Burning Issues: Understanding and Misunderstanding the Middle East: A 40-Year Chronicle
Edited by John Mahoney, Jane Adas and Robert Norberg, Americans for Middle East Understanding, 2007, 439 pp. List: $16.95; AET: $12.50
Reviewed by Andrew I. Killgore
BURNING ISSUES is an anthology of 19 superb articles about Israel, Palestine and the United States. Most of them come back to the miserable and destructive U.S./Israel relationship, from the piece by Washington Report executive editor Richard H. Curtiss, "U.S. Aid to Israel: The Subject No One Mentions," to "Epiphany at Beit Jala" by Donald Neff, former Time Magazine correspondent in Jerusalem and author of five major books on the Arab-Israeli wars. This volume was published with the aid of John Goelet, board member of American for Middle East Understanding (AMEU), headed by John Mahoney, which publishes The Link, a solid 40-year-old bi-monthly. The pieces collected in Burning Issues are excerpts, some updated, from previous issues of The Link.
Any readers with warm, fuzzy feelings for Israel will be bitterly disappointed, and Zionist ideologues will find no bright spots in these articles. A small and extremely rare measure of satisfaction for honest people, however, is found in Neff's narrative. Self-described as "something of an unwitting Zionist" when he arrived in Jerusalem, he was nevertheless bothered by a routine Israeli term for Palestinians, "Filthy Arab."
The Time Magazine reporter personally confirmed in 1978 that Israeli soldiers at Beit Jala near Bethlehem had for no reason broken the leg and arm bones of Palestinian teenagers and roughly cut off their hair. Neff's all-Israeli staff angrily refused to believe the story, but he finally was able to cable it to Time in New York, where the weekly news magazine gave it prominent play. Neff was practically ostracized in Israel as he prepared to leave his assignment. Then, miracle of miracles: Ezer Weizman, then Israel's defense minister, found Neff's story to be true, and fired the military governor of the West Bank for abusing the Palestinians.
Dick Curtiss details the tricks Washington, Israel and the media play on the American public to conceal the heavily disproportionate financial aid from the U.S. to Israel. Readers will learn how gifts are made to appear to be loans, and how these loans are "forgiven"-i.e., cancelled.
James Ennes' harrowing account of the deliberate Israeli attempt to sink the intelligence ship USS Liberty in the 1967 Arab-Israel War is heartbreaking. The Liberty, gravely damaged, managed to stay afloat, but 34 men were killed and 171 wounded while U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, on orders from President Lyndon Johnson, called back planes from the American Sixth Fleet which had been launched to the rescue of the stricken Liberty. …