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Reviewed by:
  • The Palestinian National Movement: Politics of Contention, 1967-2005
  • Gregory Mahler, Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs
The Palestinian National Movement: Politics of Contention, 1967-2005, by Amal Jamal. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2005. 229 pp. $22.95.

The first thing to say about this book, as will be obvious to any potential reader, is that it is extremely timely. The Palestinian national movement is in the news on almost a daily basis, has proven to be among the top news stories of the last six months, and it is not likely to go away in the near future.

The Palestinian National Movement provides a very good and well-documented portrait of a national liberation movement that has faced challenge after challenge, frustration after frustration, and yet has not only survived but has grown stronger over time. Although discussion of more distant historical material is included where needed, the concentration of the book focuses upon the period following the Six Day War in 1967, when the nature of so many Palestinians' lives changed dramatically as Israel became the occupying power in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The first chapter of the book focuses upon the historical context of the Palestinian national movement and includes discussion of who the political elite were in Palestine and how the outcomes of the 1967 War affected the lives of Palestinians. The War resulted in an Occupying Power (Israel), and led to a mobilization of the nationalist movement in a way that it had not been mobilized previously, shifting the political process "from nation building to state building" (p. 15). There is much discussion of the changing political structures of the Palestinians under Occupation, and how the Palestinians resisted the Israeli policy of "de-Palestinianization" on a regular basis.

The issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is a significant one, of course, both because of interactions between the Israelis and the Palestinians and because the philosophy and practice of Israeli settlements had significant consequences for what the Israelis were prepared to let the Palestinians do. This was a large "zero-sum game," and as Israeli settlements grew there were corresponding diminutions of Palestinian communities.

Jamal does a very good job of describing the efforts of the PLO leadership as they tried to coordinate Palestinian dissent and resistance to the Israeli occupation. [End Page 194] This resistance often resulted in deportations, destruction of Palestinian property, and limitations on political freedoms of Palestinians. Of great interest is Jamal's discussion of the relationship "between exterior and interior in the Palestinian national movement" (p. 38), in which decisions were often made based upon which audience was being considered—the domestic Palestinian audience, the Occupying Israeli audience, or the more external World audience. Differences between the Fatah/PLO leadership and the Palestinian National Front began to surface in strategic terms, and the Palestinian National Guidance Committee often found itself in a position of having to struggle to make peace among the various groups of Palestinian political elites.

The "politics of steadfastness" (p. 63) is the term used by Jamal to discuss the Palestinian strategy for responding to Israeli policy in the occupied territories, and a substantial effort is made in this book to discuss and analyze this complicated and terribly important topic. What can be called the "politics of occupation" has been a major, indeed, the major influence affecting the lives of Palestinians over the last four decades, and the discussion presented here examines the role of the Jordanians in this challenge, the role of domestic para-political structures such as the General Federation of Trade Unions, and the role of international actors in helping to provide financial assistance to keep the Palestinian organizations going.

Among the most interesting areas of analysis for this reader was the discussion of Palestinian political leadership that is offered here, and the examination of the interaction between Islamic actors and more secular actors. Jamal tells us that "after founding Hamas and experiencing direct confrontation with the occupation authorities, the religious elite of the occupied territories sought to establish itself as an authentic representative of the Palestinian masses" (p. 110). This...


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pp. 194-196
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