The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 91 F rom the Holocaust to the Cold War Israel’s Moment: International Support for and Opposition to Establishing the Jewish State, 1945-1949 Jeffrey Herf, Cambridge University Press, 2022, $39.99/hardcover, e-book available, 450 pages. Reviewed by Bob Rackmales Israel’s Moment is an absorbing new study of a familiar historical topic—the disarray in U.S. Middle East policy in the wake of World War II caused by conflicts between the White House and many members of Congress, on one side, and career officials at State, the Pentagon, and the CIA, on the other. Jeffrey Herf, Distinguished University Professor of Modern European History at the University of Maryland, earns an important place in a very crowded field by placing these conflicts in a broad international context and utilizing new archival sources. “No other work con- nects so persuasively the beginning of the Cold War and the Zionist and anti-Zionist ideological currents of thought,” the former chair of the State Department His- torical Advisory Committee, Wm. Roger Louis, has written of Israel’s Moment . Battle lines in what historian Steven Spiegel called “the other Arab-Israeli conflict” formed within months of the end of World War II. President Harry S Truman’s call for 100,000 Holocaust survivors living as “displaced persons” in European camps to be admitted to Pales- tine was strongly opposed by the British government and by senior career officials in the U.S. national security agencies, who argued against alienating Arab regimes at a time of growing tensions with the Soviet Union. Tensions within the administration became more acute following the refer- ral of the Palestine issue to the United Nations in 1947. Herf notes Truman’s furious reaction to his U.N. ambassador’s speech on March 19, 1948, reversing pre- vious policy on the partition of Palestine: “The State Department pulled the rug out from under me today. …The first I know about it is what I see in the papers! ... There are people on the third and fourth levels of the State Dept. who have always wanted to cut my throat. They’ve suc- ceeded in doing it.” While Israel’s Moment sheds new light on the inter- nal disputes playing out in Washington and New York, the book’s signal contribu- tion may lie in its explora- tion of parallel conflicts taking place in France. Herf’s work in the archives of the French Foreign and Interior ministries resulted, as the Princeton University historian Philip Nord has noted, in “a story full of ironies and surprises.” These include the fact that the two ministries acted on the basis of opposing views on Zionism. Elsewhere, the case of Haj Amin al-Husseini speaks to a recurring policy dilemma, that of holding war criminals accountable in the face of perceived foreign policy risks. FromMay 1945 to June 1946, al-Husseini, better known as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was held under house arrest in Paris. In an earlier book, Nazi Propaganda in the Arab World , Herf had documented the Mufti as Hitler’s most important Arab ally. His activities included recruit- ing Bosnian Muslims to serve in an SS division responsible for carrying out war crimes against Serbs and Jews in Bosnia. Hundreds of these fighters traveled from the Balkans to Palestine in 1947 to take part in Arab attacks on Jewish targets in Palestine. Herf underscores the consequences of the U.S. failure to raise the issue of holding the Mufti account- able either with the French government or at the United Nations. He writes that the Mufti’s return to the Middle East meant that he would “return to the political stage …, oppose any compromise with the Jews, start the war against the Jews in Novem- ber 1947, urge the Arab states to invade Israel in May 1948, and stimulate hatred of the United States.” In the case of al-Husseini, our dip- lomatic and intelligence communities underestimated the danger he repre- sented, not just to the nascent Jewish state, but to the prospects for Arab unity, as well. BOOKS Jeffrey Herf earns an important place in a very crowded field by placing these conflicts in a broad international context and utilizing new archival sources.