cover image Peace and Its Discontents: Essays on Palestine in the Middle East Peace Process

Peace and Its Discontents: Essays on Palestine in the Middle East Peace Process

Edward W. Said. Vintage Books USA, $13 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-679-76725-1

This is not an easy book. It's not that Said's ideas are difficult to grasp, but rather, as Said says in his introduction, ``this is the first of my books to have been written from start to finish with an Arab audience in mind.'' Perhaps even more than is usual for Said, author of The Politics of Dispossession and a member of the Palestine National Council from 1979-91, the book has a decidedly partisan spin as when he is shocked that ``a Palestinian negotiator once believed that Palestinians were a threat to the settlers!'' Still, beyond the rhetoric, readers will find very valid points aimed at both fellow Arabs and the international community. He chides the Arab world for nondemocratic governments and for negotiating without adequate understanding of America and Israel and without knowing their own resources-people, land and water. And he has very real concerns following the Oslo agreement: its failure to address all Palestinians-those in Israel, in the Occupied Territories and the vast diaspora-and the ghettoization of West Bank towns by the $600-million road system announced (post-Oslo) for the Occupied Territories. But generally, Said is an idealist, calling for absolute parity in negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. Pragmatically, however, the PLO is negotiating from a position of relative weakness that was made more acute by its disastrous position during the Gulf War, which left it cash-strapped; public feeling in Israel means that a strong Palestinian presence in Jerusalem is unlikely; and, however he tries to downplay it, terrorism is a major factor in Israeli and international attitudes toward Palestinians. (Jan.)