What Is a Palestinian State Worth?

Sari Nusseibeh

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Can a devout Jew be a devout Jew and drop the belief in the rebuilding of the Temple? Can a devout Muslim be a devout Muslim and drop the belief in the sacredness of the Rock? Can one right (the right of return) be given up for another (the right to live in peace)? Can one claim Palestinian identity and still retain Israeli citizenship? What is a Palestinian state worth? For over sixty years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been subjected to many solutions and offered many answers by diverse parties. Yet, answers are only as good as the questions that beget them. It is with this simple, but powerful idea, the idea of asking the basic questions anew, that the renowned Palestinian philosopher and activist Sari Nusseibeh begins his book. "What Is a Palestinian State Worth?" poses questions about the history, meaning, future, and resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Deeply informed by political philosophy and based on decades of personal involvement with politics and social activism, Nusseibeh's moderate voice - global in its outlook, yet truly grounded in his native city of Jerusalem - points us toward a future which, as George Lamming once put it, is colonized by our acts in this moment, but which must always remain open.


Palestinians live in Israel (or under Israeli occupation) without freedom, legal rights, resources, under the constant threat of state violence; Israelis, living under the constant threat of terrorist violence, are also trapped. Nusseibeh recommends reframing the conflict and advocates that negotiators look beyond the conference room to focus on the reality in the homes and streets of "Palestinians and Israelis, and envision a collective peace, progress, and safety. Nusseibeh makes a number of tentative stabs at envisioning possible solutions, and his philosophical and balanced book is unfailingly sensitive and empathetic to both sides."-- Publishers Weekly,22 November 2010

" Sari Nusseibeh repeatedly expresses his belief that change is possible if people have the self-confidence and faith in themselves to act. He sees his task as an educator to be one of inculcating such faith. And he also describes, in several chapters of his often moving book, a moral basis for political action that can speak to all of us. Like Gandhi, and like Abdallah Abu Rahmah and Ali Abu Awwad...Nusseibeh seeks not to coerce his opponents--in this case the Israeli people along with their political and military institutions--into changing their self-destructive course but to change their will, or their feelings. He wants them to step back from prejudice and an obsession with brute force and to open their eyes. He wants them to find in themselves the generosity of spirit needed in order to take a chance on peace, whether in the form of two states or a single binational entity or, perhaps, some kind of confederation."-- David Shulman, New York Review of Books, 24 February 2011

" Sari Nusseibeh is not a Palestinian Gandhi--he is a secular intellectual, not a saint, and while he has occupied prominent roles in Palestinian life (formerly as a leader of the first intifada and a Palestinian Authority diplomat, currently as president of al-Quds University), he has never commanded a mass following. But in his short new book he comes closer to advocating a Gandhian strategy than any other Palestinian leader I know of."-- Adam Kirsch, Tablet Magazine, 8th February 2011

" The ideas might sound strange in their departure from conventional wisdom about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the positions of leaders and pundits on both sides, but it's good policy to pay attention. In the past, Sari Nusseibeh has taken positions that his fellow Palestinians condemned--and then, a couple of uprisings and aborted peace conferences later, embraced. -- Haim Watzman Chronicle of Higher Education 20110130 --Haim Watzman, Chronicle of Higher Education, 30th January 2011

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