Cover image for Perceptions of Palestine : their influence on U.S. Middle East policy
Perceptions of Palestine : their influence on U.S. Middle East policy
Christison, Kathleen, 1941-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
ix, 370 pages : map ; c 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E183.8.P19 C48 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



For most of the twentieth century, considered opinion in the United States regarding Palestine has favored the inherent right of Jews to exist in the Holy Land. That Palestinians, as a native population, could claim the same right has been largely ignored. Kathleen Christison's controversial new book shows how the endurance of such assumptions, along with America's singular focus on Israel and general ignorance of the Palestinian point of view, has impeded a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Christison begins with the derogatory images of Arabs purveyed by Western travelers to the Middle East in the nineteenth century, including Mark Twain, who wrote that Palestine's inhabitants were "abject beggars by nature, instinct, and education." She demonstrates other elements that have influenced U.S. policymakers: American religious attitudes toward the Holy Land that legitimize the Jewish presence; sympathy for Jews derived from the Holocaust; a sense of cultural identity wherein Israelis are "like us" and Arabs distant aliens. She makes a forceful case that decades of negative portrayals of Palestinians have distorted U.S. policy, making it virtually impossible to promote resolutions based on equality and reciprocity between Palestinians and Israelis.

Christison also challenges prevalent media images and emphasizes the importance of terminology: Two examples are the designation of who is a "terrorist" and the imposition of place names (which can pass judgment on ownership).

Christison's thoughtful book raises a final disturbing question: If a broader frame of reference on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had been employed, allowing a less warped public discourse, might not years of warfare have been avoided and steps toward peace achieved much earlier?

Author Notes

Kathleen Christison , a freelance writer and former CIA analyst, has written on Middle East affairs for over twenty-five years. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Despite recent recognition of the PLO as a legitimate participant in Middle East peace negotiations, Christison, a former CIA Middle East analyst, maintains that American perceptions of the Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims are still influenced by the traditional mind-set or frame of reference that regards them negatively but that views Israel and its aspirations in glowing terms. Her account traces these influences from the 19th century to the present, focusing on how they have affected US Middle East policy generally and the conflict in Palestine in particular. Christison reviews their impact on presidents from Woodrow Wilson through Bill Clinton with chapters on Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush. The book reiterates what several other authors including George and Douglas Ball, Donald Neff, and Michael Suleiman have indicated about how these perceptions have distorted American policies. The situation, Christison asserts, is more than a matter of manipulation by a powerful pro-Israel lobby, manipulation of Congress and government, or the dictates of a controlling press. American biases, she charges, result from "the pictures in our heads" derived from cultural and historical images that long preceded the current Middle East troubles. Upper-division undergraduates and above. D. Peretz; SUNY at Binghamton