Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor at Columbia University, garners all sorts of kudos for his supposed willingness to accord Palestinians at least some responsibility for their own predicament. He’s often cast as a courageous “new historian,” particularly in reviews of his last book, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. Khalidi, in an interview about that book, claimed his purpose was to show that “the Palestinians had more agency than one version of Palestinian history would suggest nothing was entirely inevitable.”
So what has the courageous historian had to say this morning about the brutal Hamas-Fatah showdown and the fall of Gaza to Hamas? In a National Public Radio interview, he describes both factions as “blind, shortsighted, irresponsible,” and reassures us that “neither of these groups, I think, really represents the deepest aspirations of the Palestinians; they’ve become vehicles for personal and group ambitions rather than what one could honestly call leadership of a Palestinian national movement.” How Khalidi knows these “deepest aspirations” is an interesting question. But the answer hardly matters, because at the very end of the interview comes the kicker: the final assignment of responsibility.
This is a direct, logical, inevitable result of American, Israeli, and European policy. The foolishness and the irresponsibility of the Palestinian leadership played an enormous role, but a lot of this has to be laid at the doorstep of Bush administration and Israeli government policy. They almost willed this result. They refused to deal with anybody, they refused to negotiate, they refused to try and bring along the people with whom they could have negotiated, including leaders in Hamas, and this is the logical, inevitable, natural result.
So much for Palestinian “agency.” When you see Palestinians butcher one another in power struggles, just remember that Bush and Israel have willed it. The Palestinians are too “blind, shortsighted” to see that they’re subject to mind control. But even were they to know it well, the result, in Khalidi’s own word, is “inevitable.”
At bottom, Khalidi is no different from the general run of blame-throwing Palestinian hacks. One of the (many) reasons Palestinians have marched themselves down so many dead ends is the abject failure of their intellectuals, who’ve been so busy speaking “truth to power” that they’ve forgotten to speak it to their own people. Khalidi is no exception, and as someone who’s fed Palestinian mythology for decades, he’s just as thoroughly implicated in the mess as any masked gunman.