Middle East studies in the News
Challenging Scholars: Rashid Khalidi, Avi Shlaim
by Ralph Seliger
On Sept. 25, I sat in a packed hall at Columbia University's School of International Affairs attending a stimulating public conversation between the historians Rashid Khalidi (of Columbia) and Avi Shlaim (of Oxford). Both men walk a difficult line between scholarship and activism: Khalidi as a Palestinian-American who has advised the PLO and long advocated for a Palestinian state, and Shlaim, raised in Israel but now a dual national with British citizenship who has made his reputation as one of the New Historians who document the dark corners of Israel's history and is an outspoken critic of Israel.
Khalidi is also very much a chronicler and critic of the Palestinian national movement, but more from a practical perspective than morally. For example, he sees the crushing defeat of the Palestinian-Arab revolt of 1936-39 by the British as having doomed the Arabs to defeat in the 1948 war. But this conclusion begs a question I wish someone had asked: If these casualties had not been suffered and the Palestinian irregular forces were much stronger when they attacked the Yishuv (the organized Jewish community in Palestine) in '47-'48, would their possible military triumph have been a step forward for humanity? Would the likely result of widespread slaughter and/or displacement of the country's Jews been a triumph for the good?
In Bennett Muraskin's review of Prof. Khalidi's 2006 work, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood ("A History of Failure," summer 2007 issue of ISRAEL HORIZONS magazine), Muraskin addresses Prof. Khalidi's failure to provide a moral critique of Palestinian nationalism:
Was violence the only answer? What about the binational solution proposed by Judah Magnes, Martin Buber and Hashomer Hatzair? Khalidi disappoints in simply dismissing their thinking as fuzzy. Citing Magnes and Buber – but not Hashomer Hatzair – he said that they advocated for a binational state but "did not flesh out what that formula might mean in practice, nor did they convince large numbers of Jews in Palestine of the force of their arguments."To be continued.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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