In This Review

This Side of Peace: A Personal Account
This Side of Peace: A Personal Account
By Hanan Ashrawi
Simon & Schuster, 1995, 306 pp

The early rounds of Arab-Israeli peacemaking were followed by a flood of memoirs and studies, mostly from the Israeli and American angles. For many Americans, Hanan Ashrawi, as spokesperson for the Palestinian delegation, became the Palestinian voice that conveyed humanity and reason. Ashrawi has raised the curtain on what went on behind the scenes. It is a compelling, often depressing, story. PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat was a difficult taskmaster, sending mixed signals to his delegation, keeping many cards up his sleeve, and finally cutting the deal in Oslo behind the backs of most of his advisers. The Israelis come across as difficult partners in peace, but Ashrawi does not spend much time on them as individuals; she seems to take their intransigence for granted. It is the Americans who irritate her most, since they seem to promise things to lure the Palestinians into negotiations, then step to the sidelines and tell the Palestinians to go talk to the Israelis about substance. Still, she portrays former Secretary of State James Baker in a relatively positive light. He, at least, seemed to enjoy twisting both Israeli and Palestinian arms. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, by contrast, comes across as a bland and unconvincing intermediary. Along the way in this narrative, Ashrawi evokes her people, their hopes, her own frustrations as a woman in a patriarchal society, and the conflicts between her roles as public figure, intellectual, adviser to Arafat, and mother. In the end, she refused to join Arafat in the Palestinian National Authority and expressed strong reservations about the Gaza-Jericho agreement. Instead, she founded the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights. This is not so much a work that future historians will ponder, but it is an appealing and powerful personal statement from a person of integrity and insight.