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Bercuson, David J.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, c1985. 291pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-8020-2568-4. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by John Harkness

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

In this, his second book on the affairs surrounding the birth of the modern state of Israel, Calgary historian David Bercuson examines the part played by the Canadian government in the hectic years leading up to the Israeli declaration of statehood in May 1948, and the subsequent manoeuvring to obtain UN recognition. This book describes essentially two distinct periods of Canadian activity concerning the Middle East. The first is when Mackenzie King had relinquished control over foreign policy and allowed Lester Pearson, then under-secretary of state for external affairs, to pursue an independent Canadian foreign policy and virtually control the setting up of UNSCOP. Thereafter, the discussions surrounding the difficult task of producing a report by this UN commission on Palestine featured prominently the views of its Canadian member, Justice Ivan Rand. Bercuson discusses Rand's participation with considerable skill and shows how Rand was a major factor in the majority decision that recommended the partition of Palestine. Later on, both Mackenzie King and St. Laurent adopted a much less independent line, concentrating on two major considerations; one that Britain and the United States should be kept as closely linked as possible, though King deferred to the British view whenever dispute occurred, and the other that the UN should be seen to act as creditably as possible, no easy tasks.

As an insight into the views and workings of Canadian foreign policy during these years, Bercuson's book is most useful. Lester Pearson stands out as the major figure, but others in external affairs like Elizabeth McCallum, the department's most influential expert on Zionism and Arab affairs, her immediate superior, Hume Wrong, R.G. Riddell, George Ignatieff, and N. Robertson, all play fascinating roles throughout this period. Throughout this important study, the author also deftly fills in the tragic background in Europe and Palestine, against which Canadian policy was formulated.

There are no photographs in this very readable volume, but Bercuson includes an extensive bibliography and thirty pages of footnote references. A useful book for any library.

John Harkness, Emery C.I., North York, Ont.
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