In This Review
Israel and Africa: The Problematic Friendship

Israel and Africa: The Problematic Friendship

By Joel Peters

I. B. Tauris & Company, 1992, 210 pp.
The Beta Israel (Falasha) in Ethiopia: From Earliest Times to the Twentieth Century

The Beta Israel (Falasha) in Ethiopia: From Earliest Times to the Twentieth Century

By Steven Kaplan

New York University Press, 1992, 231 pp.

These contrasting studies examine aspects of Africa's historical relationship with Israel. Peters' work joins the large literature on the ups and downs of Israeli-African links from the 1960s to the present, concentrating on the political and economic calculus underlying African diplomacy. It is balanced and well informed but unoriginal. Kaplan's book is a striking piece of scholarship aimed at demythologizing the origins of the Ethiopian Falasha, nearly 40,000 of whom have emigrated to Israel in the last decade under the Law of Return. Using the wealth of archaic documentary sources on Ethiopian history, the author, a professor at Hebrew University, argues persuasively that evidence from the 14th century onward establishes that the Falasha are a group shaped by Jewish influences but are almost certainly not the descendants of Jews.