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April 11, 2014 1:47 pm
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Four Bodyguards Hired for NYC Book Launch Hosted by Israeli War Hero

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Raanan Lurie, drawing a political cartoon, in 1961. Photo: WikiCommons.

Raanan Lurie, drawing a political cartoon, in 1961. Photo: WikiCommons.

Raanan Lurie, the legendary Israeli political cartoonist and war hero, was in the gossip pages this week when a book launch party hosted at his  New York City home drew protests from neighbors and his building insisted he hire four bodyguards for the event.

Lurie told The New York Post‘s ‘Page Six‘ column that he was not intimidated by anyone, including his well-heeled neighbors. He told the nosy neighbor how Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator, once threatened to rip out his heart and eat it, and Lurie was unmoved. “It was a very civilized conversation,” he told the newspaper

‘Page Six’ wrote: “Guests at the book party for ‘House of Outrageous Fortune’ on the 36th floor of the city’s most expensive apartment building, 15 Central Park West, never felt safer — four bodyguards were protecting them. The book’s author, Michael Gross, told his friends, ‘I’ve been to parties here before, but this is the first time I know of that the hosts were made to hire a four-man security detail for five hours for a two-hour cocktail party.'”

The newspaper said building management insisted on the body guards after some “schoolyard bullies” first tried to force Lurie to cancel the party. One hedge-fund manager had called Lurie to tell him that some neighbors were upset Gross had revealed details about their apartments and their pasts in his book about the city’s most expensive building.

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The dust up was small beer for Lurie who in his long military and journalism careers has survived much harrier situations, including face-to-face interviews with the world’s most powerful dictators.

Lurie, actually born in Egypt, to a sixth-generation Jerusalemite father and a seventh-generation mother, was a member of the Irgun, the fighting force before the creation of the Israeli Army that took up arms against British rule before Israeli independence.

With the creation of the IDF, he rose to Major and senior company commander in its reserves. To learn how to be a parachutist, Lurie trained with the elite corps in the U.S., British and French armies.

In one of his famous exploits, Lurie posed as an Australian journalist to board an Egyptian navy flotilla anchoring in Venice, in 1954, “interviewing” the frigate’s high ranking officers and photographing their newly installed Soviet Radar. Because of his intelligence, the British light cruiser “HMS New Castle” was able to sink the Egyptian “Domiat” within minutes after the Suez War was declared. The operation was also remembered because the British were able to save 69 Egyptian crew members and return them safely to shore. Lurie was awarded the highest Israeli journalistic prize granted “for unprecedented bravery.”

In the Six-Day War, Lurie went deep behind Egyptian lines, commanding a tiny unit in two cannon-mounted jeeps, in a maneuver that captured international media attention and became a case study at West Point. At the war’s end, Lurie risked a court martial by protesting that the Arabs of Anabta should not be expelled to Jordan. He went to speak to his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, who then instructed Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, “To return immediately all the exiled Palestinian inhabitants and rebuild any of their destroyed homes,” instructions that Dayan followed to the letter.

Between the wars, Lurie worked as a political cartoonist for Israel’s Yediot Aharonot daily, and, after the Six Day War, worked as cartoonist and cover artist for LIFE magazine.

In 1971, with tensions rising at the Suez Canal, Lurie acted as go-between for U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to appease the Egyptians by allowing soldiers to carry sub-machine guns, which Meir objected to, and later cited as a trigger by the Egyptian side for the Yom Kippur War, two years later.

After LIFE magazine folded, Lurie published his cartoons in Newsweek, and, subsequently, in Newsweek InternationalU.S. News & World ReportTIME International and Foreign Affairs. He was also the in-house political cartoonist for The London Times, Germany’s Die Welt, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitungand and even was published in Egypt’s Al-Ahram. According to the Center for Professional Journalism Studies, over the years, he was syndicated globally to more than 1,100 publications with a daily readership of 300 million. Lurie interviewed, drew and painted more than 250 world leaders face-to-face.

In another extraordinary exploit, from his cartooning career, in 1983, Lurie told the world how his family was threatened by the staff of the Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, who, at the time, was the lead suspect in the murder of his political rival. Lurie convinced him to perform a lie detector test during their next interview, which they agreed upon. But, the next day, the cartoonist was told by the Filipino Information Minister that he should leave town immediately, and before the meeting, with the lives of his wife and two daughters hanging in the balance. Lurie did what he was told, but his cartoon ridiculing Marcos was admired around the world.

At his New York book reading this week, among the guests in attendance were Israel’s Consul General in New York Ido Aharoni, author and publisher Gay and Nan Talese, Caroline Hirsch, Denise LeFrak, Leonard and Allison Stern, Ed Rollins, Dana Hammond, Asher Edelman and party co-hosts Wendy Sarasohn and Randi Schatz, publisher of Avenue.

‘Page Six’ said neighbors Denzel Washington, the actor, Sting, the musician, Lloyd Blankfein, the boss of Goldman Sachs, and Daniel Loeb, a high-profile hedge fund manager were not at the party. The newspaper contacted Loeb’s spokeswoman, who said, “Dan did nothing to interfere with the party and just wonders why he wasn’t invited.”

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