The Gaza war has refocused the world’s attention on the Palestinian cause. Mass rallies, particularly in the West, put pressure on politicians, as thousands regularly decry Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.
In Gaza, that has not had much effect. Israel continues to bombard the Strip — despite having already killed 25,000 people since October — because it enjoys unwavering support from political leaders in the United States and Europe.
Yet this resurgence of interest in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially among the young, has prompted a quest for understanding and context.
In this quest, Dr Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American historian and professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, is a wonderful guide. His compelling book The Hundred Year War on Palestine addresses key questions and provides an objective and methodical historical backdrop.
It sheds light on the colonial mentality that underpins the steadfast support extended to Israel, even despite the recent allegations of genocide levelled against it at the International Court of Justice.
Al Majalla had the privilege of meeting Dr Khalidi to discuss the war and what may have changed because of it.
Drawing on his experience as an adviser to the Palestinian negotiating delegation during the Oslo Accords, he provided valuable insight into the evolving support for the Palestinian cause.
More than 100 days into the latest Gaza war, do you perceive any shift in the position of Western powers regarding the Palestinian cause compared to the perspectives outlined in your book?
Throughout the ongoing war, contradictory developments have surfaced, including the persistent support of the West as a military, political, economic, and diplomatic base — referred to as the ‘metropole’ in my book — for the Zionist project.
This support remains a crucial element in endorsing Israel’s aggressions, evident in this unwavering backing that we have seen throughout the war.
In my book, I argue that the war in Palestine transcends a simple confrontation between the Palestinian people and the Zionist movement, between the Palestinians and Israel, or between the Arabs and Israel.
I think this analysis is still relevant. It is instead a complex war involving external powers aligned with the Zionist movement and Israel on one side and the Palestinian people and their allies on the other.
Despite the evolving dynamics of the current situation, I see no grounds to alter my conviction. That said, the West is witnessing unprecedented transformations and changes that stand unparalleled in history.
From US President Woodrow Wilson (in power from 1913-21), the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and the establishment of the Zionist movement in 1897, support for the Palestinian people in the West has never reached current levels.