Rashid Khalidi is one of the world’s finest scholar’s of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though American-born he is the scion of one of Jerusalem’s most prominent Palestinian families. He writes prolifically about Palestinian society and politics. His brilliance has been recognized by the academy with the award of the Edward Said Chair in Arab Studies at Columbia University.
Khalidi’s newest work is The Iron Cage: the Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (see NY Times review), a study of the causes of Palestinian political impoverishment and failure.
[It is] at heart a historical essay, an effort to decide why the Palestinians, unlike so many other peoples and tribes, have failed to achieve an independent state…
Mr. Khalidi provides a service for Western readers [by giving] a relatively dispassionate description of Palestine in the periods of Ottoman and British rule, and of the nature of Arab society before the combination of Zionism and Nazism led an increasing flow of European-born Jews to settle in the Holy Land.
While Khalid correctly assesses its fair share of blame to Palestinian leaders like Yasir Arafat, he does not let Israel or the United States off the hook either:
Mr. Khalidi has his own set of external culprits: British colonial masters like Lord Balfour, who refused to recognize the national rights of non-Jews; lavish financial support for Jewish immigration; the romanticism and cynicism of Arab leaders, themselves newly hatched from the colonial incubator.
Like Britain before it, he argues, the United States “consistently privileged the interests of the country’s Jewish population over those of its Arab residents,” helping Israel to push “Palestinians into an impossible corner, into an iron cage” from which, he suggests, a viable Palestinian state may not, in the end, emerge.
Khalidi has also been the target of intolerant pro-Israel partisans who believe that any academic criticism of Israel constitutes anti-Semitism. When The David Project attacked Columbia’s Arab Studies faculty, Khalidi was one of their targets. Last year, when Khalidi was being considered for a Princeton appointment, the pro-Israel crowd organized Princeton alumni to shout down the appointment. I note that Khalidi still teaches at Columbia and have not found an online source which explains what happened regarding the Princeton appointment. You know when you’re attacked by the likes of The David Project or Little Green Footballs that you’re doing something right.