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> The Iron Cage, Rashid Khalidi
The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood
By Rashid Khalidi
Beacon Press, Boston, 2006, 281 pages, $24.95
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, discusses 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.
In Resurrecting Empire, Khalidi dissected the failures of colonial policy over the entire span of the modern history of the Middle East, predicted the meltdown in Iraq that we are now witnessing with increasing horror, and offered viable alternatives for achieving peace in the region. His newest book, The Iron Cage, hones in on Palestinian politics and history. Once again Khalidi draws on a wealth of experience and scholarship to elucidate the current conflict, using history to provide a clear-eyed view of the situation today. The story of the Palestinian search to establish a state begins in the era of British control over Palestine immediately following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, when fledgling Arab states were established by the colonial powers with assurances of eventual independence, and stretches between the two world wars, 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, and in the years immediately following World War II, Palestinian leaders continued to run up against the walls of the ever-constricting iron cage. They were unable to achieve the 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.
By frankly discussing the reasons behind this failure, Khalidi’s engrossing narrative of this tortuous history offers a much-needed perspective for anyone concerned about peace in the Middle East. The one-dimensional and ahistorical approach to the conflict through the prism of terrorism that is prevalent in the United States obscures thoroughly the specificity of Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, and other regional actors, like Syria and Iran, and how these relate to one another. The Palestinian quest for independence is only one of the many elements that must be grasped in order to understand the causes of conflict in the Middle East.
Dr. Rashid Khalidi, author of Resurrecting Empire and Palestinian Identity, holds the Edward Said Chair in Arab Studies at Columbia University, where he heads the Middle East Institute. He has written more than eighty articles on Middle Eastern history and politics, as well as op-ed pieces in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and The Nation. He lives in New York.
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