The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood

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At a time when a lasting peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis seems virtually unattainable, understanding the roots of their conflict is an essential step in restoring hope to the region. In The Iron Cage, Rashid Khalidi, one of the most respected historians and political observers of the Middle East, homes in on Palestinian politics and history. By drawing on a wealth of experience and scholarship, Khalidi provides a lucid context for the realities on the ground today, a context that has been, until ...

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The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood

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Overview

At a time when a lasting peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis seems virtually unattainable, understanding the roots of their conflict is an essential step in restoring hope to the region. In The Iron Cage, Rashid Khalidi, one of the most respected historians and political observers of the Middle East, homes in on Palestinian politics and history. By drawing on a wealth of experience and scholarship, Khalidi provides a lucid context for the realities on the ground today, a context that has been, until now, notably lacking in our discourse.

The story of the Palestinian search to establish a state begins in the mandate period immediately following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the era of British control, when fledgling Arab states were established by the colonial powers with assurances of eventual independence. Mandatory Palestine was a place of real promise, with unusually high literacy rates and a relatively advanced economy. But the British had already begun to construct an iron cage to hem in the Palestinians, and the Palestinian leadership made a series of errors that would eventually prove crippling to their dream of independence.

The Palestinians' struggle intensified in the stretch before and after World War II, when colonial control of the region became increasingly unpopular, population shifts began with heavy Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe, and power began to devolve to the United States. In this crucial period, Palestinian leaders continued to run up against the walls of the ever-constricting iron cage. They proved unable to achieve their long-cherished goal of establishing an independent state—a critical failure that set a course for the decades that followed, right through the eras of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas. Rashid Khalidi's engrossing narrative of this torturous history offers much-needed perspective for anyone concerned about peace in the Middle East.

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Editorial Reviews

Steven Erlanger
While his book is more of an analysis than an exercise in original research, Mr. Khalidi provides another service for Western readers. He gives 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…This is not to say that Mr. Khalidi…is without passion. His book is bound to stir angry responses from those who think that any Palestinian effort to fight the soldiers of the Israeli occupation represents terrorism, or from those, Muslim or Jew, who think that their divinity gave all of Palestine exclusively to them.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Historian Khalidi (Resurrecting Empire), a leading expert on the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, brings vital perspective to Palestinian attempts to achieve independence and statehood. Admirably synthesizing the latest scholarship and concentrating on the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) established by the League of Nations after WWI, Khalidi describes the process by which a newly arrived European Jewish minority overcame, with help from its imperial ally, the claims and rights of the native Arab majority in what became Israel and the occupied territories. Khalidi shows Palestinians under the mandate facing comparatively severe systemic, institutional and constitutional obstacles to the development of any para-state structure contrary to British promises of Arab independence and Article 4 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Meanwhile, the Jewish minority could count on a system biased in its favor to develop the structures that became those of the Israeli government in 1948 amid violent expulsion of over half the indigenous population. In bringing this narrative up to the present, Khalidi rigorously details the missteps of the Palestinians and their leadership. Khalidi curiously refrains from drawing any detailed proposal of his own to resolve the ongoing conflict, but his first-rate and up-to-date historical and political analysis of the Palestinian predicament remains illuminating. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
The larger conceptual framework into which The Iron Cage mustbe fitted is a history of two contending nationalisms that have not yet reached an acceptable accommodation. Zionism resulted in Israel, but the Palestinian struggle for statehood got off to a shakier start and remains unfinished. These two unequal contenders, moreover, have always been caught up in regional and international politics. Khalidi concentrates on the Palestinian side of this complex sui generis case. His image of the "iron cage" is meant to demonstrate how the Palestinians faced and still face unusually imposing obstacles — an argument that can hardly be denied. Yet Khalidi's book is no exercise in victimology. He is tough on the British, the Israelis, and the Americans, but he is scarcely less hard-hitting in appraising the Palestinians, including such leaders as Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, and Yasir Arafat. The final chapter provides an excellent critique of the Palestine Liberation Organization's labored moves toward the recognition of Israel and of the idea, increasingly bruited, that a two-state solution is no longer feasible.
From the Publisher
At heart a historical essay, an effort to decide why the Palestinians . . . have failed to achieve an independent state.—Steven Erlanger, New York Times

"A first-rate and up-to-date historical and political analysis of the Palestinian predicament."—Publishers Weekly's 100 Best Books issue

"In a refreshing contrast to the yammering bazaar of complaint and allegation that has dominated American public discussion of the Middle East since Sept. 11, 2001, The Iron Cage is a patient and eloquent work, ranging over the whole of modern Palestinian history from World War I to the death of Yasser Arafat. Reorienting the Palestinian narrative around the attitudes and tactics of the Palestinians themselves, Khalidi lends a remarkable illumination to a story so wearily familiar it is often hard to believe anything new can be found within."—Jonathan Shainin, Salon

"Khalidi uses history to provide a clear-eyed view of the region and assess the prospects for peace. He strives successfully for even-handedness."—Anthony Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gideon's Trumpet and Make No Law

"A work of forceful historical analysis written in a spirit of self-examination."—Bashir Abu-Manneh, The Nation

"Magisterial in scope, meticulous in its attention to detail, and decidedly dispassionate in its analysis, The Iron Cage is destined to be a benchmark of its genre." —Joel Schalit, Tikkun

"Khalidi, tackling 'historical amnesia,' brilliantly analyses the structural handicap which hobbled the Palestinians throughout 30 years of British rule . . . Khalidi restores the Palestinians to something more than victims, acknowledging that for all their disadvantages, they have played their role and can (and must) still do so to determine their own fate." —Ian Black, Guardian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807003084
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 10/4/2006
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Rashid Khalidi is the author of seven books about the Middle East, including Palestinian Identity, Brokers of Deceit, Resurrecting Empire, The Iron Cage, and Sowing Crisis. His writing on Middle Eastern history and politics has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and many journals. For his work on the Middle East, Professor Khalidi has received fellowships and grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the American Research Center in Egypt, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. He is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University in New York and is editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies.

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Table of Contents


Preface to the Paperback Edition     ix
Introduction: Writing Middle Eastern History in a Time of Historical Amnesia     xv
Arab Society in Mandatory Palestine     1
The Palestinians and the British Mandate     31
A Failure of Leadership     65
The Revolt, 1948, and Afterward     105
Fateh, the PLO, and the PA: The Palestinian Para-State     140
Stateless in Palestine     182
Notes     219
Acknowledgments     264
Index     267
The Palestine Mandate, July 24, 1922     282
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  • Anonymous

    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¿.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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