RaveThe BafflerSegev offers a detailed picture not only of Ben-Gurion’s life but also his mind ... Yet the book is not salacious, and Ben-Gurion’s personal failings, eccentricities, and psychic turmoil are far from the only ground that A State at Any Cost treads. Building on his prior work, Segev makes several significant historiographical interventions, challenging conventional accounts of Ben-Gurion’s views and of the period of Israeli history during which he led the country ... a book of considerable heft that successfully uncovers the history of Ben-Gurion’s time from the shroud of myth that has long obscured it ... History is full of sad ironies, and Segev is deftly attuned to them ... the book’s second section is the one that most directly challenges aspects of the accepted Zionist-Israeli narrative of Israel’s founding. U.S. readers, more accustomed to mytho-theological treatment of Israel—for instance, in the New York Times op-ed pages—than rigorous historical scholarship, may struggle to accept some of what Segev uncovers. All the more reason for them to read A State at Any Cost carefully ... Segev shines a blistering spotlight on Ben-Gurion’s European chauvinism ... Segev has unearthed an incredible range of previously unknown anecdotes ranging from the shockingly repulsive to the amusingly bizarre. Readers in thrall to romantic, illusory narratives of Zionist history will no doubt find themselves in the position of Segev’s critics, left fiddling with the broken pieces of their myths. And though in size and subject the book may resemble the heavy tomes of \'great men\' biographies that adorn the nightstands of middle-aged fathers, those looking for insight into \'leadership\' will be sorely disappointed—this, of course, is not a bad thing ... If there is any weakness to the book, it is that the tension between the forces of character and contingency is given relatively little attention. We see Ben-Gurion’s determination to gain power, and we see him eventually obtain it and use it. But we do not get a full sense of what combination of Ben-Gurion’s natural abilities and the subtle workings of chance put him where he ended up. What we do get is, nevertheless, of great value. Segev has produced an unflinching portrait of a man more often the subject of patriotic adulation than demythologization. With A State at Any Cost, that seems likely to change.
MixedThe NationLinfield offers detailed, often probing readings of how her subjects adjusted their analyses and ideologies to the complex and ever-shifting political terrain of Israel-Palestine. Yet the cumulative effect is to call into question her overarching claim. Rather than elucidate the reasons the left and Zionism suddenly parted ways, her profiles reveal the tensions that have long existed between Zionism’s exclusionary nationalism and the left’s egalitarianism and internationalism ... Cloaking false equivalences and ideology in the language of realism has long been a hallmark of liberal Zionist argument ... Linfield wants to position herself among those brave realists who are willing to criticize both sides in equal measure and are equally committed to a two-state solution. Yet in doing so, she demonstrates precisely what she finds objectionable in her subjects ... Linfield charts [Arthur] Koestler’s \'Damascene-like reversals\' with sensitivity and skill ... The chapter on I.F. Stone, the intrepid American journalist, is another of Linfield’s strongest profiles ... Her chapter on Noam Chomsky—who perhaps more than any other American left-wing intellectual has come to represent the New Left’s legacy of anti-imperialism—is the most unduly vicious one in the book ... Linfield has created an anthology of sorts for a new generation of Jews looking to understand how those who came before them criticized Israel, the occupation, and Zionism. They will find much to argue with in The Lions’ Den. But they will also, if they read carefully, learn a lot from it.