The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehoodby Rashid Khalidi
Pub. Date: 10/04/2006
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./i>
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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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
The Palestine Mandate, July 24, 1922 282
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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¿.