Patrick Tyler's Skewed Agenda Sabotages Book

Obsession With Israeli Militancy Mars Comprehensive Work

Sabra Standard: In a new book Patrick Tyler argues that David Ben-Gurion and many high ranking “sabras,” native-born Israelis, have damned Israel to live in turmoil through their militancy, land hunger and provincialism.
getty images
Sabra Standard: In a new book Patrick Tyler argues that David Ben-Gurion and many high ranking “sabras,” native-born Israelis, have damned Israel to live in turmoil through their militancy, land hunger and provincialism.

By Yossi Alpher

Published October 10, 2012, issue of October 12, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country — and Why They Can’t Make Peace
By Patrick Tyler
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 576 pages, $35

Veteran Washington Post and New York Times journalist Patrick Tyler has written a comprehensive, well-researched 500-page survey of Israel’s encounters with war and peace from 1948 to 2011. It would be a useful read if the author didn’t nurse a seriously skewed ideological agenda about Israel. Tyler would have us believe that the country has endlessly missed glowing opportunities to translate military victory into peace agreements with its neighbors, and that this failure is attributable to the sabras, or native-born Israelis, whose militancy, land hunger and provincialism have, almost alone, damned Israel to live in turmoil.

Tyler touches on virtually every war-and-peace effort on record. He enriches his mining of secondary sources with many interviews. His characterization of Ehud Barak, who “stood alone as the architect of his own failure,” is spot-on. Serious factual errors are few, although someone should have explained to him not to discuss “the Mapai” and “the Mapam” as if they were “the” Likud. Few important developments are completely left out, although one serious lacuna is the total absence of Gunnar Jarring’s peace mediation effort, sponsored by the United Nations, following the 1967 Six Day War.

But why the sabra militancy fixation? Tyler’s determination to prove that native-born Israelis, along with founding father David Ben-Gurion, consistently ignored or closed openings for peace and plunged Israel into needless wars places his book, unfortunately, in the rapidly growing category of uninformed Israel-bashing treatises by the likes of otherwise respectable scholars and statesmen such as Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, and Jimmy Carter.

Of course Israel has missed opportunities to negotiate with its neighbors. And it has indeed on occasion launched unnecessary and harmful military operations. It has long had its hawks and its doves, and both have made mistakes, not just the hawks. Nor are all hawks “sabra militants” or all sabras hawks.

When Israel’s leaders in war and peace don’t fit Tyler’s mold, their record is simply brushed aside. For example, so locked into stereotyping is Tyler that he is at a loss to explain the behavior of Mossad head Meir Amit in 1965.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.