Opinions and Mindsets



By F. Robert Hunter —

I.B. Tauris, London


PROFESSOR HUNTER IS AN American academic who decided to spend a year on sabbatical leave at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in order to write a book on Egypt and Tunisia. His year away instead coincided with the outbreak of the Intifada and this book is the result of his year’s endeavours.

It is a reflection of the opinions and mindset of ordinary Palestinians during the early days of the uprising. Unlike other books on the Intifada from the Palestinian perspective, it doest not overtly descend into the depths of propaganda, but attempts to convey why the Palestinians pursued certain approaches. It is a picture painted through the prism of the internal workings of the Intifada. And it does not make hopeful reading for anyone who believes that both sides are somehow travelling on the road to peace.

Hunter’s account reflects the apparent disdain with which ordinary Palestinians accorded their public representatives — “the political brokers” — whom he suggests were out of touch, middle class professionals with no-grass roots constituency. One of his Palestinian interviewees commented: “Ask Sari Nuseibeh or Hanna Siniora when they last visited a village in the northern or southern part of the West Bank. They know more about what is going on with the PLO outside than what is taking place here”.

Hunter records the lack of importance which he feels the Palestinians gave to assuaging the fears of the Israeli public — and this therefore occupies an extremely minor part of the book.

His impressions have produced essentially a hard-line account of the Intifada where Israel is represented generally as a monolithic entity despite numerous conversations with informed Israeli journalists such as Tom Segev and Danny Rubinstein. Thus Palestinians in dialogue with Israeli doves are seen as unrepresentative.

Part of the problem is that the other side of the coin, the diverse Israeli reaction to and understanding of the Intifada, is a relatively minor concern to the author. For instance this causes problems when analyzing the reasons for the collapse of the US-PLO dialogue.

Even so, this is worthwhile reading for those who wish to gain an unvarnished insight into hard-core Palestinian thinking during those troubled days.

Zionist Review October 1991

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