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Siege Besieged

May 04, 1986

Abba Eban in the opening paragraph of his otherwise unexceptionable review of my book "The Siege" provides a definition of siege which he ascribes to "the dictionary." I wonder whether he would tell your readers which dictionary? It is not the definition provided either by Webster or by the Oxford English Dictionary, and it doesn't represent standard English usage. What it describes--absolutely accurately--is the condition which all besiegers aim to bring about. In my title I use siege in its generally accepted meaning: an effort to cut off the besieged party and bring about its surrender. I am happy to acknowledge in my book that the effort in question is nowhere near succeeding, but I also point out that it has never been abandoned and would certainly be pressed home if at any time Israel's political and/or military position should be weakened. I may add that if I thought the word siege had the meaning Mr. Eban attributes to it I should certainly never have used the word in the title of my book.

CONOR CRUISE O'BRIEN

Dublin, Ireland

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