This book is dedicated to the Palestinian people whose ordeals it describes, the Palestinians who perished in the struggle for their national and human rights; also to Palestinians in prison, under the occupation, and in the camps; and to the Palestinians who belong nowhere as equal citizens, but for whom Palestine will always be home...
By Cheryl A. Rubenberg: It is enormously refreshing to read a book that challenges the conventional wisdom on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. In The Obstruction of Peace, Professor Naseer Aruri compounds assiduous research, astute insights, and lucid analysis to demonstrate that the Oslo accords and their aftermath (Cairo I, Cairo II, Cairo III, etc.) have not been a breakthrough fro a genuine, equitable, and lasting peace but simply a repackaging of old plans and proposals that circumvent, deter, and negate Palestinian independence and self-determination. Naseer Aruri is a Palestinian intellectual, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, a longtime activist with Amnesty International including lengthy service on its American board of directors, a writer, and an advocate for the cause of his people. He is, perhaps, the Elie Wiesel of the Palestinians but with a more universal approach to human suffering and human rights. Aruri does not apply one standard to the Palestinians and a different standard to others including Israel. By the same token, he expects that other peoples will be held to the same measure as is his. His concern with universal human rights makes Aruri unique in the Israeli-Palestinian political dialogue, through the Israeli scholar Ilan Peleg (see for instance Human Rights in the West Bank and Gaza: Legacy and Politics, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1995) may provide an appropriate comparison. This book does not focus on human rights per se, but Aruris passions in this regard are clearly evident. Here he is concerned with more fundamentally political questions and with demonstrating the multiple asymmetries and imbalances in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, especially in the current effort to achieve peace. This he accomplishes by analyzing several issues including: the U.S. role in the Middle East before and after the end of the Cold War with particular emphasis on the period since the Gulf War, the consensus and continuity that characterizes American policy in the region, the U.S.-Israeli relationship including Israels special role as a "strategic asset," the function of U.S. domestic politics in American policy toward Israel and the Palestinians, the changing perspectives on Israel of regime elites in the Arab states, and the conflicts and crises in internal Palestinian politics. Of considerable utility is Aruris placing of the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process within the historical context of U.S. foreign policy toward Israel and the Palestinians as well as the region as a whole. One of Aruris major assertions is that, because of the intensely close historic alliance between the U.S. and Israel, the U.S. is not and cannot be an "honest broker" in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Of the many convincing arguments used to demonstrate this thesis, a particularly notable one is his analysis of the U.S.-engineered demised of the internationally backed plan for resolution of the conflict, i.e., a comprehensive settlement under international auspices (opposed by Israel), in favor of a U.S.-supervised process of separate, bi-lateral agreements (favored by Israel). Whatever one thinks about Israel and its peace policies, this is a clear example of the U.S. bowing to Israels wishes and ignoring the opinion of virtually the entire international community, especially the Palestinians and the Arab states. The point is illustrated repeatedly throughout the text; however, if additional information is required, Hanan Ashrawls This Side of Peace: A Personal Account (Simon & Schuster, 1995) is highly recommended. Her narrative (minus personal reminiscences) of dealing with the Americans in Madrid and after is most illuminating. Aruris careful reading and analysis of the Oslo and subsequent agreements is the most satisfying portion of the book. Partly because such analysis is rarely made in mainstream scholarship (though one is reminded of Joel Singers excellent piece, "The Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government arrangements: Some Legal Aspects," Justice (February 1994), pp. 4-13), but more because, after independent reflection, Aruri is so obviously, and painfully, correct. He terms it "repackaging the occupation" and proceeds to examine the specific articles of each document elucidating meanings that most investigators have entirely overlooked. If qualms remain after reading Aruri, one need only look at the Israeli measures taken against the supposedly autonomous areas of Gaza and the West Bank in the wake of the four suicide bombings in Israel complete closure, houses demolished, mass arrests (some by PA police acting as surrogates for Israel), etc. Also of great interest is Aruris analysis of internal Palestinian politics. He examines the issues of nation-building, leadership, governance (e.g., ad hoc decision making, cronyism, lack of accountability, absence of rational, efficient, and consultative policy-making, lack of fiscal responsibility, etc.), corruption, questions of legitimacy, lack of economic development, the nature of opposition groups, class divisions, conflicts between the "inside" and the "outside," and the clash of political cultures. Aruris critiques of the PLO leadership is scathing, and he concludes, with evident despair, that the culture of "security" is domination all else and destroying the potential for the emergence of democracy. The Obstruction of Peace eschews the reassurance of scholarly/diplomatic language. Instead, Aruri writes in a hard-hitting, clear-cut, no-nonsense style. I found his candor refreshing; indeed, there is no mistaking his meaning. This is an important book though certainly not an optimistic one. It is also not a book that everyone will agree with. But it is a book that everyone concerned with the question of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship should read. It is crucial to listen to the ways in which others view reality, for "reality," after all, is not a concrete, objectively existing structure. It is a product of our values, beliefs, perceptions, experiences, etc. it is, in fact, quite subjective. Thus it is vital to comprehend that the experiences, perspectives, needs, and aspirations of others are as valid as our own. I would have preferred less on U.S. domestic politics and more on internal Palestinian politics in The Obstruction of Peace. Nevertheless, this is a thought-provoking and worthwhile book highly recommended.
By Edward W. Said: Aruri's book is the first of its kind; an indispensable, hard-hitting, well-documented account of why the tragic unrest in Gaza is a portent of what is yet to come. No student or scholar of the Middle East, and no concern citizen, should pass up the opportunity to read this remarkable work of scholarship and intellectual courage. This carefully written and scrupulously researched book is of vital importance. Aruri goes well outside the worn-out path of clichÈ and received idea to examine in detail what the American peace process really entails for the Middle East generally, and for the Palestinian people in particular. He demonstrates with convincing lucidity that what has been presented by media and government as a break-through is in fact a re-formulating of old plans by which Palestinian self-determination and independence have been circumvented and deferred. In this sense, the 1991 Madrid Conference and the 1993 Gaza-Jericho agreements were cosmetic ploys designed to assure Israel's strategic goals without its having to give up control the Occupied Territories. Most important, he shows the PLO leadership was complicit in all this, either fooled or voluntarily hoodwinked into a no-win strategy in return for promises of "authority" and rule.
By Noam Chomsky: A powerful corrective to illusion and misrepresentation that goes beyond the norm.