The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa

Front Cover
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, May 25, 2010 - History - 352 pages
A revealing account of how Israel’s booming arms industry and apartheid South Africa’s international isolation led to a secretive military partnership between two seemingly unlikely allies.
Prior to the Six-Day War, Israel was a darling of the international left: socialist idealists like David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir vocally opposed apartheid and built alliances with black leaders in newly independent African nations. South Africa, for its part, was controlled by a regime of Afrikaner nationalists who had enthusiastically supported Hitler during World War II.
But after Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967, the country found itself estranged from former allies and threatened anew by old enemies. As both states became international pariahs, their covert military relationship blossomed: they exchanged billions of dollars’ worth of extremely sensitive material, including nuclear technology, boosting Israel’s sagging economy and strengthening the beleaguered apartheid regime.
By the time the right-wing Likud Party came to power in 1977, Israel had all but abandoned the moralism of its founders in favor of close and lucrative ties with South Africa. For nearly twenty years, Israel denied these ties, claiming that it opposed apartheid on moral and religious grounds even as it secretly supplied the arsenal of a white supremacist government.
Sasha Polakow-Suransky reveals the previously classified details of countless arms deals conducted behind the backs of Israel’s own diplomatic corps and in violation of a United Nations arms embargo. Based on extensive archival research and exclusive interviews with former generals and high-level government officials in both countries, The Unspoken Alliance tells a troubling story of Cold War paranoia, moral compromises, and Israel’s estrangement from the left. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Israel’s history and its future.


South Africas Jews in the Shadow of Nazism
Israels Honeymoon in Africa
The IsraeliSouth African Nuclear Connection
The Yom Kippur War and Israels
A Military Alliance Is Born
Likud Apartheid and the Quest for Minority Survival
Nuclear Diplomacy and the Fall of Vorster
South Africa Joins the Nuclear Club
Irael Apartheid and the Splintering
Domestic Debate and Diplomatic Schizophrenia
South Africas Transition to Democracy

Propaganda Denial and the Concealment of the Alliance

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2010)

Sasha Polakow-Suransky is a senior editor at Foreign Affairs and holds a doctorate in modern history from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar from 2003 to 2006. His writing has apeared in The American Prospect, the International Herald Tribune, The New Republic, and Newsweek. He lives in Brooklyn.

Bibliographic information