The Lebanese Aristocrat Whose Family’s Support for Zionism Helped Make Israel Possible

Among the many casualties of the deadly explosion in Beirut last month was Lady Yvonne Cochrane Sursock, who was injured in the blast and died 27 days later, at the age of ninety-eight. A citizen of Lebanon, Italy, and Britain who was formerly married to the Irish consul in Beirut, Cochrane lived a remarkable life and was a distinguished philanthropist and art collector. She and her family were also important supporters of the Zionist cause, as Tal Schneider explains:

Lady Cochrane was born in Naples in 1922. Her father, Alfred Bey Sursock, was a member of one of the great property-owning families in the Middle East, and her mother, Donna Maria Teresa Serra di Cassano, was a member of Italy’s aristocratic Serra di Cassano family.

Her family inheritance included hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the Jezreel Valley, the Western Galilee, the Hefer Valley, Haifa, and Jaffa. . . . These acquisitions began in 1870, when the Ottoman government sold land in Israel to subjects of the empire. The wealthy Sursock family (also spelled Sursuq), purchased no fewer than 200,000 acres throughout Palestine, including about 50,000 acres in the Jezreel Valley.

In 1891, Zionist activists entered into negotiations with the Sursock family for land purchases. Bit by bit, plot by plot, properties were purchased by Zionist leaders. [Cochrane’s father] did business with Yehoshua Hankin, the “land redeemer” responsible for most of the major World Zionist Organization purchases, who came to Beirut for this purpose. Hankin’s niece, Tzila Shoham-Feinberg, [who accompanied him on some of these trips], later wrote: “I personally have no doubt that without the great help that Yehoshua Hankin received from the Sursock family in various ways—despite strong opposition from extremist and nationalist elements in the Arab world and despite threats on their lives—in addition to the sale of land by them, he would not have redeemed the [Beit She’an] valley at the time.”

Later on, Lady Cochrane never seemed to lose her pro-Zionist sympathies, and in the 1970s would become a staunch opponent of the PLO—which brought so many woes to her country—and of the Syrians.

Read more at Globes

More about: History of Zionism, Israel-Arab relations, Lebanon

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7