New York Journal of Books review, March 5, 2019

By Roger Abrams


Matti Friedman, a former Associated Press reporter in the Middle East, has constructed a noteworthy and authentic spy story. Spies of No Country tells the story of the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 through the accounts of a small group of Jewish heroes, the Arab Section, who spied for the new state in surrounding Arab countries. …

Friedman interviewed the few elderly men who remain alive about their exploits from 70 years ago. They were not boastful, but humble and realistic. He also had access to the Palmach archives which included pictures of the men of the Arab Section that fill Friedman’s book. The primitive technology available to the Israeli spies made their activities treacherous. The absence of military control over the Section also made chaos a way of life.

Friedman’s book is filled with riveting vignettes. There are many available histories of the entire 1948 War. This is rather a splendid retelling of one small part of the effort to create a Jewish homeland.

Read the whole thing here.