Ghada Talhami Review
Middle East Policy Jouurnal, Volume 12, No. 2, Summer 2005
Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle, by Mazin B. Qumsieh. London: Pluto Press, 2004. Foreword by Salman Abu Sitta. 236 pages. $15.61, paperback.
EXCERPT FROM REVIEW BY Prof. Ghada Hashem Talhami
D.K. Pearsons professor of politics, Lake Forest College
There are voluminous studies of the Palestine question from various angles. Most cannot be taken seriously for a lack of objectivity or omission of relevant parts of the historical record on Palestinian human rights. This study, however, manages to avoid most of these pitfalls. The author's humanistic focus envelops Israelis and Palestinians alike, revealing little-known facts, providing fresh analysis and shedding new light on what has been taken for granted as the historical reality.
Qumsieh's title, which he elaborates upon in the first chapter focusing on the ancient people and cultures of Palestine, explains his position on this tortuous question. He reminds us that all Palestinians -- Arabs and Israelis, Muslims, Christians and Jews -- are products of the ancient Canaanite culture that prevailed in Palestine, the ancient land of Canaan, for thousands of years. Buttressed by archeological and ancient historical data, he manages to demolish the myth of Jewish historical, theological and racial exclusivity while at the same time emphasizing the interdependence of all of the legacies of that land. The rest of the book proceeds to demonstrate the shortcomings of Zionist ideology, the missed opportunities and the current quagmire that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By emphasizing the common bonds of the Canaanite heritage, Qumsieh reprises an old theme of Palestinian-Israeli amity that the Israelis have dismissed as a defunct literary school (the Canaanite school) that existed during the early years of the Israeli state. The book turns out to be a serious reappraisal of the Western perspective on Zionism and the Israeli state.
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