A VOICE OF REASON: Hanan Ashrawi and Peace in the Middle East by Barbara Victor

A VOICE OF REASON: Hanan Ashrawi and Peace in the Middle East

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A superficial, unreliable profile of the PLO's often articulate, photogenic spokesperson during part of the Intifada, and particularly during the Madrid and Washington negotiations with Israel (1991--93). Victor, a novelist as well as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, maintains near the beginning of her book that Hanan Ashrawi ""was the one person who had made possible [Yasir] Arafat's presence"" on the White House lawn on Sept. 13, 1993, when his famous ""handshake"" with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin took place. Not only does she not make a case for this extraordinary claim, but Victor demonstrates how, throughout most of 1993, the PLO leader kept Ashrawi ""in the dark"" about the secret Oslo negotiations. Her book also is riddled with the kind of errors that make one question her knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For example, Victor twice claims that the 1917 Balfour Declaration was issued in 1921; the second time, she asserts that it ""provided for two states, Israel and Palestine, to exist side by side."" Nonsense: The declaration made no reference to any ""state,"" only to Great Britain supporting the establishment of a ""Jewish homeland"" in Palestine, which was soon to be a British mandate. Equally irritating are Victor's stylistic excesses, her use of the kind of hyperbolic prose found in ""puff"" pieces, such as her assertion that Ashrawi's ""razor-sharp responses captured world opinion every time that she faced a camera."" Earlier this year, Ashrawi resigned from the PLO leadership to establish and head an independent Palestinian human rights monitoring group. It is this, not the media glitz she enjoyed as a PLO spokesperson, that may lend her career its real significance. Until we know whether and how Hanan Ashrawi will contribute to the humanitarian nature of a possible Palestinian state, any biography of her, particularly one as lacking in historical and biographical depth as Victor's, is premature.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace