For a century, Palestine has suffered through colonial rule, territorial conquest, occupation after occupation and an apartheid regime oppressing Palestinians in their land. The 100 Years’ War on Palestine explores this complex history, with Rashid Khalidi delving deep into the painful and heart-rendering timeline of how Palestine came to be the occupied land it is today. With sharp detail surrounding the many declarations of war and mandates set out to conquer and control Palestinians, he reveals the beauty of their continual resistance.
Khalidi, a scholar and historian who comes from a leading family in Palestinian history, makes explicitly clear an important narrative early on: the issue of Palestine has never been one of two nations fighting for land ownership; it has never been a “conflict” or a “war of two religions”. The issue is and has always been a matter of settler-colonial conquest, imperialism and racist oppression. Both the British Mandate and European Zionist groups, whose aim has always been to take full control of historic Palestine despite the consequences to its indigenous inhabitants, have imposed this.
From the moment George Balfour wrote his infamous declaration in 1917, one that didn’t even mention the words Palestinians or Arab once, the Zionist movement had the backing of an “indispensable iron wall” — and their colonising project had now a clear path toward taking sovereignty and utter control over Palestine. Khalidi explains this detail of Balfour’s declaration shows how deep were the anti-Semitic intentions of the British at the time in their aim to reduce Jewish immigration to the UK. He makes it clear that British involvement in the creation of the state of Israel was not motivated by altruism but rather by a blend of antiSemitism and a desire for extensive global control.
Khalidi takes the reader through the six declarations of war on Palestinians, the first being Balfour’s, which was the formal support for making Palestine a “national home for the Jewish people”. The second declaration is the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the Nakba (catastrophe), which came with various fatal attacks on Palestinians leading to a genocidal ethnic cleansing and displacement of almost 8,00,000 Palestinians from their homes. The third is the United Nations’ Security Council Resolution 242, which came into place after the 1967 war, and which called on neighbouring Arab nations to accept Israel’s right “to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries free from threats or acts of force” — essentially, allowing Israel’s on-going illegal expansion into Palestine and brutal occupation over the indigenous population.
The fourth was Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 1982 to oust the Palestinian Liberation Organisation from the country. This came with the deadly Sabra and Shatila massacre, which saw the Christian Phalange militia kill of up to 3,500 civilians, Palestinian and Lebanese, in clear view of the Israeli Defence force (IDF), its ally. The fifth was the infamous Oslo Accords, which assimilated the Palestinian political leadership into Israel’s colonial regime, leaving the Palestinian population to be REVIEWS BOOK controlled entirely by Israel. And the sixth was Israeli prime minsiter Ariel Sharon’s visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in 2000, leading to the second Palestinian uprising (Intifada). Throughout, Khalidi makes clear the cracks in the Palestinian leadership and division between Palestinian groups that has prevented their much-needed unity in resisting Israeli occupation.
Though these divisions are prominent, the author provides a beautiful articulation of the unique nature of Palestinian resistance, in that the Palestinian people have shown “unusual patience, perseverance, and steadfastness in defending their rights” while living under colonialism. He concludes by proposing what the Palestinian people need now is to adopt new longterm strategies, to revaluate their victories and losses, and take inspiration from other liberation movements in the continual struggle against what seems like an unbreakable force. Khalidi takes the reader on a historical journey through the oppression and attempted erasion of Palestinians, ending with the vital narrative — resistance to colonialism takes time and should not expect quick results.
His vision of hope for the Palestinian people, paired with cultivating allies and new forms of liberation, means that equality and justice may come, as rightfully deserved, to Palestine.
Layla Assam The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017. Rashid Khalidi Profile, £25.00