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Capsule Review

A Voice of Reason: Hanan Ashrawi and Peace in the Middle East

In This Review

A Voice of Reason: Hanan Ashrawi and Peace in the Middle East
By Barbara Victor
Harcourt Brace & Co., 1994 258 pp. $24.95 Purchase

Hyperbole abounds in this well-intentioned but seriously flawed portrait of an articulate Palestinian figure. The dust jacket sets the tone. "And why have the leaders of one of the most sexist societies in the world put their fate and the fate of their people in the hands of this Christian woman?" The answer, of course, is that they have not. Hyperbole aside, this biography is filled with irritating mistakes, some minor and others indicative of a lack of serious knowledge about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Names are so often mangled that one stops paying attention. But what about substance? Here the author has a few tidbits to offer. She correctly notes that Ashrawi played an important role in setting in motion the first contacts between the Israelis and plo officials who went on to negotiate the Oslo accords. One also learns that Ashrawi has a thoughtful and supportive husband, lots of friends who say nice things about her, a few detractors, and a pretty impressive career. The author clearly admires her and detests Yasir Arafat, but never quite captures the nature of the relationship between these two individuals. As a result, both are essentially treated as stereotypes. Many of the reported anecdotes and conversations are grist for a good magazine article, but without an organizing theme, without more historical context, they hardly warrant a book -- at least not a book of this modest quality.

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