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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 October 2003
This is an extremely well written, authoritative and impressive book that traces the history of Zionism from it's very origins to the establishment of the State of Israel and to the time that the book was written in 1986.
This secular work reveals the remarkable insight of a trained historian and a former diplomat/politician whose knowledge and experience pertaining to this subject radiates from the pages of this study.
Rarely has a book so eloquently documented how the State of Israel has been subjected to a "siege" ever since its founding day. Even the hostility of the UN towards the Jewish State is so vividly felt in the contents of this work. A book which begins with an autobiographical description of how the writer sat as the Irish delegate at the UN at a time when such delegates were positioned alphabetically... managing to find himself between the delegates of Israel and Iraq!
The amount of detail in this book is breathtaking and will provide any reader with a deeper understanding of modern day Israel and the true history & underlying context of the Middle East conflict. A context which reveals that the Arab violence and hatred of the Jews was present long before the re-birth of Israel in 1948 and that this hatred of the Jews does not originate with the taking of the "West Bank" (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza during the 1967 war.
Indeed, the Palestinian issue is among many of the subjects investigated in this excellent book, which unfortunately was published shortly before the recent Palestinian intifadas began in 1987 & therefore is lacking in any reference to the current situation. However, the relevance and importance of this book cannot be understated. It's historical accuracy is amazingly sound and very readable. It contains an enormous amount of detail which will destroy the cases of many "new historians".
The epilogue of this work evaluates the security of the Jewish state and declares that Israel is obliged, by the nature of it's predicament in the Middle East, to remain on it's guard and to be "the judge of it's own security". The book elaborating that those who would condemn Israel for adopting such an attitude or a "siege mentality" should reflect that this attitude is very much the creation of the nations who attacked & destroyed the Jews of Europe only a few years before the re-birth of Israel and even then from the nation's inception onwards.
The book finishes with the phrase that "what is not in sight is an end to the siege". A description which despite the passing of so many years, leaves the reader to ponder how much has really changed when the fundamental issues addressed in this work are referred to. An exceptional book.
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on 20 May 2008
A decent account of the conflict between Israel and the Arab world, from the rise of Zionism to the mid-1980s.
O Brien strives to create a fair and balanced account and explains 'The Siege' as being about the question as to whether Israel has the right to exist , preceded by the question: Do Jews have the right to exist?
he honestly appraises the history of the situation as he sees it, and does not like the malevolent 'new historians' and revisionists, like Chomsky, Finkelstein, Said, Lenni Brenner, Michael Neumann and Israel Shahak, go back and rewrite history to suit their own destructive and malicious agenda against Israel.
The fact is that O Brien go's out of his way to be even-handed, which leads to a dilemma in itself.

The truth is that one cannot be objective in a conflict where it is clear to any fair-minded and honest observer who the aggressors are and always have been: The Jews peacefully returned to their ancient land, and for nearly a century the Arabs have been trying to drive them into the sea.
That is the bottom line of this conflict: The Arabs want to sweep Israel's Jews into the sea and Israel's Jews do not want to be swept into the sea.
How can you resolve a conflict like that?

He quotes Chaim Weizmann in his moment of clarity that the genuine anti-Zionists can never be appeased by any diplomatic or political formula as the objection of anti-Semites to the Jews is that they exist and of anti-Zionists that Jews exist in the Holy Land.
O Brien covers well the origins of modern Zionism and the movements of refugees from pogroms and later Nazism to the Holy Land.
The Jewish population of the Land of Israel (then Britain's Palestine Mandate) had stood at about 84 000 in 1925 and had reached around 400 000 in 1937. Half of that increase resulted from the emigration of European Jews during the first three years of Hitler's power in Germany.
O Brien does not however inform us about the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who migrated to he Holy Land, under the British Mandate of 1917- 1947.
He describes how the British in 1939 drew up the White Paper and blocked the entry of Jews into Israel, effectively cutting off the escape from the Nazi death machine. He documents the British inaction in the face of Arab pogroms against Jews in the Palestine Mandate, and the sinking of the Struma, which was filled with refugees from Nazism, and was turned back from Israel by the British, leading to it's sinking and the deaths of all aboard, except for two.

There is, however, another flaw in the book. O' Brien describes the Holocaust as mobilizing Jewish determination to create a Jewish State in the Holy Land, and how the resultant world sympathy after the Holocaust made this possible.
But was the Zionist dream REALLY in a stronger position after the Holocaust.
After all a great number of the Jews who perished in Hitler's inferno were Zionists, often members of the various Zionist youth groups.
Just imagine how many millions of potential Israelis and Zionists were cut off from making a contribution to the re-established Israel.
The State of Israel, in truth, arose, despite the Holocaust, not as a result.
O' Brien writes something of the Mufti Haj Amin El Husseini but does not fully explore the depth of his collaboration with the Nazis.
He does however inform us of the Italian broadcasts from Capri in Italy, in Arabic, to the Middle East which played a role in the Arab pogroms 0f 1936- 1939, alongside Nazi agents in 'Palestine', many of them from the German Templar communities.
O Brien also describes how the anti-Semitism of Attley and Bevin led to the British doing all they could to make sure that the State of Israel would stillborn.
Who could forget the comment that O'Brien includes her by Armine Dew to the British Foreign office in 1944 that " In my opinion a disproportionate amount of the time of this office has been waisted on dealing with these wailing Jews"- this at the height of the exterminations of Jews during the Holocaust.
He also describes the massive arming and military cover given by the British before and during the War of Independence, of 1948, to the Arbas.
Britishers carried out acts of terror against Jewish civilians such as the Ben Yehuda street bombing of February 22 1948, in which 52 Jews died.
The author also covers Israel's history from 1948 to 1985.
He describes the various wars but does not go far enough in truly depicting in the extent of Arab belligerency before the 1967 Six Day War.

He also gives too much voice to far-left self-hating Israelis when quoting books and poetry by Israelis on the topics of Zionism and the conflict.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2009
The previous reviewer aptly describes what 'The Siege' attempts, and in my opinion, succeeds in doing which is to catalogue the historical events which help us to understand the unique mind-set of the modern-day Israeli Nation and how her determination to survive is mis-judged as being 'aggressive' and 'detrimental to peace' in the Middle East.

Having read this book many years ago, I would recommend it to those people who want to gain some insight into why Israel will always be in a state of 'siege'. How present day anti-Israeli rhetoric can be traced to a failing British Empire's reluctance to lose its power-base in 'Palestine' with disasterous repercussions to the present day. How 'Cold War' posturing of the USSR, China and the US was paramount to Israel's bid for Independence and ultimate survival. Overall, this is a must read for anyone interested in the making of a Nation and the central figures behind that nationhood.
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