50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2007
Written by Palestinian peace activist Sari Nusseibeh, this book is an immensely readable personal and political memoir - an account of a life lived in a "broken and violated land." Descendant of a patrician family in Jerusalem, tracing its history back to the seventh century, the author was educated in England and, following in his father's footsteps, devoted his years to advocating reason and nonviolence in the resolution of Arab-Israeli conflicts. A student and later a professor of philosophy, he first believed that Arabs and Israelis could live together as citizens of a single nation. Then, after the 1967 war, he came to the conclusion that a two-nation solution was in the best interests of both peoples.
Over the years, in his account, he has watched both of those objectives resisted and undermined by the objectives of those with political power - the Israelis through a campaign of seizing territory in the West Bank for Jewish settlements, and the PLO by demanding the return of all occupied lands. Meanwhile, moderates such as himself are cast as "dangerous," and his efforts at building bridges between Arabs and Jews are often frustrated. When the intifada of the 1980s flares up, Nusseibeh plays a strategic role in secretly writing and publishing materials that provide it with a voice and direction, channeling the energy of street demonstrations away from violence. And he is instrumental in building a nation-building organization to set the stage for Arafat's return from exile in Tunis to govern the West Bank and Gaza. At the same time, he is reaching out to peace activists among Israelis, even while the second intifada surges to life and Arab extremists begin to have a deadly impact with suicide bombs.
The entire story - which brings us to the present with the building of Sharon's walls and the victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections - is a continuing account of hopes raised and then crushed. While it can be read as an indictment of Israeli policies against the Palestinians, it portrays the PLO as ridden with corruption and the Islamist Hamas organization as blindly and dangerously irrational. Moved deeply by visions of Jeffersonian democracy, Nusseibeh is confronted over and again with the extreme difficulty of seeing reason prevail in the service of government, diplomacy, and building social institutions. What he falls back on at the end is a belief that the fundamental decency of humans - as reflected in sacred scriptures - will eventually lead people to see the folly of their ways. This is a fine book for portraying a moderate and measured history of the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1948 to the present. Readers may also enjoy Jeffrey Goldberg's "Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide."
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2007
Nusseibeh's book allows us to break through the stereotypes of the Palestininan struggle and see behind the images the humanity of a people struggling for an end to the Israeli occupation of their land. Far from the images of unbridgeable fanaticism, Nuseibeh offers us another view of people prepared to compromise in order to ensure an end to this bitter conflict. His represents the only way forward in this conflict--acceptance of two states--viable and contiguous in their territories; a shared Jerusalem; and a reasonable solution to the problem of refugees that involves acknowledgement of loss and compensation. I urge people to read this book for its honest recognition of the shortcomings of Palestinian politics and its generous and rational understanding of the needs and pain of two peoples.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2007
This is a truly important book for anyone wishing to understand fully the Arab / Palestinian - Israeli conflict. It sheds tremendous light on very important events, thus far not fully presented from the Palestinian side, especially that of the non rejectionist Palestinian camp. Sari Nusseibeh is a truly visionary man with tremendous courage and is a highly gifted activist and indeed very clever politician despite his own denials.
I have thoroughly enjoyed, and was often moved by, the first half of the book which dealt with the history of Nusseibeh's family and contained his even handed description of the events leading to 1948 and all the way through the 1967 war and his subsequent return to live in Palestine with his British wife. Nusseibeh's portrayal of the lives of the Palestinians between the wars of 1948 and 1967 was very helpful.
In the second half of the book Nusseibeh hammers in, over and over again, on the tacit unspoken alliance of the extremists on both sides and shows how Israel supported the creation of Hamas as a counter weight to the Fateh and PLO. He coherently and very persuasively presents the thought process that he went through to move from the one state solution to the two state solution and demonstrates very effectively the threats that prolonging the conflict would cause to it.
