Historian and professor Rashid Khalidi visited F&M Thursday to discuss the evolution of the Palestine question.
The auditorium was full; students, faculty, and community members alike gathered together with a wealth of diverse opinions on the matter.
Among other successes and achievements, Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and editor of The Journal for Palestinian Studies.
Lisa Gasborrone, professor of French and director of international studies at F&M, gave several reasons this talk and others about the Middle East are so important.
"The Middle East is a crossroads of people and cultures, the center of at least three world religions, and a region with a long history of conflict," Gasborrone said.
Discourse regarding the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has evolved significantly in the past several decades. While using the terms "Palestinian" and "Palestine" was for a long time considered nearly taboo, the feeling that once justified this opinion has considerably lessened.
Khalidi spoke of how the Palestine issue has been addressed in the past; he explicitly stated it has been seen through a veil of Israeli bias. The spread of Zionism in the mid-twentieth century, the American media's lack of support for the Palestinian side, and the U.S. foreign policy on Israel were the main contenders for why such bias reigned supreme for most of the twentieth century.
He argued one of the greater reasons for America's negative view towards Palestine was the book Exodus: A Novel of Israel, which sold almost as many copies as Gone With The Wind. The book was written under what Khalidi claims to be propagandizing sentiments.
During the Cold War era, America also took the side of Israel for strategic purposes. In doing so, Americans reinforced their opposition to the Soviet Union; this caused a further demonization of the Arab and Palestinian people.
After the First Intifada, Americans began to see Palestinians as something entirely different from what had been the common view for some time; they were seen as the underdogs. Given geopolitical structure of the time, mostly during the 1980s, the Americans were able to see the Palestinians in this way and, as a result, began to see the Palestinian/Israeli conflict from a wider perspective.
Unfortunately, the Second Intifada gave way to another round of anti-Palestinian response. The flooding of suicide bombers in and around the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem revived the stance against Palestinians via hasty generalization.
Despite opinions of Palestinians varying, mostly on the side of being more negative, Khalidi moved to say the situation is better than it was, especially in terms of discussion on the matter being more balanced.
In order to further improve this balanced discourse on Israel and Palestine, Khalidi said that Americans must be cautious of the media.
"Mainstream media repeats every useless myth from the past several decades," Khalidi said.
Alternative media, scholarly journals, and international news sources provide an adequate foundation for thinking critically on the Middle East conflict, Khalidi said.
"It took generations for Israel to solidify these myths, and it will take generations to destroy," Khalidi added.
In summary, Khalidi made the assertion that people are becoming less biased in addressing the conflict. However, these efforts must continue if there is to be any hope for an end to the seemingly perennial conflict.
First-year Ted Shank is a staff writer. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org .