Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sam Zemurray The Banana King: Rich Cohen’s The Fish That Ate The Whale


Who knew, right?

I’m reading, as I’d noted, Rich Cohen’s The Fish That Ate The Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King. 

It’s a an excellent biography of Sam Zemurray, a Russian Jew who came to America as a kid and wound up running United Fruit, through amazing sequences of events. 

He’s one of the most outsized, impressive men of gigantic achievements I’ve ever read about. And until picking up this book—I’ll read anything by Rich Cohen—I’d never heard of him. 

But back to my opening question: what did this guy and his banana business have to do with the establishment of Israel?

Once you consider it, it makes sense.

He was a banana man all the way down. And he worked from all the way down to all the way up and to fabulous wealth. In doing that he spent big portions of his life in the Honduras and had extensive dealings with the people and governments of it and close by countries.

He also later in his life got incredibly involved with the Zionist cause of Israeli statehood while not publicizing that involvement or wanting it publicized.

It took two General Assembly votes to get to yes on the Partition Plan by a needed 2/3ds vote. What finally swung getting there were, among other things, the 13 Latin American and Caribbean country affirmative votes.  

And who was instrumental in getting some of those votes finally delivered? 

You bet: it was the work, the pressuring, the insistence, the cajoling, the persuading, the paying off, the lobbying, and on and on by the “Banana Man,” Sam Zemurray.

His is a life that makes me think of Shakespeare’s line about not looking upon his like again and that truth can be stranger than fiction. You couldn’t have made up all what the Banana King amazingly did and accomplished.

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