C-SPAN Airs Rashid Khalidi’s Anti-Israel, Revisionist History Narrative


“Now, if you are arguing that the Bible gives you [the Jews] a right to the land, I would say no, absolutely not, anymore than it gives Muslims the right to certain places or the New Testament gives Christians the right to certain places. And the other issue is this: if a people have established itself as a national movement – as what happened in the case of Israel – this has nothing to do with their ancient claims. That's what every national movement does – it fabricates [concocts] a history going back.”

These words epitomized Professor Rashid Khalidi’s narrative dismissing the idea that Israel’s claim to the land is  legitimized by the history of the Jews and Israel. And, in effect, he downgraded the significance of this history to that of the largely fabricated Palestinian history. Nevertheless, Israel's ancestral claim is unique and legitimate; it's one that is based on the Bible, history and international law — and supported by archeological and biological (DNA) evidence.

Khalidi's declaration occurred (listen here)  in response to a question from the audience at the end of the C-SPAN broadcast (most recently repeated on March 8) promoting his newest work, “The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017.”

Ironically, this title’s misleading wording is indicative of Khalidi’s own war – his decades-long war against Israel and against history. 1917 is the year that Britain issued the Balfour Declaration announcing support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in the region known as "Palestine" (containing both Jewish and Arab communities) then controlled by the Turkish Ottoman empire. Subsequently, the League of Nations Mandate (1921-22) incorporated the Balfour Declaration.

There was no “history of settler colonialism and resistance.” There was no “war on Palestine” until the armies of several Arab nations started a war in 1948 intending to annihilate the new Jewish state of Israel.

Khalidi uttered what amounts to as either a sarcasm or a gaffe: “[Does the Bible] gives you [the Jews] a right to the land? ... not anymore than it gives Muslims the right to certain places ...” [the last entry in the Bible was made many centuries before the advent of Islam.]

Moreover, his Palestinians (and other Muslims) do, in fact, claim an exclusive right by virtue of their religion to “certain places.” The most prominent example is Jerusalem’s Temple Mount (Hebrew: Har HaBáyit, "Mount of the House [of God]"). It's known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). It is the holiest site in Judaism, location of the great Jewish Temples.

When Israel liberated holy Jewish sites including the Temple Mount in 1967, it made a magnanimous concession that is likely unprecedented in world history. It allowed its most holy site to be left in the hands of a competing religion, Islam, and waived the rights of Jews to pray there, allowing them only to visit the Temple Mount.

Khalidi's background

A long-time advocate for the Palestinian cause, he was born in 1948 in New York City, where his father, Ismail, a Saudi citizen of Palestinian Muslim origin born in Jerusalem, worked for the United Nations. Rashid had close ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during the period (ending in 1991) in which the PLO had been considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist organization. He is currently Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, and Director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs.

CAMERA has monitored Khalidi’s propagandistic activity for several years (documented online since 2002), including inaccurate claims in 2020 and anti-Israel distortions in 2017.

Khalidi denied, in effect, the continuity of the Jewish national identity. In fact, this is a 3500 year continuity. Jews have always yearned for Israel, as is written in many places, such as the Bible and medieval Jewish poetry. There has always been a connection between ancient Jews and today’s Jews and to the land of Israel. For example, Jews from all over the ancient world would make pilgrimages to the Temple three times a year to participate in worship and festivities, as commanded in the Bible. Jewish wedding ceremonies conclude with the chanting of the biblical phrase, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning," and the breaking of a glass by the groom to commemorate the destruction of the Temples. And Yom Kippur services and the Passover Seder conclude each year with the phrase "Next Year in Jerusalem."

Khalidi said,

This was not just a war waged by the Zionist movement and by the state of Israel. It's a war waged by Great Britain. A war waged in 1947-48 by the USSR and the United States with the connivance of Britain and France in the 1950s and 60s...this was a war that at different times was supported, endorsed and sometimes waged by these powers together with Israel and with the Zionist movement against the Palestinian people... against the indigenous population...Palestine constitutes a unique case of settler colonialism...

