The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonial Conquest and Resistance, 1917-2017 – Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Posted By on May 3, 2020

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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,May 2020, pp. 66-67

By Rashid Khalidi, Metropolitan Books, 2020, hardcover, 336 pp. MEB: $25

Khalidi acknowledges that the first-person dimension is normally excluded from scholarly history, but this aspect is what makes the book original and distinctive. Khalidi seamlessly blends himself into the narrative at a variety of places and times, including Jerusalem, Beirut, New York and Madrid. He also introduces and contextualizes the experiences of his family members, including his grandparents who were driven out of Palestine in the Nakba. The book is interspersed with illustrations of Khalidi and his family members, as they were variously driven out, jailed, had their homes demolished or helped to pick up the pieces after the Israeli bombardment of Beirut in 1982.

Rather than a seamless narrative, Khalidithe Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia Universityframes the account on the basis of six key turning points beginning with the Balfour Declaration (1917) and ending with the contemporary siege of the Gaza Strip. Somewhat idiosyncratically, he represents each of the six turning points and six chapter titles as individual declarations of war. Collectively they comprise the hundred years war waged against the Palestinian people.

Khalidi emphasizes that settler colonization, the driving force behind the Zionist movement, fueled the century of war against Palestinian national aspirations. Moreover, he points out that Zionist migrants alone could not have carried out this century of colonial oppression without the support first of Great Britain and then of the United States.

The Balfour Declarations call for a national home for the Jewish peoplea statement thus couched in the soft, deceptive language of diplomacyconstituted the first declaration of war. The second declaration came in 1947-48 and produced an actual conflict, one that culminated in the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Arab-inhabited areas of the country.

The third declaration of war was another real war, albeit one of only six days duration, in June 1967. Not only were the Arab states trounced by Israel but, adding insult to injury, Palestinians were omitted from the proposed basis for a diplomatic settlement of the conflict. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 called only for a just solution of the refugee problem. Khalidi notes, If the Palestinians were not mentioned and not a recognized party to the conflict, they could be treated as no more than a nuisance.

The fourth declaration of war was the 1982 Israeli assault on Beirut, where Khalidi was living with his wife and two daughters. The apartment of his brother and mother, who had been living in the city, took a direct hit from an Israeli artillery shell, but fortunately they had already relocated away from the front lines of the assault.

The fifth declaration was not a war but an uprising that began with the outbreak of the intifada in 1987. Khalidi argues that the ensuing Oslo Accords (1993) in effect constituted another internationally sanctioned American-Israeli declaration of war on the Palestinians, only this time Palestinian leaders allowed themselves to be drawn into complicity with their adversaries.

The sixth and final declaration was the well-chronicled devastation of the Gaza Strip in the 21st century. Here Khalidi points out that it made no difference whether George W. Bush or the liberal Barack Obama was in power in Washington, as the latter administration did nothing to restrain Israels indiscriminate 51-day assault on a virtually defenseless Gaza in 2014.

Khalidi references the formidable power of the Israel lobby and the absence of an effective countervailing force in U.S. politics, yet he insists that the lobbys impact has been exaggerated. He condemns the false narrative that the influence of Israel and its supporters on Middle East policy is always paramount, arguing that this is only true when policy-makers do not consider vital U.S. strategic interests to be engaged. He claims a legion of examples to back this point, but in actuality there are only a few and they are not on the whole convincing.

Analysis of the Israel lobby was not a major focus of Khalidis book, however, which remains otherwise a richly informed, personalized account of a century of repression of a peoples national aspirations. Readers seeking a comprehensive study of the history of Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, yet one enlivened by personal accounts and real-life experiences, will enjoy reading Khalidis account.

In the conclusion, Khalidi argues hopefully that Israel is at least as contested globally today as ever before. That contestation is a remarkable testament to the stubborn resistance that characterizes the Palestinians, including Rashid Khalidi and his family.

Contributing editor Walter L. Hixson is the author of Israels Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict, along with several other books and journal articles. He has been a professor of history for 36 years, achieving the rank of distinguished professor.

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The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonial Conquest and Resistance, 1917-2017 - Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

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