THE SPINE MAY 6, 2007
Of course, he is. Who is? Sari Nusseibeh. And what is he? The most soft-spoken Palestinian you've ever met. The most moderate and conciliatory Palestinian. The most learned. He's invited to the chicest dinner parties in Jewish Jerusalem. He even signed the Geneva Accords in which important Zionists conceded everything to unimportant Palestinians, which needless to say took courage on Sari's part. Yes, he is brave, too. Actually, he is. It takes courage in Palestine to sign a surrender document from your enemies.
And now he has written a book. It is called Once Upon A Country . The country is Palestine which, unfortunately, does not exist. Or exists in some people's hallucinations. Nusseibeh wrote the book here in Cambridge. He wrote it soon after Yassir Arafat was taken, without anyone ever telling us why, to the bosom of the Prophet. What a time for a brave man to leave Palestine, when the future of the revolution was up for grabs. And to America, no less.
I watched Nusseibeh, so to speak, write the book while he was in Cambridge at the Radcliffe Institute. Well, he didn't exactly write the book alone...and the title page doesn't pretend that he did. And I didn't literally watch him. His co-author was a man called Anthony David, a ghost-writer who followed him around Harvard taking notes. James Boswell to Dr. Johnson. Can't a real intellectual produce his own books?
As it happens, Leon Wieseltier wrote about Sari's political memoir in the New York Times Book Review. He liked it, he liked it very much. Except for a polite demurrer here and there.
I think it was a dishonest book with the kind of dishonesties that no one notices any more among the Palestinians, and especially not among those nice Palestinians without whose existence it would be impossible to fantasize about an accord.