By Matthew D. Klayman
Matthew D. Klayman ’10 attends Harvard College and is a History concen-trator in Quincy House.
ISABELLA GINOR AND GIDEON REMEZ, Foxbats over Dimona: The Soviets’ Nuclear Gamble in the Six-Day War (New Haven: Yale Univer-sity Press, 2007)
In Foxbats Over Dimona, authors Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez make a startling claim: that during the prelude to the Six Day War of 1967, a war widely regarded as a seminal event in the formation of the modern Middle East, Soviet pilots flew top secret MiG-25 aircraft over Israel’s nuclear reactor at Dimona. With this groundbreaking assertion, the authors seek to reevaluate the history of Soviet involvement in the Six Day War.
Foxbats Over Dimona challenges the traditional account of the conflict by arguing that the Soviet Union helped to plan, instigate, and fight the 1967 War with the aim of halting Israel’s growing nuclear ambitions. Most popular accounts tend to depict the Soviet Union as a cautious actor that wanted only to exploit regional tensions and secure political ties with Arab allies, rather than to encourage a hot war. But instead of viewing the Soviet Union as an unsuccessful moderating influence, Remez and Ginor believe that the Soviet Union would have successfully destroyed Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona and staged a naval desant (landing) in the city of Haifa were it not for the success of the initial Israeli strikes in response to a Soviet-Arab provocation.
Proving this claim and opposing decades of historical writing is cer-tain to be a challenging endeavor, but the authors argue that traditional historical theories are based on only a “limited foundation of sources.”  The authors maintain that the Soviet Union selectively released docu-ments from its archives to hide its active role in the conflict and that it forged documents in order to fool historians. In addition, the authors argue that some Soviet military orders were transmitted orally and remain undocumented. Their solution to the difficulties involved in researching Soviet archives and substantiating Soviet claims is a new approach and a new historical methodology.
They call this method “Historiography as Investigative Journalism.”  Rather than basing their argument on a close examination of public archival documents, they examine official documents in the context of a wide variety of sources about what they call “genuine” Soviet policy—information about “what the USSR did [rather than] what it intended.”  One way they try to find the truth behind flawed Soviet records is by interviewing Soviet pilots and naval officers. Another way is by analyz-ing the language of Soviet documents in search of deliberate vagueness and ambiguity. Such a “bottom up” approach to history is difficult and has its share of problems, they concede, but it can sometimes produce very important insights.
In addition to expanding the historical record of the War, Ginor and Remez’s methodology suggests a way for historians to identify false rhetoric and propaganda and logically deduce actual Soviet intentions and actions. Their system cannot always deliver what it promises, how-ever.
The authors themselves acknowledge that the most obvious and serious problem with their argument is the dearth of documented evi-dence to support it. The authors compare their investigative task to working on a giant jigsaw puzzle, but they admit to having only a very few pieces. Historian Benny Morris writes in The New Republic that the book’s thesis “rests on very flimsy evidence” and that there is “no real documentation to back it up.”  Many of the arguments in Foxbats Over Dimona are founded on unorthodox and retrospective readings of archi-val documents in light of newly discovered information. But without an abundance of reliable evidence, the authors’ inventive “bottom up” approach produces an argument that remains circumstantial and uncor-roborated.
The Jerusalem Post recently reported that a senior official in the Rus-sian air force confirmed the book’s claim that Soviet pilots flew secret aircraft over Israel’s nuclear reactor before the War.  This confirmation strengthens Remez and Ginor’s claims about Soviet aerial intervention and suggests that there are still significant facts about the conflict that are unknown and hidden by the archives. A further investigation could radically change our understanding of these historical events. Circum-stantial arguments have their limits, of course, but the pilot’s story suggests that the book and its thesis, despite their shortcomings, deserve our attention and the further investigation of historians.
 Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez. Foxbats Over Dimona (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007) 5.
 Ibid 1.
 Ibid 6.
 Benny Morris. “Provocations,” The New Republic 237, no. 2 (2007), http://www.tnr.com (accessed October 9, 2007).
 David Horovitz. “Russia confirms Soviet sorties over Dimona in ‘67” Jerusalem Post, August 23, 2007, http://www.jpost.com (accessed October 9, 2007).