The Hundred Years' War on Palestine - Book Launch with Rashid Khalidi

June 03, 2020

On May 21st, in partnership with Columbia Global Centers|Amman and Columbia Global Centers|Istanbul, a conversation and celebration of Rashid Khalidi’s new book, The Hundred Years' War on Palestine was hosted in a live webinar.

Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University. The conversation, moderated by Safwan Masri, Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development at Columbia University, started with a general introduction about the book which came after 7 academic books by Khalidi. The new book is a personal, an almost autobiographical book bringing up some of the author’s own experiences. 

The selection of the title was the first point of discussion. Khalidi explained that the main reason behind this title is that the concept of “war” in Palestine has been a false narrative and that there has always been an unequal struggle. He also added that the title was inspired from the European Hundred Years’ War, a war that actually lasted much longer.

Moving to the content of the book, Khalidi discussed a few points. He stated that Zionism was not only a national movement but also a colonial enterprise that led to the denial of the national existence of Palestine and the Palestinians. He also argued that a complete expulsion of the Palestinians is not going to happen as the majority of the population is Palestinian, despite all of what Zionists did. 

The audience asked about the role of the Arab countries in this “war”. The author distinguished the Arab public - being supportive of the Palestinian cause - and regimes that are rarely representative of their communities. In addition, he said that Arab governments did collaborate with Zionism on several occasions, and that is due to narrow national state objectives.

As the webinar was interactive, the author received a variety of questions that covered different areas from public opinion to the Palestinian leadership, to people indigenous to Palestine, the role of the Ottoman empire in the establishment of Israel, etc.

He explained that Israel, Turkey, and Iran are strong regional powers. Therefore, the Palestinians should not be treated equally to Israel, they are a small population, not a regional power.

On the question of leadership, Khalidi talked about the positions and the miscalculations of the Palestinian leadership in the wake of the Gulf war. 

Regarding the situation of Israeli Jews and Palestinians in Palestine, he affirmed that the right of the Palestinians is indigenous and that is not the case of most of the Jewish population.

Tackling the last question on the role of the ottoman empire in the establishment of Israel, the author explained, from a historical perspective, that Sultan Abdul Hamid was very much influenced by leaders of the Zionist movement and those who were supportive of Zionism. However, Ottomans in general were not supportive of the establishment of a Jewish minority state.