A collection of 50 impassioned, damning essays on the consequences of the Middle East peace process.
In his latest book on IsraeliPalestinian relations, Said (Out of Place, 1999, etc.) blasts all the major players. He criticizes the Oslo peace process as a sham, attacks Israeli politicians as manipulative, and, most surprisingly, labels Yasir Arafat, head of the Palestinian Authority, as corrupt and incompetent. Based mostly on recent visits to the West Bank, these wonderfully clear and generous essays document how the Oslo accords created an illusory veil of peace behind which Israel continues to build settlements on traditionally Arab land, and how Arafat wastes international aid in support of the tiny zones where he has been allowed control. Said doesn’t hide his disgust for Arafat. While Israel often acts despicably—closing Jerusalem off to West Bank Palestinians, bulldozing Arab communities without warning—Said argues that it at least does so out of national selfinterest. The former head of the PLO, on the other hand, has become like most other contemporary Arab leaders: he rules solely for personal gain instead of in the interests of his people. Said details how Arafat, under the peace accords, has purposefully hobbled Palestinian civil society, creating multitudes of sinecurial posts for his flunkies and, worse, an apparatus of security services whose goal seems only to be keeping the Palestinian people in line for the Israelis. This while universities, health care, and roads decay. The best essay in the collection is “On Visiting Wadie,” an account of the author visiting his Americanborn son, who at the time was living and working in the West Bank. Here the decadence of the IsraelArafat regime is set against the promise of Wadie’s friends, young and old Palestinians working in organizations dedicated to the advancement of human rights. Such activists serve as a hopeful counterpoint to Said’s otherwise dismal picture.
A powerful, groundlevel perspective on one of the greatest tragedies of our time.