Palestinian-American Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi addressed America’s role in the Arab-Israeli peace process on April 17, 2014, at Washington, DC’s Jerusalem Fund, a pro-Palestinian think tank. Describing Israel’s “entirely false narrative” into which “we have all been brainwashed,” Khalidi revealed his own myopia before an audience of about forty mostly likeminded, middle-aged people.
John Halaka’s “Portraits of Denial and Despair” photo exhibit currently displayed in Jerusalem Fund hallways set a worrying ambience for Khalidi. Amidst photo captions damning an Israeli “settler colonial state,” one photo montage shows Yasser Arafat’s former press secretary, Raeda Taha. She grew up “in the shadow of a martyr,” a caption declares, a “symbol of the national struggle,” namely her pictured terrorist father Ali Taha, “killed in a hijacking operation he commanded.”
Khalidi discussed how the United States has “systematically failed” to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace given “structural reasons.” “Corrupt terms” such as “honest broker” expressed by Secretaries of State James Baker and Condoleezza Rice enabled America’s “myth” as a “disinterested mediatory.” Rather, “continuing complicity” and “virtually identity of views” with Israel since 1975 make America sometimes “more Israeli than the Israelis.” “Ceaseless colonization” of East Jerusalem and the West Bank has actually “made this conflict worse” despite 1991 Madrid Conference American assurances of no “prejudicial” actions during peace negotiations.
Secretary of State John Kerry’s current negotiations continue America’s “pusillanimous role” amidst “widespread skepticism.” The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) “position of weakness” faces Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “uncompromising stand,” including Israel’s “brand new, never before revealed demand” for Jewish state recognition. Does this mean in Israel “everybody has to sing HaTikvah,” the national anthem, Khalidi joked.
Such biases “driven by domestic pressure” from the “Israel lobby” became “intense” during President Barack Obama’s “humiliating retreat” from a supposedly longstanding policy on ultimate 1967-based Israeli borders. Israel, however, must otherwise “conform to American wishes,” such as during the Iran nuclear agreement. Here the “United States did exactly how it pleased.”
Middle East arms deals also occur without Israeli consent, often involving Saudi Arabia’s “stealth lobby” operating in conjunction with American oil interests. Yet “in fact no contradiction” exists between American relationships with Israel and Gulf monarchies that, like all Arab autocracies, ignore local popular support for the Palestinian cause. “Some of them…are on Israel’s side,” Khalidi judged.
Israeli has meanwhile created a “bastardized one-state solution,” entailing Palestinian statehood’s “indefinite deferral” under the Oslo Accords’ “historic mistake.” Khalidi’s one-state solution would recognize “two peoples,” in contrast to some “Palestinian one-staters” who would tolerate merely a “few Jews.” PA corruption in Ramallah’s “boomtown” and “destructive” divisions with the equally corrupt Hamas-run Gaza, though, remain obstacles.
The Palestinians’ “entirely asymmetrical” conflict with a powerful, American-backed Israel belies a “rough equality” of “two victimized, tragic peoples.” Stateless since 1918, Palestinians have undergone a “century-long odyssey.” The 1947 United Nations partition plan foresaw a Jewish state, but “strangled in its cradle” a Palestinian state about which “no one gave a damn.” As refugees, most Palestinians “no longer live in historic Palestine.”
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement’s “considerable economic impact” in Europe offered Khalidi a ray of hope. Israel’s greatest threat “used to be Iran; now it is” BDS, an addition to “non-violent resistance” or “other means.” BDS also disrupts Israel’s “discursive hegemony” such that New York Times’ “sclerotic coverage” of Israel no longer interests the youth. Thus “how can one not endorse the BDS movement?”
Khalidi’s bias contains numerous distortions. Israel’s “ceaseless colonization” includes historically Jewish areas of Judea and Samaria such as Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter and Wailing Wall. This as well as Israeli security concerns led President George W. Bush to recognize that Israel would retain certain territories won in 1967, an understanding that has largely restricted post-Oslo Accords settlement building to such territories. Obama’s suggestion that Israel accept 1967 lines as a negotiation starting point, by contrast, was hardly uncontroversial.
Khalidi hardly discussed, meanwhile, Israel’s Gaza withdrawal, one of several Israeli peace moves, including Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s 2000 two-state proposal, under Khalidi’s Oslo Accords “historic mistake.” Alternatively, recognizing Israel as a fundamentally “Jewish state” with some minorities is also hardly extraordinary. Bush so defined Israel in an understanding going back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration supporting a “national home for the Jewish people.”
Khalidi equally distorts history, beginning with an asserted Palestinian statelessness since 1918. No independent Palestine has ever existed within the territory now claimed by Palestinians, an area historically under other regimes such as the Ottoman Empire. Khalidi’s assessment of the 1947 partition plan is particularly baffling. New-born Israel fought for survival against Arab states with no interest in an independent Palestine, as shown by subsequent Jordanian and Egyptian occupations.
Khalidi’s assertion that an “Israel lobby” controls American Israel policy does not comport with his concession of widespread American neglect of Israeli interests. Perhaps the United States (along with some Arab regimes) actually shares interests with an Israeli ally respecting the Palestinians? Who defines an “honest broker,” anyway, the Palestinians or the Israelis?
The former Palestine Liberation Organization spokesman Khalidi thus fully displayed ongoing Palestinian intransigence towards an Israel now over 60 years old. For Khalidi, Israeli colonialism has dispossessed a non-existent “historic Palestine” in the name of an illegitimate Jewish state. Hence Khalidi’s rejection of any past peace proposal such as the Oslo Accords and acquiescence in Palestinian terrorism, such as that of a genocidal Hamas, whose past division with the PA Khalidi bemoaned. No wonder the “peace process” fails.
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