This is an important and timely collection of ten essays contributed by an interdisciplinary team consisting of scholars, a journalist and an Arab scholar who is a member of the Knesset (Israeli parliament). The volume is the product of a cooperative venture between the Chr Michelson Institute of Bergen, Norway, and Muwatin, the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy, Ramallah, Palestine. It is clear from a very careful reading of the volume, that the authors were either briefed very carefully or did actually engage in a dialogue that contributed considerably to the coherence and the integration of the diverse essays.
The authors represent an interesting mix: five Palestinians, one Israeli, two Norwegians, one British and one Dutch. All have made important scholarly contributions on the subject, are quite familiar with the scene and, thus, their assessment of the post-Oslo reality of Palestine is well grounded. The emphasis and the raison d'être of the volume are clearly on the Palestinian reality (and the Israeli one as it impinges on Palestine) as it has been shaped by four years of the writ and functioning of "Osloizing" Palestine. What the authors intended to accomplish is to describe, analyze and assess the new Palestinian politics insofar as these are the outcome of the process of Oslo - euphemistically referred to as the "peace process" by the principal actors - Americans, Palestinians, Arabs, and the Norwegian broker. This reviewer finds the omission of any discussion of Norway's role and expectations from the process and reaction to the unfolding reality significant. After all, the major assistance - financial, political and moral - extended to the Palestinian Authority that enables it to implement so faithfully and energetically, with disastrous consequences, the politics of subordination to Israel, so well annotated in the various essays, could not have been conceived had it not been for the successful intervention of Norway, probably on behalf of both the United States and Israel. And, therefore, the sponsors of the volume should have facilitated a serious discussion of Norway's sustained intervention and, thus, its contribution to what George Giacaman identified as "the defeat" of the Palestinians.

Palestinian Defeat

Essentially, the thrust of the volume deals with the politics of Palestinian defeat and Israel's success as a colonial settler state. The Palestinian acquiescence in the Israeli policies of conquest, epitomized by the Oslo agreements, enabled the two parties to pursue, in the process of implementation of the accords, policies and structures that would simultaneously protect the accords and enhance the possibilities of entrenchment. On the one hand, it enabled Israel to consolidate its previous gains and to proceed to actualize its agenda of conquest. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority managed to institutionalize the authoritarian (benign or otherwise) system of politics with all its structures, policies, institutions and control. Such an institutionalized system made it inevitable that democratic principles, structures, instruments and policies are trivialized.
This is evident in the chapters by George Giacaman commenting on the potential emergence of a civil society; by Jamil Hilal assessing the emerging political system - party control, decline and irrelevance of political, social and organized opposition; by Graham Usher dealing with the increasingly arbitrary administrative and repressive instruments of the Authority; and by Lena Jayyusi, presenting a keen and reasoned analysis of thought control, illustrated by her clear portrayal of the Palestinian electronic media's performance (even though it is in its infancy), and its controlled and manipulative (on behalf of the Authority and the so-called peace process) messages to the population.
But Israel's incredible success (and correspondingly Palestinian defeat) is made abundantly clear in Nils Butenschّn's narrative of the transformation of Palestinian objectives as they confronted Israel. The Palestinians clearly lost their initial battle for independence and statehood against the British colonial administration and the nascent Zionist movement in 1948. But they lost their second battle, this time national liberation, much earlier than 1993. For, while they espoused national liberation as a motto, in fact, by 1974, they were willing to settle for the United Nations' endorsed goal of independence and sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza.
Even this internationally supported and sanctioned modest goal, which made the Palestinian movement a typical Third-World independence movement (similar to Sri Lanka, or Syria, etc., and very much unlike Algeria, Vietnam, Mozambique and South Africa), national liberation got transformed when the Palestinian leadership accepted the Oslo terms, signifying their assent to a severely restricted form of autonomy in a truncated "homeland." The many essays of the volume address the consequences of this truncated "homeland" and Israel's ability and determination to pursue its policies of conquest to fulfill its objective of a Jewish state in as much of Palestine as it can obtain, while upholding the "peace process."
The trenchant essays by Professor Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin and Jan de Jong portray clearly Israel's ideological commitment, not only to its Jewish constituents, but also to its Palestinian subjects. It is difficult to imagine how a Palestinian leadership can grasp the meaning of Raz-Krakotzkin's thoughtfully honest discussion of Zionism and Israel's policies and continue to uphold the Oslo process. De Jong demonstrates the material evidence for Israel's continuing policies of conquest of the land, now carried out on a grand scale under the gazing eyes of a Palestinian population that can protest, but is unable to confront and alter the inevitable outcome of landlessness. The various schemes for "final-status" negotiations that Israel is likely to submit to the Palestinian leadership are all detailed, documented and illustrated with clear maps, and their implication for the survival of the Palestinians and their national economy realistically exposed. If there is a relationship between knowledge and policy-making, certainly Palestinians need not read much beyond Raz-Krakotzkin's analysis and that of De Jong to resolve and pursue a policy of national survival that is totally at variance with their present politically subordinate stance.

