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Posted March 8, 2007
Excellent account of the Palestinian people's struggle for national sovereignty
Professor Rashid Khalidi, a historian at Columbia University in the City of New York, has written a brilliant account of the Palestinian people¿s struggle for national self-determination. He shows how in the 1920s and 1930s, the British Empire deprived the Palestinians of all democracy to stop them defeating the Zionist project. The Mandate for Palestine, like the Balfour Declaration, made no reference to Palestinians or Arabs, only to `non-Jewish communities¿ who had only civil and religious, not national or political, rights. By contrast, both Mandate and Declaration asserted that the `Jewish people¿ had the right to a `national home¿. Khalidi notes the British Empire¿s `vast experience in thwarting the will of majorities in different countries¿. He shows in detail how it divided, diverted and distracted all opposition to its rule. The Empire¿s rulers always presented the colonies as made up of incompatible religious and ethnic communities, who would be at each other¿s throats without the benevolent presence of the British. Khalidi dissects the Zionist myth that `seven Arab armies¿ invaded Israel in 1948-49. The fiercest fighting was the Jordanian army¿s defence of areas assigned by the UN to the Arab state, and of the UN-defined area around Jerusalem, against Israeli offensives. He records that in 1991, the first Bush Government pledged ¿to oppose settlement activity in the territories occupied in 1967, which remains an obstacle to peace.¿ But the US government broke its word: it backed the Israelis throughout the 1990s building new settlements to reinforce their illegal occupation. Finally, he shows how, at the behest of the Israeli government, the USA imposed rules for negotiations on the Palestinians which ¿indefinitely froze dealing with any of the issues of substance between the two sides (the final status issues: occupation, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, water, and permanent borders), while there was no concomitant freeze on the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.¿ In April 2004, Bush II openly tore up his father¿s pledge when he wrote to Sharon recognising the `new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers¿.
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