Guardian review of Rashid Khalidi book: distortions, lies and smears

On May 10th, we posted about a correction we prompted to a Guardian review of a book by Rashid Khalidi, in which editors removed a sentence characterising Israel as ‘the tail that wags the dog” and a reference to a “powerful Israel lobby guiding US policy”.  However, despite that improvement, the piece, ” The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi review – conquest and resistance”, by Matthew Hughes, is full of additional distortions, lies and smears.

First, we see that Hughes completely buys into the Khalidi narrative, as well as his tendentious, propagandistic framing of the conflict:

Rashid Khalidi’s account of Jewish settlers’ conquest of Palestine is informed and passionate.

Of course, “Jewish settlers didn’t “conquest” a state or political entity called Palestine, as a sovereign Palestinian state had never existed at any time in history.  The Jewish state was re-established in their historical homeland (though a much smaller state than was originally promised) based on national rights codified in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1920 San Reno Conference , the Mandate for Palestine, and the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947.

The Guardian review continues:

It pulls no punches in its critique of Jewish-Israeli policies (policies that have had wholehearted US support after 1967), but it also lays out the failings of the Palestinian leadership

The words “Jewish-Israeli policies” (which he uses twice in the article) is extremely odd, if not troubling. First, Hughes doesn’t refer to “Muslim Palestinians policies”, despite the fact that Palestinians have a larger Muslim majority (98%) than Israel’s Jewish majority (74%).  Also, our research could find little if any other uses of that term anywhere online.  Even an internal search of Khalidi’s book didn’t turn up any references to “Jewish Israeli policies” or even “Jewish Israeli”.

However, the original version of the article may provide a hint as to the intent of the author in using “Jewish-Israeli” in this way.  Before subsequent revisions, the piece initially alleged that “Jewish-Israeli perfidy ” was central to Khalidi’s study.

The word “perfidy” is defined as deceitfulness or untrustworthiness, and the idea of Jewish perfidy was an element of early Christian theological antisemitism.  Thus, use of the term “Jewish-Israeli policies” could disturbingly represent Hughes’ attempt to evoke what he believes to be the uniquely Jewish nature of putative Israeli crimes.

Further in the review,  Zionism as a “colonial settler conquest” agitprop is evoked:

Khalidi sets out his stall early on: the Palestine-Israel war was never one between two national movements contesting equally over the same land but was always a “settler colonial conquest” by Europe-based Zionists…

Hughes of course omits non-European Zionists, those Jews from the Middle East and North Africa who, beginning in the 40s, were ethnically cleansed from Muslim majority lands where their families had lived for generations.

Hughes then writes the following:

For Khalidi, Jewish settlers, aided by Britain from 1917, and by the US later on, colonised Palestine, creating and securing Israel through six “wars”: the Balfour declaration of 1917; the 1947 UN partition plan; the 1967 UN security council resolution 242; the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon; the 1993 Oslo peace accords; and Israeli leader Ariel Sharon’s Temple Mount visit in 2000.

Again, by falsely suggesting the existence of Palestinian political entity that was subjected to conquest, Hughes uncritically cites Khalidi’s bizarre characterisation of diplomatic efforts, peace accords and UN resolutions as akin to acts of war. One can only intuit from this that Khalidi perceives any effort – by Israelis, Palestinians or international bodies – which seeks compromise, accommodation or co-existence constitutes a casus belli.

Moreover, the historical inversion of is stunning.

We’re to believe that Palestinian terror campaign from 2000-2005 wasn’t an act of war against Jews, but Ariel Sharon’s peaceful visit to Judaism’s holiest site was, and that the Arabs’ attempts in 1967 to annihilate Israel wasn’t an act of war, but UN resolution 242 passed six months after the Six Day War, which called for a lasting peace, is?

Later, Hughes (seemingly speaking in his own voice) appears to fault Yasser Arafat and Hamas for not inspiring Palestinians to even greater acts of violent resistance:

Palestinian leaders from elite notables in the 1930s to Yasser Arafat and PLO-Fatah in the 60s to Hamas never successfully channelled the people’s passion to resist.

Then, Hughes, this time clearly speaking in his own voice, laments that ‘Palestine’ was not blessed with more charismatic leaders. “Like who”?, you ask.  Here, he spells it out:

Central to Khalidi’s study are the deceits of the Zionist/Israeli leadership but bubbling up through the text are key moments of resistance that demanded the insurgent organisation and charisma of a Michael Collins, a Mahatma Gandhi, or a Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Minh, founder of the Indochina Communist Party and its successor, the Viet-Minh, was president of N. Vietnam from 1945 until 1969, was believed to be responsible, directly or indirectly, for mass torture, repression and the murder of, at least, hundreds of thousands civilians.

Hughes then fudges history in this passage:

While mainstream Zionism publicly proclaimed that the two communities in Palestine could live harmoniously together, Jewish activists such as Ze’ev Jabotinsky as early as 1923 presented the honest facts: all native populations will resist colonialists and Palestinians were no different. The Jews needed an “iron wall” of bayonets.

Actually, if you read the original, it’s clear that Jabotinsky was merely arguing that Jews would face ceaseless Arab violence until they convinced the Arabs that their violence wouldn’t force the Jews to flee – an accurate observation given subsequent decades of Arab and Palestinian rejectionism, war and terror.  Six years after Jabotinsky’s treatise, the 1929 Palestinian riots, which included the Hebron Massacre, erupted.  Seven years later, a three year long Arab revolt broke out.

The following paragraph by Hughes is the one revised by editors to remove the antisemitic tropes. But, as you’ll see, it still evokes a fictional tale of the US on bended knee before powerful Israeli and Zionist forces.

Khalidi takes the reader through the long, hard years after 1948 when Israel (and neighbouring Arab states) screwed down the Palestinians. The six-day war, as America struggled in Vietnam, was a hinge event, turning the US to Israel as its prime ally against Soviet-backed Arab regimes. While presidents such as Eisenhower and Kennedy were willing to stand up to Israel, after 1967 – except Bush Snr and secretary of state James Baker – the rest fell into line. Khalidi lays out remarkable exchanges between US and Israeli officials (including a thrusting young Benjamin Netanyahu) in which the US rolled over.

Missing from this history is the failed attempt by Palestinian Arabs and Arab states to annihilate Israel at it’s birth, and the subsequent attempt in 1967.  For Khalidi and Hughes, the plethora of evidence that runs counter to the desired narrative of Zionist aggression must be ignored or rewritten.

Moreover, even if we accept Khalidi and Hughes’ framing, which breaks down the US-Israel relationship since 1967 as a contrast between those presidents willing to stand up to Israel and those who wouldn’t, the claim that only George HW Bush falls in the former category is absurd.  However one feels about Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama’s presidencies, most would agree that both were far more cool towards Israel than their predecessors, and much more sympathetic to the Palestinians – not to mention Carter’s descent into delegitmisation and even antisemitism in is post-presidency.

The lies reach a crescendo in the final paragraph of the book review:

The Palestinians have belied David Ben Gurion’s reputed comment that “the old will die and the young will forget”. Short of another bout of ethnic cleansing, Israel is burdened with a resentful, growing, non-Jewish population. The solution is meaningful dialogue, but this requires political will. Regrettably, it is a distant hope.

In addition to the fact that his Ben-Gurion quote he uses is so discredited that even Electronic Intifada disputes it, note how nonchalantly the false charge against Israel of “ethnic cleansing” is employed.  Moreover, given that Khalidi refuses to commit to any solution which would allow for Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish state, it seems clear that the only purpose of a “meaningful dialogue” would be for Jerusalem to negotiate the terms of its own surrender.

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