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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 1 .

Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on US Middle East Policy
Kathleen Christison

(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999)
370pp. Index. Bibl. Hb.: $40.00; ?24.50; ISBN0-520-21717-9.

This book is a damning indictment of the U.S. policy in the Middle East. The author of this book Kathleen Christison finds this policy as too much biased in favour of Israeli. She explains this position of Washington on the derogatory manner in which the Americans held the Palestinians. The author in this well-documented book has meticulously demonstrated the ignorance of the Palestinians by the American politicians and decision-makers, which successfully resulted in the strong pro-Israeli bias in American policy in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The analysis made in this book clearly demonstrates that "In a frame of reference that so enthusiastically envelopes Israel and so automatically approaches the conflict from the Israeli point of view, there has been little room (in the US) for the Palestinian perspective" (p. 3). As a result of the disparaging view of the Palestinians held by the Americans, Washington felt that the Palestinians' national claim were artificially and mischievously inspired. Therefore, it could be ignored; that it was unreasonable for the Arabs to refuse to accept Israel's existence; that there was no real grievances against Israel arising from the Palestinians' displacement. The American obsession with the Israeli point of view is so complete that even now the US officials and the media have no qualm in adopting terms used by Israel itself: 1948 war is called the War of Independence; 1967 War is the Six-Day War and 1973 war is the Yom Kippur War.

For a long period of time, a strong pro-Israeli position prevented Washington from playing the role of an honest broker in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. It received a 'kick-start' only when the there were some signs of change in Washington's pro-Israeli position. This fundamental shift came about in the US policy only when the Bush administration decided finally to deal directly with Palestinians and listen to their point of view. In the author's own words this shift in American position "loosened constraint on (American) thinking and on policy that had impeded progress for decades? (and) forever altered the framework that shaped both public discourse and policy on Palestinian-Israeli issues." (p. 270). The author records these changes but the readers are left with few explanations as to what had led to these fundamental changes in American perceptions toward the Palestinians.

The author writes with passion but with objectivity. All those interested in Middle East affairs should read this book. The book broadens the understanding of the complex Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Dr. Ishtiaq Hossain
National University of Singapore

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