In order to effectively study history, it is necessary to observe and study the progress of change over time. Rhoda Ann Kanaaneh's book Birthing the Nation is an anthropological work tracing the evolution of female culture among Palestinians living in Israel. Kanaaneh traces the development of reproduction, sexuality and social characteristics among Palestinian women, and how these conditions have changed over time. She also alludes to political factors, mainly Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, as a major cause of this evolution. The book is extremely enlightening and cogent in its reflection of the condition and lifestyle of Palestinian women; however, it is flawed in that it is inherently biased against the Israeli government. This
partiality is manifested through her narrow choice of prejudiced sources and her
reference to Israeli-Arabs as "Palestinians-" a label that is not only inaccurate but
also deliberately offensive to Israelis.
Another unwarranted aspect of the author's work is the use of visibly anti-Israeli sources. A prime example of this is that the book is foreword by Hanan Ashrawi, a PLO politician that has been linked with terrorist activity in the past. Ashrawi is by no means a neutral source, and evidence of it is her accusation that "[Israelis] rob us of our most basic feelings for our children" (xiii). Taken at face value, this unfounded statement is a testament of her hatred for Israel. Ashrawi has made a long career of attempting to villainize Israel, and this severely hurts her credibility. Further one-sided sources include the likes of Edward Said, long a vehement objector of Israel's existence, and the Palestine Red Crescent Society- an additional condemner of Israel. Even in her attempt to balance her work by including Israeli sources, she chooses to consult radical left-wing politicians, such as Yossi Sarid, whom by no means reflect the views of average Israelis. Any author wishing to present a somewhat moderate and respectable perspective on such a sensitive issue would consult a wider range of sources. Nevertheless, Kanaaneh's sources range from Anti-Israeli to Pro-Palestinian and this favoritism severely damages her credibility.
Another disturbing issue is her recognition of Israel's Arab habitants as "Palestinians." In today's context, the term "Palestinians" refers strictly to residents of the West Bank, Gaza, and displaced refugees outside of Israel. The mentioned subjects of the book, Israeli-Arabs residents of the Galilee, are not Palestinians. They are considered (and consider themselves to be) Israeli-Arabs. Even Palestinians do not consider the Israeli-Arabs to be Palestinians, and many even consider them to be traitors for their support of Israel. Israeli-Arabs carry Israeli passports; some serve in the army, and go to Israeli schools. They live in Israel by choice, and are free to leave at any time. Labeling Israeli-Arabs as "Palestinians" is deliberately degrading to Israeli citizens, who consider Galilee Arabs to be of their own. I must note, however, that in this review I refer to the subjects as "Palestinians" so as not to cause unwarranted confusion. The labeling of Arab-Israelis as "Palestinians" is another way in which Kanaaneh's shocking bias is revealed to the audience.
Birthing the Nation is perhaps one of the most interesting books I have ever read. It summarizes the complex developments of the modernization of Palestinian society, and the everlasting clash between Zionism and pan-Arabism, as each seeks to maximize its influence in one of the smallest countries in the world. The book is by no means impartial, and incorporates several aspects of anti-Israeli propaganda which include (but are by no means limited to) its narrow range of sources and its cataloging of Israeli-Arabs as "Palestinians.". To say that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is merely a collection of historical data is at best a severe oversimplification, at worst a complete lie. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict can only be understood when evaluated in a diverse context that includes the evolutionary progress of both societies (and lack thereof).