Talhami, a Palestinian expatriate and political science professor at Lake Forest College, set out to explain how an "absence of a clear view of Arab nationalism and Palestinian particularism led to [a] loss of vision on the part of Syrians and Palestinians alike." Talhami's "clash of nationalisms" consists of Arab nationalism, Syrian nationalism, and Palestinian nationalism, which she finds often lead to the "interference of one state in the affairs of others." With differing goals and circumstances, each movement deliberately and unknowingly detracts from the others.
The author's thesis is supported by Syria's unsteady support of Palestinian terrorists, sometimes aiding them (Fatah in the 1960s) and other times suppressing (in the 1970s), both according to the regime's interest. The often-volatile Palestinian groups, for their part, acquiesced to Syrian military directives when advantageous and rejected Baath orders at other times. The Syrian-Palestinian relationship, Talhami notes, was further complicated by the late Hafez al-Assad, whose attacks on "Palestinian camps at Beirut, Sidon, and Tripoli," made him a villain in the eyes of Palestinians and other Arabs.
The author loses credibility, however, with unsubstantiated accusations of "Zionist ambitions and plans," and "rising Zionist threats to [Syria's] south." Her scholarship comes under question again when she asserts that Arab armies moved into Palestine in 1948 "simply in order to set up a Palestinian government headed by the mufti," ignoring the imperialist goals of Egypt and Jordan and their occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, respectively.
The author also notes that after the Kuwait war in 1991, "the Palestinians were among the greatest losers," neglecting to note the reason for this (their support for Saddam Hussein). Criticism properly directed at the Palestinians is instead reserved for Washington, which is taken to task for forcing "a peace settlement on the region—with unusual ruthlessness."
The author's rebuke of Yasir Arafat in her conclusion is particularly disturbing. "What kind of leadership," she rhetorically asks, "can afford to decree a truncated definition of the homeland and its people and still claim to represent the Palestinian community at large?" Talhami's open disdain for a diplomatic resolution is deplorable and brings shame to her, University Press of Florida, and Lake Forest College.