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Rashid Khalidi Delivers Lecture on 'The Hundred Years' War on Palestine'

May 25, 2023 - Speaking this week at the Trinity Long Room Hub, Professor Rashid Khalidi, University of Columbia, said that he has witnessed in recent years a “growing willingness” among people to appreciate the Palestinian narrative and that he hoped his new book The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler-Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017 (2020) would appeal to a wider general audience.

The in-person lecture was attended by guests from the Mission of the State of Palestine in Ireland and organised by the Trinity Long Room Hub in partnership with the School of History, UCD. Attendees heard how Palestine had recently marked the 75th anniversary of the Nakba which “destroyed the largest parts of Palestinian society” and displaced more than half of Palestine’s Arab population from their homes.

Professor Khalidi, who spent two months as a fellow in the Trinity Long Room Hub in 2022, said it was an “enormous pleasure to be back in Dublin again” and that his fellowship was a very “productive time”, during which he also got to experience Ireland marking its own troubled past through the commemorations of the end of the decade of centenaries.

The rights of one individual or one group can not be dependent on the deprivation of the rights of another individual or another group.
Prof Rashid Khalidi

Professor Khalidi’s lecture drew on his 2020 book, which he wrote to respond to what he described as a vast range of distortions and myths about Israel and Palestine, including “well-worn tropes” referring to Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land.”

He also challenged the perception that what is happening in Palestine, is an “age-old” conflict between Jews and Arabs. Professor Khalidi says he calls what has happened “a war on Palestine and the Palestinians” which started with the arrival of the British in 1917. “Before that there was Zionism, before that there was Palestinian identity, before that there was imperialism but they never combined in the way that they did to produce what we have had ever since then.”

Professor Eve Patten (TCD), Professor Rashid Khalidi (Columbia University)and Professor Professor William Mulligan (UCD)

Emphasising further the modern nature of this conflict and how he seeks to reframe events in Palestine in his new book, Professor Khalidi said that in any history he has ever read, he can find no evidence of conflict in Palestine between Jews and Arabs until the British arrived. He described Zionism as a “settler colonial project” not dissimilar to that which took place in Australia and the United States. “Every colonial conquest”, he noted, “has always engendered the resistance of the colonised”, adding that it has always been necessary to delegitimise the resistance by characterising it as criminal or with other negative associations.

Turning to the present day, Professor Khalidi said that given the political climate in Israel is moving farther to the right, together with the fact that the Palestinian national movement is in a state of “disarray”, “there’s not likely to be a solution right now.” He argued that “Israeli governments have absolutely no intention of allowing the two-state solution”, even though European and American diplomats and politicians continue to proffer this option.  

Referring to a recent poll by Gallup in the US showing a change in Democrats’ sympathies in the Middle East in favour of Palestinians, Professor Khalidi alluded to grounds for optimism “on college campuses” and from a grassroots level of the majority US political party. He said a change in the US and Europe will force change in Israel. Finally, he concluded that whatever solution emerges, it can only be sustainable where there is justice and equality of rights. “The rights of one individual or one group can not be dependent on the deprivation of the rights of another individual or another group.”


Rashid Khalidi is Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University. He received a B.A. from Yale University in 1970 and a D. Phil. from Oxford University in 1974, and has taught at the Lebanese University, the American University of Beirut, and the University of Chicago. He was President of the Middle East Studies Association, and is co-editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies. He served as an advisor to the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid and Washington Arab-Israeli peace negotiations from October 1991 until June 1993.

Khalidi is author of eight books, including The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler-Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017 (2020), and Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (rev. ed. 2010), has co-edited three others, and has published over 100 academic articles. He has written op-eds in the New York Times, Washington Post, and many other newspapers, and has appeared widely on TV and radio in the US and abroad.

In 2022 Rashid Khalidi held a Visiting Research Fellowship at the Trinity Long Room Hub: listen back to his conversation with the Director, Professor Eve Patten, here.

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