Nusseibeh was often right at the center of things or at least presents himself as such; we see him as a leading figure in standing up to the Israelis and to the Islamists, we see him as the key engine behind the first intefada, or uprising, and we see him winning the respect and approval of Yasir Arafat. In this, second, half, this book moves from being a truly exceptional account of the personal and family history more into an aggrandizing politician's memoir. This should not reduce nor detract from the tremendous personal sacrifice and commitment Nusseibeh made to his cause.
I have heard of the peace work of Dr. Nusseibeh and read some of his articles and interview for some years and while I admire him more than any other Palestinian public figure, this book troubled me in a number of ways. Unlike the other three Palestinian memoirs, originally written in English, that I have read (Gada Karami, Fay Kenfani & Edward Said) Nusseibeh sought to justify every action he has ever taken, to defend his various historic positions and to settle the scores with those of differing views. Most unlike the other three biographies, the book contained virtually no retrospective sole searching whatsoever and important topics such as his obvious passion and skill for politics vs. his academic eccentric persona were packaged for the purpose rather than thought through. Nusseibeh repeatedly simply presented himself as the reluctant professor, yet left us wondering about his very savvy organizational, political and survival skills. He seemed to know exactly how to deal with wily old Arafat, Hamas, the Israeli intelligence and the various factions of the PLO yet retain the freedom to advance his own agenda as well as build important relationships with Israelis.
The tremendous heights, in which, Nusseibeh holds his father, a former Governor of Jerusalem, ambassador and member of cabinet gives the feeling of an immature biography lacking in the distance to be objective. Indeed the first half of the book contains rework of the some of the father's own unpublished memoirs. Obvious points such as the father's commitment to an idealistic form of pan Arabism, albeit non Bathist and non Nasserist, and Nusseibeh own movement into being Palestinian nationalist, seeing Palestine being in natural alliance with Israel did not cause him to reflect further on the role and thinking of his father. A respectful critique and contrast of the views would have enhanced and not hindered the understanding of his father and need not be disloyal to his memory.
Most grating perhaps is the competitiveness displayed with other Palestinian peace advocates and the various attempts at discrediting them. This was particularly evident in describing the efforts that led to the Geneva Accord, which Nusseibeh referred as the plan by the name of the Israeli negotiator, thus marginalizing the Palestinian partner. At some point Nusseibeh clearly fell out with Hanan Ashrawi and Dr. Barghouti, both articulate advocates of the Palestinian cause and for peace and coexistence with Israel, he made his disdain of them very obvious and has not troubled himself to analyze their positions even in retrospect.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2008
This is a memoir written by a professor of philosophy who is also the current president of Al Quds university in East Jerusalem.
After getting through his father's history in the early chapters, University professor Sari Nusseibeh realizes the central problem between the Israeli and Palestinian coexistence: neither sides understanding of the other side. It takes him meeting Israeli students at college, and flying on an Israeli ariline, and teaching at Hebrew University before he begins to see the similarities between the two. And thats where he evolves his ideas about peace.
A central concept of his is that both sides are allies, NOT enemies. He even goes as far to say that the two are more like allies than the united states/israel and palestinians/arab states are allies.
Unfortunately as the occupation of the west bank and gaza continues throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, he sees a different kind of arab majority emerging from the areas, that is bent on the concept of eradicating the Jew, instead of working with. As his story progresses we see how the author gets involved in politics and attempts to keep the two state solution as a viable option, while trying to maintain his own logical understanding of what was transpiring.
But as we come to the 2000s, Hamas gains most of the support of the palestinians, wins elections and violence ensues.
The author is not hopeless. He does speak of trying to advocate a peaceful two-state solution by teaming up with Israelis in the Peace Now movement and in the government, to get the peace that both sides seek. He writes up a two state solution, that would allow Palestinians to have the borders from pre-1967, and allows palestinian refugees to return to palestinian areas, and Jews to jewish areas.
Only concerns i have with his memoir book are of misrepresentations of Israeli actions. He states that the Israelis invaded Lebanon in 82 without "any bullets being shot from lebanon." That's misleading. The PLO were launching rockets into kiryat shemonah and nearby cities which was provoking the Israelis during this turbulent time for the lebanese people, to maintain peace in southern lebanon.
