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Rashid Khalidi: The Palestine Question in the US Public Sphere

October 23, 2010

Note: This was a speech given by Rashid Khaladi about a month ago in New York. It deals with the changing attitudes here in the United States towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It pinpoints some of the changes in attitude which have taken place `on the ground’ so to speak – in the universities, the literature, the media on this question (but very little in the political sphere). It gives a nice – if short – history of how popular support for Israel was built and maintained here in the United States and the extent – limited actually – to which that support has been partially eroded. Worth Reading… (rjp)

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Rachid Khalidi: The Question of Palestine in the US Public Sphere

Thank you all for coming today, and, to those of you who are watching, thank you for viewing this talk.  Those of you who live in Washington, who are subjected to the American media, will probably be relieved to hear that I will not be talking about the peace process.  If you insist, I’m happy to answer questions about it.  I’m going to talk about a broader topic, which I think sheds light on why there is not a process that is leading towards peace.  And this is the Palestine question and the American public sphere.  It is a great honor to be doing this in the context of the Edward Said lecture series.  Edward was a dear friend and I think that having a lecture series in his name will help to push the process that he actually personally played a very big role in opening up in this country.

A number of factors played a part in cementing support for Zionism and later for the state of Israel of its two primary international sponsors: Great Britain and the United States.  As you know, each of them in its own era was the greatest power of its time.  In winning over the British and American political classes and their respective publics to the cause of Zionism and to the cause of Israel, a crucial role was played by scholarly and non-academic writings, and later by the cinema and other media.  I think it’s insufficiently recognized that establishing the hegemony of Zionism in the field of ideas in an Anglo-American academic and public discourse was a vital precondition for its successes in the political and diplomatic arenas.  The discursive victories of Zionism preceded its triumphs in the chancelleries of the world and on the battlefields, and the latter would never have occurred, in my opinion, but for the former.  In other words, in addition to being successful as an idea, as a national movement, and as a colonial settler phenomenon, political Zionism has always been a resounding public relations triumph. (For the rest of the article, click here)

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