by Rashid Khalidi
(Beacon Press; 2006)

In his academic and literary career, Rashid Khalidi has done much to examine Middle Eastern history and the plight of the Palestinian people. He is the author of Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints & America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East, and Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness. This Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University has defended academic freedoms, free speech, and those who espouse them, such as beleaguered Professors Joseph Massad and Ward Churchill. Khalidi himself has undergone ferocious attack and censorship for being critical of Israeli apartheid policies. As the world watches Israel intensify brutal repressions and military occupations (including the annexation of East Jerusalem), Khalidi’s newest work, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood debuts at an ever-significant moment. It attempts to shed light on the reasons behind the failures to establish an independent Palestinian state.

This book reveals crucial aspects of Middle Eastern reality, aspects that receive little if any mainstream academic instruction, dialogue or media coverage in the United States. The Iron Cage discusses how Zionist-instigated provocations, protected under British and US patronage, heralded the establishment and maintenance of the Israeli colonial-settler state. It covers the 1948 Zionist ethnic cleansing of, terrorist acts against, and expulsions of the Palestinians. It addresses how and why there is no right of return for Palestinians living in exile today.

Even so, upon reading The Iron Cage, it appears that a suppressive post-9/11 environment has further amplified political and academic pressures upon Khalidi. To explain why the Palestinians have not succeeded in establishing statehood prior to and following the establishment of the state of Israel, Khalidi assigns the greatest blame to the Palestinians themselves for being weak, disorganized, naïve, obtuse at the negotiation tables, and without wealth or patronage. One must wonder if Khalidi has given way to the victimizer’s belief that when the strong exploit the weak, it is the weak who are found to be at fault. While The Iron Cage contains many valuable insights from this accomplished scholar, this reading must be supplemented to fully understand the Palestinian struggle for statehood, the origins of the Middle East conflict, and especially why a desperate, subjugated, endangered native Palestinian population continues, time and again, to resort to armed resistance. A more elaborate breakdown and analysis appears in The Palestine Diary by Dr. Robert John and Sami Hadawi (now back in print) and is highly recommended for this purpose.

Lucine Kasbarian is a descendant of survivors of the Ottoman Turkish Genocide of the Armenians, and the author of Armenia: A Rugged Land, An Enduring People (Dillon Press/Simon & Schuster).