Iron Cage

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In chapter one of The Iron Cage, Rashid Khalidi sets the stage for the premise of his book, by examining the conflicting evidence of the Palestinians’ plight. In order to do so, the narrative begins in 1948, following the eviction of more than half of the Arab Palestinian population as a result of the Arab – Israel conflict of that year. Khalidi goes on to enumerate a few of the respective differing Arab and Israel accounts of how it was that a people that once constituted the majority of the population of a land, became the minority. Revisionist Israeli historians have attempted to debunk traditional accounts that absolve Israel of any wrongdoing, such as the notion that Palestinians attacked the yishuv first, by looking at the newly opened Israeli, American, and British archives. Although Khalidi is appreciative of the latest attempts of objectivity, the author goes on to claim that Israeli revisionists continue to provide shortsighted narratives, because of an inability to incorporate Arab sources to the reinterpretations. Furthermore, Khalidi castigates Arab interpretations of the conflict as well, by noting the over emphasis they put on external causes, such as the superiority of the Israeli armed forces, or the alliance between Israel and Transjordan. Although Khalidi noticeably acknowledges many of the claims from both sides, his conclusion is nevertheless, that not enough attention has been paid to the internal reasons why Palestine as a nation has failed. The waning pages of the first chapter moreover, are devoted to discrediting attempts to compare Palestinians and Israelis on an even keel. The reader is presented with factual evidence that makes the case that the yishuv, because of external backing from Zionists and the British, held a comparative advantage over Palestinians. Subsequently, Palestinians whom by and large resided in sporadic settlements, developed weaker and less cohesive military and economic structures then their nascent counterparts. Khalidi ends the chapter by stating that in spite of the striking inequalities between the Palestinians and Israelis, Palestinians were by and large better positioned to succeed as a nation, than many of their fellow neighboring Arab countries. Thus, in chapter one, Khalidi gears the reader to find out how weak political and social mobilization was the downfall of the Palestinian people. Chapter two of the Iron Cage gives the reader a glimpse of the immediate aftermath following World War I. Great Britain in concordance with the League of Nations, issued the Mandate for Palestine, which essentially carved up most of the Middle East into the states that make up the region today. Included in the Mandate was the vitally important Balfour Declaration, effectively pronouncing the creation of a “national home” for Jewish people in Palestine. Consequently, the declaration to the detriment of the Palestinians, denied the people the rights to self-determination and political representation. To add insult to injury, Palestinian leadership, during its various attempts to negotiate for autonomy, was forced to acquiesce to Israeli/Zionist hegemony, before negotiation could even begin. The fact that a Jewish population constituting only 10% of the total population, could reign over an overwhelming majority (90 %), struck dissenters as both blatantly undemocratic, and in direct contrast to the self-determination clause of article 4 of the Covenant of League of Nations. Great Britain realized that some form of social and state control would be necessary to calm the Palestinians, and so reverted to colonial pseudo-structures to ease the opposition. Novel institutions, such as the Grand Mufti and the Supreme Muslim Council were subsequently created. Clerics became figureheads in the community giving the Palestinians the appearance that they were in fact being represented. Unfortunately for most Palestinians, the people positioned in power served as a façade, because...
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