history and it's unwillingness to abide by any set of international laws or treaties regarding the making, use and proliferation of nuclear weapons.

For further analysis, check Juan Cole's discussion at:
[...].

Finally, I am impressed by how well the book is written and documented. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid So.Africa
Great book if you are interested in middle east history. Very well written and very informative with documented evidence and sources. There is much history involving So. Africa, Israel,the US and other western powers with much back-room dealins and dramas involving nuclear weapons and support of evil regimes. I first discovered this book at my local library and enjoyed it so much I decided to add it to my own library. Many events that are happening today in these turbulent times will make more sense after this read. Hard to put this book down. I recommend it, and gave it 4 out of 5 stars.
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Format: Kindle Edition
A thoroughly researched and well written book which adds a lot to our knowledge of Israeli-South African relations in respect to nuclear weapons in particular. Unfortunately it is riddled with errors. It gives too much credit to Golda Meir while hardly mentioning Levi Eshkol who served as prime minister durng the critical years when Israel constructed its bomb. On p. 41 it confuses watts with kilowatts. On p. 48 it says that Johnson was an "even more willing" friend to Israel than Kennedy had been; whereas in fact Kennedy had done whatever he could to prevent Israel from building the bomb and by so doing may have helped bring about the resignation of Ben Gurion as prime minister. On p. 51 it says that that the 1973 War took place "five years" after 1965. On p. 52 it calls Begin the "opposition leader," whereas in that year, 1968, he was a minister without portfolio. On p. 55 it says that Israel tried to send a ship through the Suez Canal in 1956, whereas the real date was 1954.

There are many other such errors, and they detract from the value of the book. A pity.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A revelation of a little known collaboration between two pariah states at the time. An important insight into where political need and convenience can lead. The author unveils hitherto unknown evidence of what these strange bed fellows got up to, and adds to a body of literature on the dangers of nuclear military experimentation. A contribution to the literature about Israel, South Africa in their own separate rights. A very thorough piece of archival research and interviewing major players at the time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
THIS IS AMAZING BOOK IF YOU ARE A TRUTH SEEKER...A MUST READ...AND SEE THE DOCUMENT: ROAD MAP TO APARTHEID...TRUTH OUT!!
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