A review of The Hundred Years War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi

Understanding Palestine’s not-so-complicated history

ILLUSTRATION: Emily Xu / The Peak

By: Sude Guvendik

Content warning: discussions of genocide.

Rashid Khalidi’s book, The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine, is an essential read if you want to understand the history of Palestine. The notion that this history is too complicated to understand is often used as a means to dismiss Palestinian voices and stifle meaningful dialogue with Palestinian narratives. Khalidi’s work dismantles this, offering a clear and accessible account that underscores colonialism’s role in shaping the history of Palestine. Drawing not only from his academic expertise but also personal experiences, Khalidi weaves together a compelling narrative that places significant responsibility on the British, Americans, and other western nations for the ongoing displacement and violent colonization of Palestine. He tells the story in a way that connects the past to what’s happening right now.

The book is organized into six periods, commencing with the Balfour Declaration from 1917–1939, marking the initial geopolitical tensions in the region. It then delves into the “Deal of the Century,” a series of so-called “peace” proposals introduced by the US, notably under the Trump administration, aimed at enforcing Israeli occupation of Palestine in 2020. The narrative explores the intricacies of these historical milestones and clarifies their relevance clearly within the broader context of Palestine’s ongoing struggles.

Khalidi starts in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration, when the British supported Israel colonizing Palestinian territory, explaining how it set the stage for the years of oppression to come. He emphasizes that the occupation is rooted in colonialism, with each new phase building on the injustices of the previous ones. Khalidi unveils the British bias in favor of Jewish Zionists during this time, highlighting that Great Britain supported Jewish Zionists and systematically denied the existence of the Palestinian people and their nationalism. He argues that while settler colonialism was ending in other parts of the world, it was just beginning in Palestine.

Khalidi doesn’t just focus on the political big-picture; he also looks at the daily lives and cultures of the people involved. He argues against ideas that simplify the conflict into a land dispute or a religious fight, showing how it’s more multifaceted than that. The second declaration of war focuses on the Nakba of 1947–48, where Khalidi exposes the complicity of the Western world and specific Arab regimes, such as King Abdullah I of Jordan, in denying Palestinian nationalism. 

One strong point in the book is how Khalidi doesn’t shy away from criticizing the mistakes and divisions among Palestinian leaders, which adds depth to the story. He exposes how the Arab league actively undermined the Palestinian national movement. The book also looks at how western and American powers supported the Zionist project which is the idea of creating a Jewish state. Khalidi explains without this outside support, the project would not have succeeded.

When Khalidi talks about moving forward, he suggests the solution must be grounded in justice and entail a thorough analysis of settler colonialism, power imbalances, and inequality. He calls for equal rights for everyone, on personal, political, and national levels. 

The book concludes with an analysis of the first and second intifadas. “Intifada” is an Arabic term that translates to “uprising” or “shaking off,” referring to the periods of Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation and oppressive policies. Khalidi praises the relatively unarmed 1987 uprising and criticizes the second intifada of 2000 for misusing the public relations gains made during the first uprising. Even though Khalidi’s suggestions might make some people uncomfortable — especially those who support Israel — he provides a substantive and contemplative approach to address the political, humanitarian, and socioeconomic challenges stemming from the 1947 United Nations partition. Khalidi skillfully bridges the intellectual and emotional aspects of the wars in Palestine, integrating academic rigor with personal narratives often overlooked in global discussions. 

The book’s profound examination leads to the sobering analysis that the hundred-year war is far from over. Khalidi’s honest assessment suggests that Israel, a potent settler-colonial force backed by the West, prioritizes financial interests — exploiting oil, resources, and land — over human lives, delaying the acknowledgment of the rights and justice owed to the resilient Palestinian people.

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