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Book Review: Tale of many wars

19th Jun 2020
Book Review: Tale of many wars

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine, A History of Settler Colonial Conquest and Resistance. By Rashid Khalidi. Pp319. Profile Books. Hardback. £25.

Rashid Khalidi’s book is the story of his own Palestinian family who suffered expulsion during the Nakba (Day of Catastrophe) and left behind archives of their political actions. It allows the reader to understand the history of the region through the paradigm of a family and how each generation dealt with the wars they found themselves straddled with.

This book is beautifully written, but incredibly painful to read.
He breaks the last 100 years into six time periods beginning from the time of the Balfour Declaration (1917) to present-day 2020, the year when President Donald Trump’s Administration claimed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Balfour Declaration like its future counterparts told the Palestinian Leadership ‘in order to be recognised, the Palestinians were required to accept an international formula designed to negate their existence.’ (p123)

Khalidi is scathingly critical of the role the British, American and its Arab allies have played in the Palestinian Israeli conflict.

Israel has managed to amass great military prowess due to its ability to influence the narratives within the hegemons of the era. Israeli soldiers during World War II had received training in the British army, and they could apply the training received in their army.

‘But unlike the Jewish soldiers from Palestine, (the Palestinians) never constituted a single unit (within the British army), and there was no Palestinian para-state to take advantage of the experience they had garnered.’(p59)

The odds are always stacked against them. Khalidi also looks at the Palestinian leadership very critically. They have been side-lined because they have not given importance to shaping their own coherent narratives and it has cost them dearly.

‘The inability of the PLO leadership to understand how important these (external) audiences were, and its unwillingness to devote sufficient resources to explaining the significance of this evolution in order to win them over, doomed any effort to convince others of the validity of these aims.’ (p124)

In contrast, ‘the Zionist movement had mobilized many American politicians and much of the public opinion around this objective. This was a result both of this movement’s unceasing and effective public-relations efforts, which the Palestinians and fledgeling Arab states were unable to match.’ (p60)

Khalidi cites the weakness of the Zionist project as a settler-colonial conquest which arrived too late and imported a characteristically late 19th-century separatist project into a world that has moved on.’ (p239)
The Zionists have been trying to do the impossible, ‘impose a colonial reality on Palestine in a postcolonial age.’ (p238)

From the very beginning the odds were against any form of a Palestinian state, ‘This comforting idea that ‘the old will die and the young will forget’— expresses one of the deepest aspirations of Israeli leaders after 1948. It was not to be.’ (p117)

The author — very interestingly — proposes the idea that a long-term solution has to recognise that the Jewish people have a claim to the land just like the Palestinians. The next step for the Palestinian leadership would be to influence their narrative within Israeli society.

His light at the end of the tunnel is his unyielding faith in the ability of the Palestinian people to persevere despite the odds stacked against them, and perhaps that is the phoenix we are all looking for.

Aasiya I Versi

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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