Although the Congressional investigating committee did everything in its power to minimize Israel’s role in the Iran-Contra scandal, the hearings and their fallout did suggest that Israel played a major, and very likely initiating, role in the sordid affair. This and other matters skirted by both the Tower Commission and the Congressional committee are examined by Jonathan Marshall, Peter Dale Scott and Jane Hunter in The Iran-Contra Connection: Secret Teams and Covert Operations in the Reagan Era (Boston: South End Press, 1987). The authors argue that the Reagan administration, stymied by public disapproval of foreign intervention in the post-Vietnam era, contracted out foreign policy to a legion of ultra-anticommunist terrorists, drug traffickers, and CIA and special forces veterans whose origins go back at least as far as the Bay of Pigs operation in 1961.

Foreign adventures of this sort are certainly not new for Israel. For those who would like to know more about Israeli foreign policy and its relationship to American foreign policy, several books have recently appeared: Milton Jamail and Margo Gutierrez, It’s No Secret: Israel’s Military Involvement in Central America (Belmont, MA: AAUG, 1986); Jane Hunter, Israeli Foreign Policy: South Africa and Central America (Boston: South End Press, 1987); Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, The Israeli Connection: Who Israel Arms and Why (New York: Pantheon, 1987). All of these books (like others on similar subjects mentioned previously in these pages) rely almost exclusively on reports published in the press. This is surely a weakness, but the large and growing number of stories lends credibility to the tale these authors tell: that Israel has become a major arms supplier to the most repressive dictatorships in the Third World. This may coincide with American initiatives or, as in the Iran-contra affair, Israel may have had an even bolder vision than its Washington patrons. In either case, Israel’s behavior is a matter of policy and is linked to the central role of the arms industry in its economy.


Little of real value has been written in English on the subject of communism in the Middle East (with the notable exception of books by Hanna Batatu and Ervand Abrahamian on Iraq and Iran). It is depressing to note that yet another inaccurate, carelessly researched volume has appeared: Sondra Miller’s The Communist Movement in Palestine and Israel, 1919-1984 (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1985). This was the author’s PhD thesis at Columbia University, and it is nothing short of scandalous that a degree was awarded for a work which contains many factual errors and which indicates that the author’s knowledge of Hebrew and Arabic is inadequate. It does contain a fuller chronology (with much the same analysis) than Walter Laqueur’s now outdated works and may therefore be of some interest.

The career of Henri Curiel, the charismatic and enigmatic founder of the largest tendency in the Egyptian communist movement, has long evoked curiosity and amazement. How could a Jew and the son of a wealthy banker play such a significant role in the communist movement? He has been accused of responsibility for a whole range of sins — Zionist deviations, tactical flexibility bordering on opportunism, failure to understand Marxist theory adequately, etc. The English translation of the first volume of Gilles Perrault’s two-volume biography, A Man Apart: The Life of Henri Curiel (London: Zed, 1987), has just appeared. Translated from the French by Bob Cumming, Perrault’s engaging and well-written book reads like a detective story. After Curiel’s assassination by still unapprehended assailants in 1978, his close friends — the emigre community of Egyptian-Jewish former members of the Democratic Movement for National Liberation living in Paris — fed Perrault the information on which the book is based in order to refute the scurrilous attacks on Curiel that appeared both before and after his death accusing him of being a KGB agent and masterminding an international terror organization. (Claire Sterling’s tale in The Terror Network is representative of the ridiculous and unproven charges Curiel faced.) Perrault, though, has adopted rather uncritically Curiel’s friends’ version of his life. It may be substantially true, but so many questions are left unanswered that this can not be considered a definitive account. Moreover, Perrault gives the impression that most of the Egyptian communists were Jews, an inaccuracy that feeds into many of the unjustified attacks on Curiel.

For Arabic readers, the latest volume of Rif at al-Sa‘id’s multivolume history of the Egyptian left, Ta’rikh al-haraka al-shuyu‘iyya al-misriyya: al-wahda, al-inqisam, al-hall, 1957-1965 (Cairo: Sharikat al-Amal lil-Tiba‘a wa-al-Nashr wa-al-Tawzi‘, 1986), has recently appeared. It relates the story from the unification of the three principal tendencies in the communist movement in early 1958 up to the dissolution of the two communist parties in 1965. Al-Sa‘id is a former member of Curiel’s Democratic Movement for National Liberation and this volume, like all his previous work, has the character of an official party history defending the line of his organization.


Back in the USA, while the CIA busily compiles information about you and yours, a one-person operation in Virginia, armed with a microcomputer and lots of determination, has turned tables on the CIA and compiled a list of its own. Daniel Brandt of Micro Associates has indexed 28,000 individuals and groups involved with intelligence operations or rightwing activities on four floppy computer disks. Thirty-five dollars will buy the data disks and the program which runs on a DOS-based, two-drive computer. Searches by name, country and time period turn up lists of bibliographic references to books, newspapers and magazine articles. An invaluable tool for researchers. (Micro Associates, Box 5369, Arlington, VA 22205.)

How to cite this article:

"Editor’s Bookshelf," Middle East Report 151 (March/April 1988).

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