Ina few other places he tries to place more blame on Israel rather than sharing it with the palestinian people, a product of his upbringing more than malicious intent.
However Sari Nusseibeh is not Hamas and not an islamic fundamentalist. He isa two-state solution advocate who writes mostly about using non-violent disobedience. As the reader I wondered, if more palestinians were like Nusseibeh perhaps the world opinion would change towards them? But Nusseibeh DIDNT grow up in a refugee camp, was educated at Oxford and Harvard, and lived a different life than the majority of palestinians.
So perhaps palestinians as a whole dont see life as he does? And maybe this book is as much a minority views as that of the suicide bombers?
Hopefully not, because Nusseibeh portrays himself as a peace seeker. and thats what is needed in Israel and Palestine.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2007
In a work so compelling that I could hardly put it down, Nusseibeh describes in personal terms the struggles for freedom of the Palestinian
people. His personal courage, that of the many people whose generosity
he cites, and the example of his father's service to his people is most inspiring. If you did not know it before, after reading this book you will understand why the Palestinian people need their own state and
freedom to act as the People they are.
26 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2007
Sari Nusseibeh, the Oxford-educated Palestinian philosopher, lays out with eloquence and unflinching honesty his personal life story and how it intersects with the larger saga of Palestinian national life. In doing so, he creates a startling image of Palestine and of Palestinians seldom seen by Western eyes.
Nusseibeh describes the history Palestinian suffering and struggle not as a narrow, tribal cause, but as a global cause consistent with humanism and universal human rights. He does so in a way that is not tendentious, preachy, or moralising.
For this, I heartily recommend his seminal work.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2014
I read the entire book and for the most part found it interesting reading and well written. I was disappointed in some of the history, like the Arabs were greatly outnumbered and out gunned in 1948. What? Or that the Old City was taken with out a fight in 1967. What? I suppose Sari has to believe in his peoples' myths. I do respect this writer for his stand on a peaceful resolution to the problem between the Arabs and the Jews. But may I point out, he was educated in Oxford and Harvard, not to mention St. George's School for boys in Jerusalem (all Christian institutions). Sari Nusseibeh has a highly developed and trained western mentality. The majority of the Palestinians have not had his opportunities. Abbas, for example, did his graduate studies in Moscow, with a thesis that more or less denies the Holocaust. You can't compare his education to Sari's. So when the Palestinians are given a free election for the first time in history, why do they choose Hamas? It all goes back to education and culture. I have lived in the West Bank, in the small village of Bethany, or Isafiya as it is called in Arabic. I took the bus back and forth to Jerusalem and never saw any disrespect or humiliation of the passengers on the part of Israeli soldiers. Even after the wall was built, I took the local Arab bus to and from Bethany. The soldiers looking for explosives were polite, efficient, and quick. Of course, not being an Arab, I don't automatically take umbrage from interaction with Jews. I know it is a complex situation, and as far as I can see, it has no immediate remedy for either side.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2010
I had a different review in mind when I logged into my Amazon account, I read some of the other reviews and realized that the middle east clash and difference in points of view is even brought here; to section that is supposed to review a book, I realized that the lack of objectivity, and tinting things with person opinions don't stop when you read a book, if you read a book, some of the reviewers here clearly didn't read the book, they just brought their pre-existing point of view and just posted it here.
I agree that some of the accounts in this book are mildly exaggerated; probably to make it more palatable to readers and enhance the way it flows. Sure Nusseibeh was born to a rich family but that also means he had more to lose, Sure he was highly educated but that also means he has a better understanding for the root of the conflict.
