Rashid Khalidi enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of the greatest living historians of the Palestinian people, an honour he shares with his cousin Walid Khalidi, a pioneer in the same field. His latest book is an impressive addition to a body of scholarship that peaked with his study of Palestinian identity as it evolved in response to the Zionist enterprise from the last quarter of the 19th century.
The title gives a clear hint of the direction of Khalidi’s argument. ‘A History of Settler Colonial Conquest and Resistance’ encapsulates a long-standing but increasingly widely held view of the Israel–Palestine conflict. It correctly locates its origins in the colonial era and emphasises the injustice done, down the decades, to the indigenous Arab population of the country, whether in the Ottoman period, during British rule or after the creation of Israel in 1948, an event known to Palestinians as the Nakba (‘Catastrophe’). Khalidi is a sophisticated and unapologetic exponent of this approach.
Each of the book’s six chapters focuses on a different ‘declaration of war’ in the century between 1917 and 2017. They are interpretative, building on the author’s own research as well as the ever-growing quantity of historical and political analysis that this most divisive of issues generates. All are enriched