Raviv, Dan 1954-
RAVIV, Dan 1954-
PERSONAL: Born September 27, 1954, in New York, NY; son of Benjamin (an engineer) and Esther (a teacher) Raviv; married Dori Phaff (a television researcher), June, 1982; children: Jonathan, Emma. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1976.
CAREER: Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) Radio, Boston, MA, editor, 1974-76; CBS News, New York, NY, producer, 1976-78, reporter in Tel Aviv, Israel, 1978-80, correspondent in London, England, 1980-92, correspondent in Miami, FL, 1993—, currently Washington, DC-based national correspondent.
AWARDS, HONORS: Overseas Press Club of America award, 1987, and two other awards for coverage of the Persian Gulf War; New York Times award, 1990, for Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community; Society of Professional Journalists award, for anchoring the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore.
(With Yossi Melman) Behind the Uprising: Israelis,Jordanians, and Palestinians, Greenwood Press (New York, NY), 1989.
(With Yossi Melman) The Imperfect Spies, Sidgwick & Jackson (London, England), 1989, published as Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community, Houghton (New York, NY), 1990.
(With Yossi Melman) Friends in Deed: Inside the U.S.-Israel Alliance, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1994.
Comic Wars: How Two Tycoons Battled over the Marvel Comics Empire—and Both Lost, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to the Washington Post, Miami Herald, and other newspapers. Several of Raviv's books have been published in Hebrew.
SIDELIGHTS: CBS News correspondent Dan Raviv is best known for the books he has coauthored with Israeli journalist Yossi Melman on Israeli affairs. One product of their collaboration is Behind the Uprising: Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians, a 1989 work that provides background on the intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli military rule in the occupied lands. The volume centers "on the clandestine contacts between Israeli and Jordanian leaders since before the foundation of the state of Israel," wrote Helena Cobban in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. "The authors, two hard-burrowing . . . journalists, provide a wealth of detail about these contacts, mainly using leaks from Israeli participants."
Raviv and Melman also collaborated on the bestselling Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community. Since the founding of the modern Jewish state in 1948, the reputation of the Israeli secret services—the Mossad for foreign operations, Shin Bet for domestic operations, and Aman for military intelligence—has grown to make them legendary in the world of espionage. Raviv and Melman attempt to uncover the truth behind the legend in Every Spy a Prince. The early members of these organizations were well-educated, cultured, and willing to accept the high standards of patriotism and selflessness demanded of them by officials in Israel and by the leaders of the intelligence community. Even as the services grew into more professional institutions and expanded their information-gathering capacity through computers and other technological tools, they continued to add to their mystique by scoring major successes in field operations. In 1956 the Israelis were the first to secure a copy of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech to the Communist Party Congress in which he discussed the brutality of the Stalin regime. Israeli agents captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1960 in Argentina. Then, Israel achieved an overwhelming success in the 1967 Six-Day War, largely because of excellent intelligence. In the 1970s, they performed a successful raid on Entebbe, Uganda, to save hostages. At times such as these, the country's spy organizations seemed invincible.
Raviv and Melman gathered much of the information on these operations from former and active agents and "even though some of the Israeli operatives sound boastful," wrote Herbert Mitgang in the New York Times, "the book is not propaganda or disinformation. While it is filled with many examples of how Mossad pulled off major coups, the authors are at pains to point out that the Israelis sometimes goofed." Among their failures was their attempt to frame and discredit the new nationalistic government in Egypt in 1954 by bombing American and British embassy buildings. In addition, they were blamed for poor intelligence in not anticipating the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In the 1980s, the intelligence organizations were scandalized by discoveries that they had killed Palestinians arrested for hijacking a bus, recruited American Jonathan Pollard to spy on Israel's ally, and been deeply involved in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages operations. As the 1990s began to take shape, the Israeli intelligence community was under scrutiny for exacerbating the problems of the Palestinian uprising.
Raviv and Melman offer Every Spy a Prince as a "complete history of Israel's intelligence community," and therefore attempt to cover a lot of ground. This characteristic of the volume is the target of some of the criticism aimed at it. "Raviv and Melman seem so preoccupied with packing everything into this [book]," commented Steven Luxenberg in Book World, "that any sort of analysis or context gets lost. Their approach is too shallow to be good history and too episodic to be complete." New York Times Book Review contributor David Wise similarly conceded that "the book is episodic, often fragmented, stuffed with marginal anecdotes that get in the way of the narrative." However, he added that "Mr. Raviv and Mr. Melman have done a remarkable job of penetrating Israel's secret agencies."
Wise found that the authors "break substantial new ground, providing as clear and comprehensive a look at Israeli intelligence as we are likely to get. They perpetuate the legend even while reducing it to a more realistic size—no mean feat in itself. And they tell some wonderful stories." Walter Laqueur offered a similar assessment in the Times Literary Supplement. He stated that the work is "the most detailed and reliable history so far of Israeli intelligence. The book is based not on sensational revelations but on diligent research of Israeli publications." Moreover, as David Langsam pointed out in the New Statesman, Every Spy a Prince offers a valuable warning: "Melman and Raviv conclude that, while Israel more than most other countries has a need to protect itself, 'what Israeli citizens should realise is that intelligence is simply an extension of their nation's policies. If the policies are faulty, even the best intelligence in the world cannot repair them.'"
