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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

November 12, 1995|CHRIS GOODRICH

THE BEST OF ENEMIES: The Memoirs of Bassam Abu-Sharif & Uzi Mahnaimi (Little, Brown: $23.95; 297 pp.) The Israeli felt his first glimmering of doubt while an intelligence officer, upon seeing civilians killed during his country's invasion of Lebanon in 1982; the Palestinian felt his 10 years earlier, as a freedom fighter/terrorist, when he was nearly killed by a Mossad bomb hidden in a book on Che Guevara. By the early 1990s, Uzi Mahnaimi and Bassam Abu-Sharif--the former by then a journalist, the latter a chief aide to Yasser Arafat--had become "the best of enemies," united by the belief that the ongoing war between their peoples was pointless, that peace was not only possible but necessary. This joint account of their respective conversions is frequently riveting, above all for what it reveals about the inner workings of the Palestinian liberation movement and of Israeli security services (the Palestinians come off rather better, no doubt because in this book, at least, they are the underdogs). The power of "The Best of Enemies," and it's considerable, lies in the authors' willingness to reconsider ancient prejudices, to break out of historic ways of thinking, even at the cost of being considered traitorous. In some quarters Abu-Sharif and Mahnaimi continue to be marked men, and although this book will certainly add to their fame and bank accounts, it will also fuel further resentment of their supposed political perfidy.

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