For those reviewers who say he is bent on the destruction of Israel; you obviously didn't read the book as he over and over repeats his opinion that the Nation of Israel has Legal, International and Ethical right to exist, not to exist as a state of secular principals, but as a state with a clear Jewish Identity. He repeats his opinion that the right of return to the millions of Palestinian refugees is not practical and can't be accomplished thus another means of compensation is needed. How can that be destructive to Israel? He believes and reiterates that what is destructive to both Nations is the continued attacks and counter attacks carried by the Army and the extremists. He repeats that continuous demagoguery while serves the few does hurt the majority the silent majority at both sides that is.
There is a lot of despair and injustice all over the world, more so at that part of the world. While everybody is deeply engrossed in a deep debate about who's fault it is? or who started the fight, innocent people at both side of the conflict suffer and countless people with no fault pay the price. Humans are capable of ending this vicious cycle of violence but we can't do so until we first acknowledge that we need to move away from how it started to how can we end it.
Now let me give my opinion about this book, I really enjoyed reading it. It was slightly exaggerated I believe for dramatic effect but all in all it was candid memoirs of a privileged highly educated and extremely intelligent Palestinian. To me it became more interesting as it started describing more recent events. It does carry Nusseibeh's point of view all through but it is his memoirs so it is supposed to do that. If you have a strong unmovable pre-existing opinion about the middle east conflict without the smallest chance of identifying with another point of view then you probably should skip this book and continue to live in your dark world of ignorance and demagoguery. If you want to learn more about points of view outside the tradition book and listen to an insiders account of the conflict and explore possible solutions then I encourage you to read this book and formulate your own ideas about it. After all this is what professor Nusseibeh would want you to do. He would want you to challenge the traditional preconceived notions and build your own.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2010
This conflict needs more intelligent, self-critical people such as Sari Nusseibeh. His story is a fascinating look into this conflict, the nature of occupation and the pain of seeing such a tragedy unfold. What comes through so powerfully is the pyrrhic nature of this conflict. Each and every blow struck by either side inevitably does equal, if not greater, damage to the aggressor. It is a tragic and absurd tale at the same time.
What I like most about this book is the author's ability to be introspective and self-critical. While he recognizes the injustices that have been inflicted on his people, he does not absolve them of their many and varied failings as well. He refuses to blame the Palestinians problems on outside factors, but instead shines a very bright light on the problems that eminate from within the Palestinian community as well as in the greater Arab world in general.
The most important aspect of this book is the author's discussion of nonviolent resistance. I fully agree with his analysis that the Palestinian's greatest weapon in their arsenal is nonviolence. This technique has proven itself to be very affective, and when it has been used by the Palestinians it has garnered them a lot positive attention. All too often, though, too many Palestinians seem to want to take Algeria as their example rather than India or the U.S. As long as the extremists are allowed to dictate the terms of the conflict the Palestinians will follow the path of Algeria and this is very unfortunate.
It is important for these moderate voices to be heard, and this is why this work needs to be read. The majorities of both peoples want peace and an end to violence, and both sides know what it is going to take to achieve this in the end. As long as the extremes on both sides get to dictate this conflict there will be no peace, only more tragedy. What makes this conflict so absurd is the fact that both people need each other. Israel will never be a moral, representative state until a viable Palestinian state is formed, and Israel is able to grant the Palestinians within Israel a truly equal status within the state. This cannot be achieved without Israel's recognition of the past injustices they have committed, and an understanding that their fate is inextricably linked with that of the Palestinians. The Palestinians must recognize the futility of violence and recognize their past mistakes and crimes committed against the Israeli's. Their's is a moral claim to justice, and their only path to state hood is through making this case. Violence against the Israeli's destroys their own moral claims which hurts them much more than the Israelis. Sari Nusseibeh makes this case eloquently and diligently. This is why his voice needs to be heard.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2012
I am a middle-aged American Jew who lived in Israel for two years during the 1970's and who supports Israel's right to exist within secure borders. I found that this book helped me to be able to put myself in the position of the Palestinian people and to understand their experiences and struggles. It is very well written and was well worth reading. I highly recommend it for anyone who would like to believe that a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible. It will help you to tear down whatever stereotypes you may have in your mind.