cover image Ben-Gurion's Spy: The Story of the Political Scandal That Shaped Modern Israel

Ben-Gurion's Spy: The Story of the Political Scandal That Shaped Modern Israel

Shabtai Teveth, Author Columbia University Press $55 (310p) ISBN 978-0-231-10464-7

The speeds on this tale of political cover-up in Israel are those of a dying blender: slow, slower and grinding to a halt. The work tells the story of Benjamin Givily, the head of the intelligence branch of the Israeli army during the 1940s and '50s who sentenced an innocent man to death for treason and involved a colleague in a botched spying attempt against Egypt shortly before the 1956 Sinai War. Unfortunately, Teveth, a well-regarded former political correspondent for a popular Israeli newspaper, senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University and author of biographies of Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, somehow manages to make what the book jacket rather racily calls ""a charade of character assassination, forgery, cover-up, and vendetta"" stagnant. He also makes it funny with a cacophony of cliches. One typical example: ""The stage was set for the final act. When the bell sounded and the curtain rose, Givily could again look forward to a leading role."" Character sketches, too, are eye-rolling clunkers, as when one woman is described as ""striking in appearance: tall, athletic in build, with chestnut hair and grey-green eyes. Born September 1, 1935, she was the only daughter of Dr. Yossef Weiser, a Jerusalem TB specialist; when she was a child, her family moved to Tel Aviv."" The frequent use of quotes whose attribution is saved only for the endnotes is also distracting. Hopes that the tale will redeem the telling are, to co-opt the lingo of the author, dashed again and again like waves against a sea wall. (June)