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UC Berkeley history professor Beshara Doumani came to Stanford University on September 29, 2010, to give a lecture sponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies titled, “The Iron Law and Ironies of Palestinian History.” He was introduced by notorious Stanford University history professor Joel Beinin, who managed to insert his repeated, and unfounded, claim that academic freedom in the post-9/11 era is “very much still in jeopardy.” Beinin, quoting from Doumani’s faculty bio, noted that he specializes in “recovering the history of social groups, places and time periods that have been silenced or erased by conventional scholarship on the modern Middle East.” This seemingly innocuous description belied a very specific, partisan subtext.
Taking a unique perspective, Doumani laid out his argument that current discourse throughout the Palestinian national movement is too “state-centric,” focusing on Palestinian nationhood as an end in itself without regard for “the lives of ordinary Palestinians” or whether they support such a goal. The wants and needs of the entire Palestinian diaspora, Doumani argued—including “those who are citizens in the State of Israel”—must be taken into account in discussions of a future “Palestine.”
Doumani repeatedly emphasized “the denial of the Palestinians’ right to exist as a political community” as the most egregious and harmful fault of “the Zionist movement and its supporters, Great Britain and the United States.” This denial, he alleged, has shown itself in the 1922 charter for the Mandate for Palestine (which, while it does not use the word “Arab,” repeatedly mentions the rights of non-Jews and the Arabic language); Israel’s insistence after 1948 that the Palestinian refugee issue was humanitarian and not political; and finally, Israel’s refusal to recognize Hamas following its victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections.
“This non-recognition,” Doumani stated boldly, has allowed “the twin engines of this conflict, which are of course territory taking and demographic displacement, to continue unabated as we speak.” The professor apparently felt no need to mention Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel’s existence, the continual glorification of terrorism on Palestinian television, and the Palestinians’ repeated rejections of peace deals spanning decades as “engines of this conflict.”
Doumani then began discussing the “five ironies” that “each mark a . . . moment of erasure of the Palestinians and birth of Palestine or the other way around.” These included statements such as “the destruction of Palestine in 1948 marked the creation of the Palestinians as we know them” and “the recognition by Israel of the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians signaled the end of the PLO as a significant political movement.” Most interesting, however, was the fifth irony, which Doumani described as follows:
The Palestinians today are being force-fed a state or two against their will. . . . I say force-fed because a state that can be a territorial home for Palestinians as a political community is not on the table. The Palestinians are being asked to give up the right of return as well as East Jerusalem and half of the West Bank. . . . This state has become the vehicle for pre-empting Palestinian nationalism. If it succeeds, it will . . . lead to the permanent disenfranchisement of the Palestinians. . . . There is really no support for the PA’s [Palestinian Authority’s] negotiating posture today among the majority of the 11 million Palestinians in the world.
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