Raviv teamed up with Melman a third time to produce Friends in Deed: Inside the U.S.-Israel Alliance, a detailed history of relations between the two countries. Because sympathy is at the heart of this alliance, rather than strategic interests, "the task of composing a comprehensive history that is not either saccharin sweet or utterly vitriolic requires uncommon skill," remarked Kathleen Christison in the Journal of Palestine Studies. "Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv have accomplished the task," Christison concluded. The authors recount the history of this alliance, from the early post-World War II days, when U.S. motivation is characterized as arising from guilt and sympathy over the Holocaust, to the laissez-faire approach adopted by President John F. Kennedy regarding the Israelis' development of nuclear capability, to the coercive tactics applied by President George Bush during the Gulf War. Throughout, Melman and Raviv offer intriguing but little-known details of behind-the-scenes maneuvers, as when an Israeli official courted Jewish-American gangsters in the 1950s for financial support for the new nation. Indeed, wrote William B. Quandt in Foreign Affairs, while there are perhaps already too many books on the relationship between Israel and the United States, "this one at least has the virtue of being well-written and filled with tidbits of inside information."
For his first solo effort, Raviv turned to the topsyturvy world of American business. In Comic Wars: How Two Tycoons Battled over the Marvel Comics Empire—and Both Lost, the author recounts the convoluted story of what happened to Marvel Comics after financier Ronald Perelman bought the company in 1989. Perelman raided the company, stripping it of employees and discontinuing products in an effort to streamline its profitability. He then acquired a number of subsidiary companies, including trading cards and stickers, and thereby boosted the company's stock price to triple its original valuation. Perelman then began borrowing heavily based on this overinflated stock price, and another financier, Kurt Icahn, began buying Marvel stock in an attempt to take over the company. The two ended up in bankruptcy court in Delaware for years while two lesser players, Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad, characterized by Raviv as true comic-books fans who were concerned for the long-range health of the company, entered the fray and eventually won the field. Their company, Toy Biz, which manufactures toys based on Marvel Comics characters, eventually took over Marvel Comics to become Marvel Enterprises.
"Raviv documents every twist and turn in the drama—which can be a strength or a weakness, depending on who's doing the reading," remarked Mike Musgrove in Book World. Other reviewers also appeared to grade the book on its perceived success or failure in relaying the intricacies of the financial and legal dealings of the major players. "Fans of the cutthroat finance genre will find much to enjoy in the boardroom confrontations," remarked a contributor to Publishers Weekly, adding that Raviv seems to assume his readers know well the Marvel comics characters and their status in American culture. But for a Kirkus Reviews writer, who hoped to find a cast of super villains and plucky heroes battling over the beleaguered company in true comic-book fashion, Raviv's detailed account of the court battles slows down the story fatally: "Though the author battles mightily to keep things brisk, a morass of legal details and a large cast of interested players suck down the author's storyline with the insistence of quicksand." Steven Silkunas, writing in Library Journal, reached precisely the opposite conclusion, however, concluding, "The book has all the makings of a great screenplay—'Spiderman Meets Wall Street in Bankruptcy Court.'"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1994, Jay Freeman, review of Friends in Deed: Inside the U.S.-Israel Alliance, p. 149.
Book World, August 12, 1990, Steven Luxenberg, review of Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community; April 28, 2002, Mike Musgrove, review of Funny Business, p. 9.
Foreign Affairs, March-April, 1995, William B. Quandt, review of Friends in Deed, p. 162.
Journal of Palestine Studies, autumn, 1995, Kathleen Christison, review of Friends in Deed, p. 107.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1994, review of Friends inDeed, p. 286; March 1, 2002, review of Comic Wars, p. 316.
Library Journal, June 1, 1994, review of Friends inDeed, p. 138; April 1, 2002, Steven Silkunas, review of Comic Wars, p. 121.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 29, 1990; July 29, 1990.
New Statesman, August 30, 1991, David Langsam, review of Every Spy a Prince.
New York Times, August 8, 1986; July 14, 1990, Herbert Mitgang, review of Every Spy a Prince.
New York Times Book Review, July 8, 1990, David Wise, review of Every Spy a Prince. Publishers Weekly, April 24, 1995, review of Friends in Deed, p. 69; March 18, 2002, review of Comic Wars, p. 89.
Queen's Quarterly, summer, 1993, review of EverySpy a Prince, p. 407.
Times Literary Supplement, January 26, 1990, Walter Laqueur, review of Every Spy a Prince.
Business Week Online,http://www.businessweek.com/ (May 6, 2002), Robert J. Rosenberg, "Marvel's Misery."*