A Review of Josh Ruebner’s “Shattered Hopes”


Josh Ruebner, argues that Obama has failed to keep his campaign promise to work towards the two-state solution in Israel and Palestine.

Josh Ruebner, argues that Obama has failed to keep his campaign promise to work towards the two-state solution in Israel and Palestine.

In a piercing critique of the Obama administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Josh Ruebner brings clarity to the challenges and pitfalls of this thorny issue.

In his new book,  Shattered Hopes: The Failure of Obama’s Middle East Peace Process (Verso, September 10, 2013), Ruebner makes the recent history of Israel and the Palestinian territories accessible to a general audience.

Ruebner, who is the National Advocacy Director for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, is unafraid to tell it like it is. Drawing from a wealth of primary sources obtained from WikiLeaks, the Palestine Papers, and both clandestine and open documents, he presents analysis that is intriguing even to an expert.

Ruebner’s book shows both the heartbreak of failed peace efforts and hope for a different future. His analysis brings to life the problems facing meaningful progress on U.S. policy and thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He begins with a step-by-step breakdown of Obama’s involvement in the conflict and attempts to negotiate a lasting peace treaty. Covering Obama’s professional career before his 2008 election win to his first presidential term, including events such as Palestine’s 2012 UN bid for member state recognition, Ruebner breaks down, critiques, and describes the administration’s responses to every major development between the two sides.

With such a detailed description of his many failures, the reader is left to wonder how Obama ever planned to achieve a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the second half of the book, Ruebner analyzes the general trends and themes of Obama’s approach to the Middle East peace process. One major theme captured in the book is the Obama administration’s blockade of international pressure against Israel.

Ruebner argues that despite Obama’s pre-presidential promises, including the completion of the two state solution, ever-increasing U.S. military aid to Israel and little progress on the peace process have persisted.

Ruebner makes the daring suggestion that the United States should slow, or even halt, military and economic aid to Israel as a step toward lasting peace. He, like the rest of those who support negotiations, recognizes that supporters of Israel have a grip on American foreign policy. Only by fighting this powerful group can real progress toward peace be made.

He argues: “Obama’s failure to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace resulted not only from his unwillingness to go to the mat with the Israel lobby over the issue of fully freezing Israeli settlements, not only from the scattershot, frenetic lurching of his policy initiatives thereafter.”

After revealing the pitfalls, failures, and weaknesses of Obama’s approach to Israel, Ruebner offers a solution: the Boycott-Divestment-and-Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The goal of the BDS movement is to pressure Israel both to end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and to dismantle the Wall; to recognize the fundamental right to full equality of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel; and to respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes as stipulated by UN Security Council Resolution 194.

By bringing attention to this ever-growing movement, Ruebner shows how public discourses surrounding Israel in America could become more open and honest.

Ruebner closes with a bold cry for an end to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation and repression of the Palestinian people – a change that must happen domestically before Obama can seriously pursue it internationally.

*Heather Hartlaub is co-editor of Muftah’s Israel-Palestine and Levant pages.


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