San Francisco–Professor Rashid Khalidi, who is a Palestinian-American with roots in Jerusalemâ€™s most distinguished families, is the Director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University in New York City.
Khalidi came to San Franciscoâ€™s World Affairs Council to talk about his most recent book. The Iron Cage, that concerns itself with historic Palestinian politics, using the past as a contextual account of the current crisis.
The Palestinian pursuit of independence began during the British era, and extended over the two World Wars. During this period, Palestinian leaders were unsuccessful in accomplishing their cherished ambition of an autonomous nation-state. According to Rashid, this calamity came not only from without Arab Jerusalem, but also from within.
The recent Israeli-Hezbollah conflict grew out of the invasion of Gaza the week before. It seems a party of Hamas members came upon an exploratory party of Israelis. Soon after, on the northern side of the Jewish Homeland, the Lebanese Shiites engaged and captured a collection of Jewish undercover forward military agents. This incident was employed as an excuse to prop up their brothers under stress to the south. In the ensuing war, for the first time, Tel Aviv was badly battered due to Iranian technology; while the innocent Lebanese civilians were massacred with their infrastructure with American technology in the hands of the Israeli State.
What America and most of the Western world fails to understand about the Holy Land predicamentâ€™s is Palestinian history. We too often fail to comprehend the historical within our culture that denies history itself. That is why â€œterrorismâ€ is portrayed in black-white terms that fail to take into account the historical context–hotels and even American warships blown up by Israelis are ignored.
The U.S. has been inherently involved in the quagmire in the Fertile Crescent we have created on behalf of the Jews in the Middle East since 1947.
The reasons for the failure of the Palestinian people to bring their own self-governing regime is not only due to Washington and the British Empire that preceded them, but because of internal forces within Ramallah and Gaza, as well. The powerful and weak parties both have responsibility in this debacle! Says Mr. Khalidi, â€œPalestineâ€™s situation is similar today–(to the Jews of the 40s)!â€
Nation States usually evolve from Colonial States. For some reason this pattern has been interrupted for the Palestinians. It is obligatory to understand Palestine history to have a handle on the Israeli chronicles of narration as well as those of the contemporary great powers.
Rashid Khalidhi, like many others, suspects the eventual annals of his people will determine the stability for the entire region.