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!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • 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.