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Focusing on the Palestinian Narrative
Rashid Khalidi, an author and professor at Columbia, spoke on campus Thursday about his book and obstacles Palestinians have faced when pursuing statehood. (Photo by Shannon Shih for The Daily Bruin)

Focusing on the Palestinian Narrative

Columbia professor's new book aims to discuss the group's history without using other peoples' lenses. The lecture was co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies.

The United States has a tendency to look at the broader conflict ... and view Palestine through a prism of terrorism.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Alexa Vaughn, Daily Bruin contributor

A BOOK TOUR discussion about the history of the Palestinian people and their efforts to gain statehood drew the attention of students, faculty and residents of Los Angeles in the Faculty Center on Thursday.

At the center of the exchange was Professor Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Chair of Arab Studies at Columbia University, and his new book, "The Iron Cage: The Palestinian Struggle for Statehood."

Khalidi said he wrote the book because he has not found any other historical narrative written in English which solely focuses on the Palestinian people.

"That narrative is subsumed into other histories in this country," he said.

Khalidi said that this is because many other efforts to explain Palestinian history are blended or even obscured by the more well-known script of Jewish history, leaving the Palestinian narrative largely unknown or misunderstood.

"(The United States) has a tendency to look at the broader conflict ... and view Palestine through a prism of terrorism," Khalidi said. "To see everything in those terms does violence to every individual reality, whether it is Israel's, Lebanon's or Palestine's."

Gabriel Piterburg, professor of history at UCLA, offered some rebuttals to Khalidi's philosophy, saying the historical narrative of Israel and Palestine are inseparable.

"The process of colonization is what made them, and that's where I think the narrative is one," Piterburg said. "There is no Israel narrative without the failure of Palestinians."

Khalidi emphasized that though his book is about creating an individual narrative for Palestine, it is not divided from the histories of other countries, as he believes many of Palestinians' struggles are the result of outside interventions.

But Khalidi said that while the histories obviously intersect, the Palestinians' struggle to establish statehood also lies within the politics of their own leadership.

According to Khalidi, Palestinians' political parties have never been united enough to create a state, and international forces have made the possibility even more distant.

Khalidi also said he wrote the book to answer the question of whether statehood for any population is inevitable if the population wants it.

He said he could not predict Palestine's chances for statehood in the future, but said the current political parties leading Palestine are not promising mediums for progress.

Leeron Morad, president of Bruins for Israel, did not agree with some of Khalidi's assessments of Israel, particularly Khalidi's implications that minority groups face difficulties in Israel.

"Israel is country where minorities enjoy full citizenship," Morad said.

Morad did agree, however, with Khalidi's observation that Palestinians would have had a much higher chance for statehood in the past if they had been under more responsible leadership.

Khalidi started writing the book before the events of Sept. 11, 2001, but parted with the project temporarily to study the effects of the terrorist attack.

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