Very good, informative read.
Some critics have chosen to question what Edward Said means by 'real peace' and claim that, in truth, he seeks the destruction of Israel. No one who reads this book can be left in any doubt as to what he believes are the conditions necessary for a just and lasting peace.
For decades Edward Said has been a powerful advocate of a two-state solution, preserving the state of Israel within its pre 1967 borders. In this book he again and again condemns those who continue to argue for the elimination of the state of Israel and urges his fellow Arabs to accept the reality of the Jewish state. Indeed, he even goes as far as to brand those who refuse to have any dialogue with Israelis as racist. Anyone who was under the slightest illusion that Said is in any way making a case that even approximates to the destruction of Israel can be left in no doubt by the articles republished in his latest book.
Said argues very powerfully that the Israelis must recognise the wrong that has been done to the Palestinians, and that those who have been forced from their homes at gunpoint, dispossessed, their houses seized or bulldozed should either be permitted to return to their homes or should be compensated (not that all should have an automatic right or return). The Jews have been very vociferous in their campaign to see compensation paid to Jews for losses and suffering inflicted by the Nazis. Why then should they refuse to compensate those who have been dispossessed by Israel, the victims' victims, the Palestinians whose only crime was to live in Palestine?
Although some may think it is absurd to allow the native inhabitants of the land of Palestine the right to return to the land from which they have been expelled over the past fifty years, it is hard for Jews and their supporters to maintain such a position. After all, the principal of the Jewish Right of Return - which says that the land of Israel belong to Jews, wherever they live and that all Jews have an automatic right to 'return' - is the very cornerstone upon which the state of Israel was founded..
Said makes clear the historical context in which the dispute over Jerusalem must be seen. Israel has illegally occupied East Jerusalem since 1967. Its annexation is not recognised by any country in the world and the United Nations has consistently resolved that Israel must withdraw from all illegally occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, which has an overwhelmingly Arab population. The fact that Jews have lived their throughout history has no bearing on matters: Jews have also lived in a great many cities for a great many centuries - are we to allow Israel to annex any city with an ancient Jewish presence?
Then, of course, there is violence. Said's very simple point, which has been amply borne out by recent events in Israel and Palestine, is that if there is to be any hope for a lasting peace it must be founded upon a genuine settlement of the conflict, not some phony 'peace deal' which amounts to little more than formalising the Israeli dispossession of the native population. This is not threatening anyone but rather making plain the simple idea that peace must be made and not taken for granted. Peace must be based on mutual respect and an agreement reached between two parties treating each other as equals, something which Israel has consistently refused to do. (for example, the Palestinians are repeatedly required to 'recognise' Israel and guarantee the security not only of Israelis but also illegal Jewish settlers, but Israel refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Palestinians claim to statehood and refuses to guarantee the security of Palestinians).
Edward Said's book is a powerful, thoughtful statement from a committed Palestinian nationalist and highly respected academic. I do not agree with all he says but, nevertheless, I found the book thought provoking and engaging.