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Ex-PLO Spokesman Rashid Khalidi Explains Away Oct 7 Hamas Massacre in Guardian Feature

Rashid Khalidi didn’t need a 5,000-word feature in The Guardian to justify what could be succinctly summarized in a sentence: he believes Israel is a colonialist settler state that has no right to exist in…

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Rashid Khalidi didn’t need a 5,000-word feature in The Guardian to justify what could be succinctly summarized in a sentence: he believes Israel is a colonialist settler state that has no right to exist in “Palestine.” 

In “‘A new abyss’: Gaza and the hundred years’ war on Palestine” the Colombia University historian and former PLO press officer argues that the war Hamas sparked with its October 7 massacre is merely a new phase in a bigger conflict that has been waged continuously for several generations:

This is the thesis of my book The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: that events in Palestine since 1917 resulted from a multi-stage war waged on the indigenous Palestinian population by great power patrons of the Zionist movement – a movement that was both settler colonialist and nationalist, and which aimed to replace the Palestinian people in their ancestral homeland. These powers later allied with the Israeli nation-state that grew out of that movement. Throughout this long war, the Palestinians have fiercely resisted the usurpation of their country. This framework is indispensable in explaining not only the history of the past century and more, but also the brutality that we have witnessed since 7 October.”

This paragraph of blatant historical revisionism is a template for the rest of the drawn-out piece: an exercise in distortion, omission and spin.

Whether Khalidi is prepared to acknowledge it or not, Jews are indigenous to the land that is the modern State of Israel. The Jewish people have lived in the Holy Land for millennia, and their presence has been continuous since the return from Egypt 3336 years ago marked by next week’s Passover holiday.

The dismissal of Zionism as a colonialist movement that is shaped by its intention to subjugate and displace native Palestinians is risible. Indeed, comparing the push by early Zionist leaders for Jews to return to their historical homeland is the antithesis of European settler colonial projects of that time.

However, Khalidi’s historical revisionism is not simply a way to deny that Jews have any right to Israel; it is also how he tacitly defends “Palestinians [who] have fiercely resisted the usurpation of their country”—in other words, terrorism.

While he acknowledges some of the “gruesome” events of October 7, we are left to assume that “resistance” is how he views the Hamas attack and indeed all Palestinian terrorism — both the result of and defense against a colonialist project.

Israel’s war against Hamas is not, for the likes of Khalidi, a war against a genocidal terrorist organization that is sworn to Israel’s destruction. Rather, it is the “product of the violent European settler-colonial methods employed by Zionism to ‘transform Palestine into the land of Israel…’”

Naturally, Khalidi pays little regard to salient details, such as Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip nearly two decades ago. If such facts were mentioned, his ludicrous assertion that Hamas’ “philosophy of armed resistance is unlikely to disappear as long as there is no prospect of an end to military occupation, colonisation and oppression of the Palestinian people…”

The fact is that Hamas’s so-called “armed resistance” policy has never been about “military occupation” or anything else—according to their own charter, it is about killing Jews. This aim is not limited to Jews in Israel but extends to Jews everywhere.

Much of Khalidi’s feature is dedicated to his subversion of Zionism and his excusing of “Palestinian resistance.”

Of course, Khalidi never goes into that much detail about what Palestinian “armed resistance” has looked like in the past, such as the Second Intifada, which consisted of public suicide bombings and random stabbing attacks on civilians.

Instead, it is easier for Khalidi to adhere to his simpler narrative—one of “colonizer and colonized, oppressor and oppressed…” In this rigid and distorted view of the conflict, Khalidi and all other Palestinians are cast as perpetual victims in a world where there is a “vast imbalance in favor of Zionism and Israel.”

Crucially, in this world, Palestinians never have to take responsibility for their actions. Khalidi doesn’t need to address the multitude of peace deals the Palestinians have rejected, choosing instead to wage a bloody war against Israel. He can overlook the decades of Palestinian leadership that has selfishly chosen to spend money on rockets rather than on civilian infrastructure, and he can pretend the antisemitism that manifestly permeates Palestinian and Arab society is nonexistent.

Khalidi ends the feature by railing against the notion of the two-state solution, which he says “has always been a meaningless, cruel Orwellian hoax” without the implementation of a raft of measures for Israel to stick to.

There are no demands made of the Palestinians — he makes no such direct calls for Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups to stop their attacks on civilians and to stop firing rockets at Israel.

Khalidi may be right that Palestinians are on the edge of the “abyss.” However, what he is missing is that it is one of their own making.

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