A VOICE OF REASON by Barbara Victor


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 (199193). 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
ISBN: 0-15-103968-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1994


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