Dependence on the US

Is there much hope? Professor Fuad Moughrabi, surveying in general terms the position and conditions of the Arabs, concludes that they, too, have accepted their subordinate position, affiliation with and dependence on the United States. Not much countervailing power can emanate from that source. Dr. Azmi Bishara demonstrates clearly how bifurcated Palestinian society has become. Israel's policy of co-optation and of supporting a certain class of Palestinians, who develop a vested interest in working with Israel to sustain the Oslo system, has been quite successful. It is the political class that now stands in the forefront of the defenders of Oslo and in defusing Palestinian general opposition.
Clearly, the economic, social and political benefits of the political class, whose members are classified by Israel as VIP's and thus have considerable freedom of movement, of economic participation, etc., contribute significantly to the basic division of Palestinian society. Even an antagonistic collaborative relationship between such a class and Israel does not detract from the possibility of benefiting from the Israeli-developed control system and, thus, perpetuate the Oslo process in situ. Bishara cautions us about the prospects of an Intifada of the old type; systematic opposition to Israel by the now-demobilized but mobilizable population may discover the solid connection between the political class and Israel. As the economic and social situation of the Palestinians deteriorates further - growth in unemployment, corruption, sustained confiscation of land, etc. - a mobilized population will react correctly.


Can the Palestinians devise a strategy for a future which, quite evidently, Israel is pursuing relentlessly on the ground, with the open assistance of the United States and implicit acquiescence of the regional and world system? A future that is so clearly projected in this book dominated by Bantustanization/cantonization in an apartheid system? Dag Jّrund Lّnning raises the possible alternatives that individual Palestinians face. In the past, Palestinians were sustained by a vision and a possibility and, consequently, had considerable hope and resilience. The Oslo process reversed these and brought about at best disappointment, but certainly disempowerment and, hence, hopelessness.
Where do we go from here? If we follow the logic of the serious discussion evident in this book of essays, one is likely to conclude what one of Lّnning's informants concluded, "I cannot do anything."
Well, does this mean that settler colonial regimes will succeed in the twenty-first century while they failed in the twentieth, viz., France in Algeria; Portugal in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau; Britain in Zimbabwe and, of course, the apartheid regime in South Africa? Will Israel be an exception to the rule governing settler colonial states, as Palestine was an exception in 1948 when it failed to achieve its independence?
If we are to conclude that settler regimes succeed only when they excise the indigenous people - Australia, the United States and much of Latin America, etc., does this mean that Palestinians need to be excised from their national patrimony? Or is there a possibility of a different kind, perhaps another exceptional resolution to an enduring conflict between a native and his colonizer?
A critical reading of this well-documented and relevant volume will undoubtedly contribute to a more profound understanding of the Palestinian reality after Oslo.