Israel is a nuclear superpower. Israel has bombed seven capitals. Israel is a country that scares its neighbors to death. The Israelis suffer from terrorism. But their neighbors suffer 18 to 20 times as much. Look at the casualties in Gaza – 2000 people in 2014...

Those are settlers, operating against an indigenous population. It's no different than what happened here [America in prior centuries] when an indigenous population was brutalized, expelled or exterminated. Or in any other settler colony that was successful...

[The idea that] Israel was in danger of extinction [in previous decades] actually wasn't true.

Khalidi misleads

Khalidi claims, “This was not just a war waged by the Zionist movement and by the state of Israel. It's a war waged by Great Britain. A war waged in 1947-48 by the USSR and the United States with the connivance of Britain and France in the 1950s and 60s...”

In this glaring misrepresentation, he distorts the circumstances of the 1948 attack on the new Jewish state and likewise, the circumstances of subsequent wars:

• The 1947 U.N. Resolution 181 called for partition of the land of the British Mandate for Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. While the Jews accepted the resolution and declared the state of Israel, the Arabs rejected it and promised to go to war to destroy Israel. Israel declared its independence at midnight on May 14, 1948. The next day five Arab armies (the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon) along with local Arab militias launched an all out war against the new state.

The 650,000 Palestinian Jews were outnumbered almost 2:1 by 1.2 million Arabs in Palestine/Israel and the Jewish army was greatly outnumbered by the invading armies it faced alone. But the new Jewish state survived against all odds.

• The Suez war of 1956 on the part of Israel was in coordination with a British and French assault to regain control of the Suez Canal from Egypt. Israel invaded the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula to stop large-scale Egyptian-backed terrorism.

• The Six-Day War of 1967 was caused by Egypt’s imposition of a complete naval blockade upon Israel, Egypt’s ordering the U.N. peacekeepers out of the Sinai and positioning of a large military force there. There had been virulent rhetoric issuing from Egypt’s President Nasser. He said on May 27, 1967, “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel.” This had been accompanied by an alarming rising frequency of Arab terrorist attacks.

• The 1973 Yom Kippur War was a fight by Israel for its survival after surprise attacks on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar by Egypt and Syria. Israel prevailed despite the Soviet Union’s massive resupply to Egypt and Syria.

He falsely refers to the “Zionist movement against the Palestinian people... against the indigenous population.” The problem here is that the Jews are the genuine “indigenous population” not the Palestinian Arabs. The Jews were in Israel thousands of years before the first Arab community took root in the land following the conquests by Islamic armies from the Arabian Peninsula (today’s Saudi Arabia and Yemen). Jewish communities have lived continuously in the land for thousands of years. And it was not the Zionist movement that was against the Palestinian people, it was the reverse as history shows.

The other original inhabitants of the area in addition to the Jews – the Canaanites and Philistines – have long ago disappeared from history – and the Palestinians do not descend from either of these two peoples despite completely unsupportable claims to the contrary by various propagandists.

“It's no different than what happened here,” claims Khalidi, drawing a false parallel between the Palestinians and the native Americans (Indians) in another propagandistic trick inconsistent with legitimate history.

Khalidi declares, “Israel has bombed seven capitals… [and] scares its neighbors to death. The Israelis suffer from terrorism. But their neighbors suffer 18 to 20 times as much. Look at the casualties in Gaza – 2000 people in 2014...”

Here, falsely portraying Israel, Khalidi cites 2014 casualties implying that Israel wantonly attacks populations. But Khalidi is not someone to be bothered by the facts. While there were inevitably collateral casualties as Israel responded to numerous rocket attacks upon Israeli civilian communities and terrorist intrusions from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, Israel, unlike Hamas, did not target civilians. As an indication of this, a study by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center shows that more than half of those killed in the 2014 conflict, for whom sufficient information existed to categorize their status, were identifiable as members of terrorist organizations or participants in the hostilities. To avoid the accusation of partisanship, the Center’s report exhaustively catalogs each individual, showing the evidence of their participation in the hostilities and affiliation with terrorist groups.

