Thursday, October 26, 2006

Book Review: The Persistence of the Palestinian Question

Sally Bland, The Electronic Intifada, 26 October 2006

Joseph A. Massad: THE PERSISTENCE OF THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians (Routledge, London/New York, 2006 - ISBN 0415770106)

"Comprising essays published in various scholarly journals between 1993 and 2005, "The Persistence of the Palestinian Question" is a painfully honest book.

The author, who grew up in Amman and is now associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, does not mince words or cut corners. He addresses the question of Palestine from a number of new angles, covering a broad spectrum of fields in which history is made -- official politics, sexual politics, popular resistance, national and social struggle, demography, ideology and state repression.

The book is extremely timely since Massad's incisive critique of the false premises on which the "peace process" was conducted helps explain the dismal situation in which Palestinians find themselves today. It serves to remind that the problem didn't begin with the cut-off of international aid to the Hamas government.

Throughout the 1990s, the Palestinians were urged to be realistic and pragmatic, to learn how to speak to the West -- all the while Israel's colonialism and insistence on maintaining Jewish racial supremacy went unchallenged.

Taking stock over a decade later, it is obvious that the pragmatic approach was not at all pragmatic, for it failed miserably. Far from ushering in peace, the Oslo accords paved the way for Israel to grab more land and tighten its control over Palestinian lives.

Massad doesn't waste time bemoaning this outcome, but rather seeks the roots of the problem, delving into awkward corners that most prefer to ignore.

At the heart of Massad's analysis are Israel's colonial nature, its aim of transforming the weak diaspora Jew into the new, invincible Israeli and its violent switching of places with the Palestinians.

In a bizarre reversal of roles, the Palestinian has been transformed into "the disappearing European Jew", against whom Zionist Israel practises anti-Semitism.

In the face of Zionism's rewriting of Palestinian and Jewish history, Massad's book stands as an important contribution to revisiting history in order to learn from it, pointing to the role intellectuals should play in society."

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