August 27, 2012 | Middle East Quarterly
Review: The Politics of Change in Palestine
by Michael Bröning
New York and London: Pluto Press, 2011. 247 pp. $30, paper
Regurgitating the Palestinian meme that Israeli intransigence has made a two-state solution increasingly difficult, Bröning of the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation lays down cover for unilateral efforts by the Palestinians to gain statehood without negotiating final status issues with Israel. Simply stated, his thesis is that Palestinians have experienced a “general shift away from violent struggle to strategies of nonviolent resistance” while simultaneously building institutions that qualify it for statehood.
Bröning erroneously asserts that the violent Hamas faction has undertaken this nonviolent transformation in cooperation with its rival Fatah, stating that we are now witnessing “Hamas 2.0.” He further claims that “Hamas leaders have refrained from publicly embracing the charter” of the organization that openly calls for Israel's annihilation. However, as recently as February 2012, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader based in Gaza, called again for Israel's destruction. “The resistance will continue until all the Palestinian land, including al-Quds, is liberated and all the refugees return,” he said.
The author correctly observes that Fatah's corruption brought about its own political demise but insists that the new party program “demonstrates a fundamental shift away from decades of armed struggle” toward nonviolent resistance. He claims its terror squad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, was “disbanded,” despite its May 2011 official proclamation that the death of Osama bin Laden was a “catastrophe.” More recently, in February 2012, the group fired rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Indeed, the group appears to be experiencing a resurgence.
A chapter titled “PNA State-Building: Putting Palestine on the Map” is informative but fawning. While describing the process by which Palestinian leaders have laid the foundation for their 2011 statehood drive, particularly the activities of Salam Fayyad, Bröning can barely contain his giddiness. Similarly, in “Beyond Terror: Politicizing Non-Violent Resistance,” the author conveniently ignores the continuing torrent of rockets out of Gaza while all but openly endorsing the boycott, divest and sanctions movement against Israel.
Despite its many flaws, The Politics of Change in Palestine offers a glimpse into current Palestinian attempts to achieve statehood by undermining Israel's right to exist. As importantly, the book provides insight into the minds of European supporters of this effort.