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A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel Hardcover – May 12, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“[A] revelatory account of Truman’s vital contributions to Israel’s founding. . . . Told by the Radoshes with an elegance informed by thorough research.” (Wall Street Journal)

“This is an excellent examination of a presidential decision that has had immense historical consequences.” (Booklist)

“ A Safe Haven, is an outstanding achievement. This is certain to become an essential work for students, journalists, and statesmen---indeed, anyone interested in understanding Israel’s origins.” (Michael Oren, author of Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, and Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East.)

“In their deeply engaging study of Truman and the foundation of Israel, the Radoshes capture the dramatic intersection of momentous millennial aspirations and the thrilling intricacies of political intrigue with remarkable narrative skill. ” (Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars)

“Even knowing how the story ends, A SAFE HAVEN, had me sitting on the edge of my seat watching Harry Truman weigh the arguments of his friends and advisors in the months, then weeks, then days leading up to his recognition of Israel.” (Cokie Roberts, New York Times bestselling author of The Ladies of Liberty)

From the Back Cover

On May 14, 1948, under the stewardship of President Harry S. Truman, the United States became the first nation to recognize the State of Israel—just moments after sovereignty had been declared in Jerusalem. But it was hardly a foregone conclusion that America would welcome the creation of this new country. While acknowledging this as one of his proudest moments, Truman also admitted that no issue was "more controversial or more complex than the problem of Israel." As the president told his closest advisers, these attempts to resolve the issue of a Jewish homeland had left him in a condition of "political battle fatigue."

Based on never-before-used archival material, A Safe Haven is the most complete account to date of the events that led to this historic occasion. Allis and Ronald Radosh explore the national and global pressures bearing on Truman and the people—including the worldwide Jewish community, key White House advisers, the State Department, the British, the Arabs, and the representatives of the new United Nations—whose influence, on both sides, led to his decision.

Impeccably researched, brilliantly told, A Safe Haven is a suspenseful, moment-by-moment re-creation of this crossroads in U.S.-Israeli relations and Middle Eastern politics.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060594632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060594633
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,015,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan A. Stein on June 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am giving this book five stars, notwithstanding a factual error that should have been caught by the editor. On page 3 there is a reference to the Jewish Diaspora since "they had been defeated by the Romans in 70 B.C." Problematically, the actual year is 140 years later -- 70 C.E. (a/k/a A.D.). Having said this, the book is a fine work of scholarship and did enlighten me both with respect to the complexity of the issue, as faced both by FDR and Truman. FDR did vacillate, and clearly was more focused on the effort to win World War II, naively thinking that somehow the issue of Jewish slaughter and refugees would solve itself. He clearly had hopes of convincing Saudi King Ibn Saud of the wisdom of a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine when he met him just after the Yalta conference. However, by then he was too ill to focus his true attention, and he clearly regretted that he did not challenge Saud on his fallacious historical claims.

Truman, a true hero in this drama, was beyond frustrated by the lack of progress by the British and the perceived lack of appreciation by certain Zionist leaders, particularly, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver.

There are several references in the book to the great playwright Ben Hecht, who as many may know wrote works as diverse at "The Front Page" and "Perfidy." In his autobiography, "A Child of the Century", Hecht opined that "in the warmest Christian heart, there is a cold spot for the Jew." While I do not believe the statement is universally true, it nonetheless represents a mindset that still prevails. Further, while the authors do not quote this statement, they demonstrate it in some of the more vitriolic comments by President Truman.
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Format: Hardcover
Ronald and Allis Radosh have written a very important work of contemporary history. It examines President Truman's remarkable decision to support the foundation of the state of Israel, a decision he took even in the face of opposition from leading officials in the State and Defense Departments. On the basis of extensive and creative research, they present a powerful narrative about the international and domestic pressures impinging on Truman from 1945 to 1948 and about the evolution of his own thinking. This is a book about a key chapter in the history of American foreign relations and American politics. Yet in ways that many readers will find surprising and moving, it is also a story about the power of friendship and about Truman's courage and integrity. Both historians and general readers will find much in this book that is new, interesting and important. A Safe Haven is both timely and enduring. It deserves a very wide readership.

Jeffrey Herf, author of The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocuast (Harvard University Press, 2006), and Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, forthcoming with Yale University Press in Fall 2009.
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Format: Hardcover
I am an enthusiastic reader of mysteries and thrillers, but I have to tell you that "A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and The Founding of Israel" was both a page turner and very hard to put down. In fact, I gave up reading a great detective story just to finish this book. As Cokie Robert's so wisely said, even though you know how the story ends it still keeps you on the edge of your seat.

What the Radoshes have done is show the kaleidoscope of faiths, political maneuverings, personality conflicts set in the aftermath of the Holocaust, with the surviving Jews in DP camps, some as tragic as the concentration camps. How our State Department, the Zionists, the anti-Zionists and most importantly, Harry Truman reacted to this reality is shown in a swift and sharp chronology that shows the day by day, week by week, month by month trials and tribulations of those with power and those without.

There are wonderfully juicy stories including Harry Truman saying to his old (Jewish) pal, Eddie Jacobson, who was trying to convince him to allow Chaim Weizman one more visit to the White House, "You win, you bald-headed S.O.B. I will see him..." and then after the State of Israel was recognized Chaim Weizmann saying, when responding to Truman who said "that he was the President of so many millions of Americans, Chaim retorted, 'But I am the President of a million presidents!' The joke was not lost on Truman." Truman perceived Weizmann as a prophet of old and the mutual respect they had for eachother is a wonder to read about.

There are a number of wonders, suprises, and head-twisters in the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Nowadays, it seems that those who do good deeds don't get "full marks" for their efforts unless their intentions are as pure as the driven snow. By those standards, Harry Truman, a peppery-tongued man who wasn't shy about expressing his opinions -- opinions about ethnic and racial minorities included -- traced a fairly "politically incorrect" path on the way to becoming the first world leader to recognize the new state of Israel in 1948. Truman, after all, resented the constant pressure from Zionists of all kinds (including Eddie Jacobson, Truman's old partner in the men's clothing business back in Missouri) to help the Jews establish a country of their own, and he was known to occasionally hold forth about Jewish "pushiness" and the like. As Allis and Ronald Radosh relate in their lengthy but fascinating story of Truman's role in the birth of Israel, Truman overcame these feelings at the last and, drawing from his strong sense of sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust, did the right thing at a moment when the history of the Middle East could have turned in any number of different directions. By starting their narrative with a description of the last days of Franklin Roosevelt's presidency, the Radoshes make a compelling case that, had FDR lived, Israel's "moment" might never have come. Be prepared to thrash through a host of commissions, pressure groups, State Department flunkies, and UN meetings (this was back when the UN actually seemed to promise a better world, rather than simply prop up existing patterns of tyranny!), but if you're interested in the history of the Middle East, this is a very worthwhile read.
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