As to inflicting casualties during wartime, Israeli tactics and actions have not changed since General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2014, refuting false war crimes charges against Israel, commended the Jewish state. Likewise, Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, refuted false war crimes charges against Israel. And in 2020 he still describes Israel’s army as one of the most moral armies in the world.

The bombing-of-capitals charge could refer to such events as the bombing of military targets in Cairo in the wake of the May 15, 1948, heavy bombing by Arab planes of the major Jewish city of Tel Aviv. And in 1970, Israel reportedly bombed military targets near Cairo. Israel destroyed Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi nuclear weapons factory in 1981 and a nuclear weapons facility in Syria in 2007. In Beirut and elsewhere in the area, Israel has bombed Hezbollah bases following Hezbollah rocket attacks across northern Israel.

Khalidi mentions “Israel is a nuclear superpower” in the same breath as the bombing-of-capitals charge which could lead some to infer erroneously that Israel has used (or threatened to use) nuclear weapons in such events or is likely to do so in the future. But Israel’s purported nuclear weapons role for deterrence in the volatile Middle East is analogous to the role of America’s nuclear weapons role in keeping the Cold War with the Soviet Union from turning hot. Israel has never threatened  and does not now threaten other countries with destruction.

Khalidi complains about “settler colonialism” by which he apparently means Jews from other countries arriving to reside on Arab land in today’s Israel and/or the West Bank (part of ancient Israel). Here’s the reality: Jews have lived in the land for thousands of years. Following the Second World War, there occurred an influx of Jews escaping persecution in European and Arab countries. Thus, they were not acting as colonial settlers for those countries.

Regarding the West Bank, Israel took control of the territory as a result of successful self-defense in the 1967 Six-Day War. The territory is not sovereign territory of any country, but rather land disputed by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It was occupied illegally by Jordan from 1948 until 1967, when Israel took control.  Israel remains the legal, obligatory military occupational authority in the West Bank pending conclusion of a negotiated agreement on the territories’ final status. Furthermore, the West Bank Palestinians are self-governing with Israeli personnel only entering Palestinian communities to pursue terrorists. Meanwhile, Jewish villages and towns built in the West Bank since 1967 are no more deserving of condemnation than are Arab villages built since then in previously existing Arab villages and towns.

A Classic Khalidism

The 1917 Balfour Declaration’s establishment of a national home for the Jewish people provided the area labeled “British Mandate of Palestine” together with the area labeled “Transjordan.”

In February 2005, in order to portray Israel as a victimizer, Khalidi fudged history when he wrote in the London Review of Books, “Having accepted that 78 per cent of Mandate Palestine is irrevocably part of Israel, no Palestinian leader could win majority support for agreeing to cede any of the remaining 22 per cent.”

However, Mandate Palestine originally included not only today’s Israel and the Palestinian areas, but also what is now Jordan. The intention of the British government, according to the Balfour Declaration, was to establish a national home for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland. The specified area approximated the land boundaries of ancient Israel as delineated in the Bible and historical accounts.

But in 1921, in order to assuage Arab resentment, Britain drastically reduced Mandate Palestine, cutting off a large eastern area, thereby creating a new state carved out of 78 percent of the Mandate. This new state was known as Transjordan, later to be renamed Jordan. Thus, it is the nation of Jordan – not Israel – that comprises 78 per cent of the land of Mandate Palestine. And Israel today comprises less than 22 percent of the Mandate designated land.

The “public affairs” network

CAMERA’s unique decades-long coverage of C-SPAN has revealed a dark side of the “public affairs” network subjecting potentially millions  of viewers routinely to “public event” anti-Israel indoctrination without the network even bothering to issue a standard broadcast disclaimer such as: “Points of view expressed in this program are not necessarily those of this network.”

The Khalidi broadcast is such a public event.

Therefore,  C-SPAN viewers  seeking  accurate information about the Middle East should be wary of the network’s coverage.