How Settlements And Displacements Are Part Of The Gaza Conflict : Throughline The recent violence that engulfed Gaza and Jerusalem began with an issue that's plagued the region for a century now: settlements. In East Jerusalem, Palestinian residents are facing forced removal by Israeli settler organizations. It's a pattern that has repeated over the history of this conflict. Historian Rashid Khalidi guides us through the history of settlements and displacement going back to the age of European colonialism.


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RASHID KHALIDI: I have a sense of deja vu. I was in Lebanon after the Israeli war on Lebanon of 2006. And we've all watched the Gaza wars, the 2008, '09 and the 2012 and the 2014 war. So it's a familiar feeling in the pit of your stomach when you see people under aerial bombardment. I've experienced it. It's always different, but it is the same feeling.



In recent weeks, bombs fell once again. The United Nations reports that in Gaza, at least 242 Palestinians, including more than a hundred women and children, have been killed. Thousands have had their homes destroyed. According to the Israeli military, at least 12 people in Israel, including two children, have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza.


Gaza is a 25-mile-long strip of land that sits on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, with Egypt to its southwest and Israel surrounding it on every side. It's one of two areas known as the Palestinian territories. The other, the West Bank, is separated from Gaza by Israeli territory. And the nearly 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza have, for the most part, been denied free access to the outside world since 2007, when Hamas, the militant group and political party, became the governing body of Gaza. The United Nations has characterized the 14-year blockade as a denial of basic human rights, which has led to soaring poverty rates, food scarcity and water shortages.

ABDELFATAH: Late last week, a tenuous calm replace the sound of bombs when a cease-fire was reached between Israel and Hamas. But tensions remained high, especially in East Jerusalem, where the latest wave of violence began over attempts by Israeli settler organizations to forcibly remove Palestinian residents from a community called Sheikh Jarrah. Those Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah are still in danger of losing their family homes.

ARABLOUEI: When it comes to a conflict as politically charged as this one, there are a lot of complex layers to pull back and examine. We can't break all of it down in a single episode. So instead, we want to focus on the issue at the heart of what's happening in Sheikh Jarrah - settlements. How and why has the state of Israel managed to expand its territory through settlements? And what has that meant for the residents of these areas?

ABDELFATAH: We called up Rashid Khalidi, a professor at Columbia University, who's written a book all about this called...

KHALIDI: "The Hundred Years' War On Palestine: A History Of Settler Colonialism And Resistance 1917-2017."


ABDELFATAH: Rashid Khalidi is a preeminent historian who's studied, researched and written widely about this history and this conflict for decades. He's also the director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. And in the past, he was always careful to leave his own Palestinian heritage out of his work, something I have also done in my work as a journalist.

KHALIDI: Well, because that's what historians do. You try and describe the events on the basis of documents and sources and so on, and that I did - I've tried to do rigorously in most of my - all of my work.

ABDELFATAH: There was another reason, too. For a long time, Rashid says, if you were Palestinian, you had to sideline that part of yourself to be taken seriously.

KHALIDI: The Palestinians don't exist in people's imagination. They're an abstract thing. And for many people, they don't exist at all. They don't have a right to exist. They certainly don't have a right to tell their stories. And anything that we say is immediately - anything that's said in terms of the Palestinian narrative is immediately thrown into doubt.


ABDELFATAH: But in his latest book, "The Hundred Years' War On Palestine," he decided to finally include some of his personal family history.

KHALIDI: I used sources. I mean, there's pages of footnotes.

ABDELFATAH: Fifty pages of footnotes.

KHALIDI: But I also included stuff that I saw or I heard or I was told.


KHALIDI: So I guess what I was trying to do with this was to say, you know, whatever you think, here are stories of people - and I'm going to tell them from my personal experience, from documents and so on - that show not so much that the Palestinians exist but what the experience of these people was like. And I hope that that helps people to understand that these are real people, this is what happened to them, this is true. This is my personal experience. This is what my uncle wrote. This is what he did. This is what he saw. And you can, you know, say he didn't see it right. But you can't say he wasn't there and it didn't happen. So my hope is that it'll serve that purpose of anchoring a historical narrative in the lived experiences of a bunch of people - myself, people in my family and other people.


ARABLOUEI: I'm Ramtin Arablouei.

ABDELFATAH: I'm Rund Abdelfatah.

ARABLOUEI: When we come back, we'll meet Rashid's grandfather as he encounters the transformation from early settlements into a state.


DANIEL BETANCOURT: Hi. This is Daniel Betancourt from Miami, Fla., and you're listening to THROUGHLINE from NPR.


KHALIDI: I never met my grandfather. He died in 1951. I was born in 1948. My grandfather's story is something that I learned from my aunts and uncles and my parents.


ABDELFATAH: Rashid's grandfather, Hajj Raghib al-Khalidi, came of age at a time when the world was in transition. It was the early 1900s. The Ottoman Empire, which had long controlled Palestine, was crumbling. And the British Empire was there to pick up the pieces.

KHALIDI: My grandfather, he served as a judge in the Ottoman courts and then a judge in British courts.

ABDELFATAH: World War I cemented this new reality. The British became firmly in control of Palestine and all those living in it. They also divvied up the land surrounding Palestine into discrete Arab countries in a treaty with France known as Sykes-Picot. Suddenly, people living in these places were introduced to European notions of nationalism.

KHALIDI: And so by the time World War I comes around, he's writing in the pages of a local newspaper Falastin, which is called Palestine. My grandfather's writing in the pages of the paper and which was edited, as it happens, by my (laughter) wife's grandfather. And if you read the paper, it's clear that people are seeing themselves - beginning, at least, to see themselves as Palestinians and the place as Palestine. And there's a kind of patriotism attached to place which we relate to nation-state nationalism. And ironically, it's exactly the same time that people who thought of themselves as Jews and thought of that as a religious affiliation and as part of a kind of peoplehood began to think of themselves in terms of a Jewish people which should be in charge of a Jewish state.


KHALIDI: So ironically, these two nationalist projects are developing at approximately the same time as are projects for nationalism in other parts of the world.


ABDELFATAH: Britain made it clear whose nationalist project it supported in Palestine when, in 1917, the foreign secretary Arthur Balfour penned what became known as the Balfour Declaration. In just a couple of sentences, the fate of the region was reshaped.

ARABLOUEI: It reads, quote, "His Majesty's government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation - yours, Arthur James Balfour."

There is no explicit mention of the Arab population living there, which, by the way, was around 94% of the entire population at the time.

KHALIDI: In 1917, the Jewish population of Palestine was about 5% or 6% of the total population.

ARABLOUEI: Rashid says the Balfour Declaration was a response to what had been happening thousands of miles away in Europe for decades.

KHALIDI: Well, I think that the history of Palestine - I argue this at great length in the book - is deeply intertwined with the history of Europe. If it weren't for European anti-Semitism, I'm not sure you would have had Zionism.


KHALIDI: Anti-Semitism in Europe was so virulent, was so murderous. There were pogroms going on in the Russian Empire at the time. Given that reality, that lived reality of eastern and central Europe in particular, the idea that Jews could not live in Christian Europe and had to find an alternative seized many Jews. Most felt that they had to live elsewhere and went to the United States. Millions came to the United States. Thousands ended up going to Palestine.


ABDELFATAH: The Zionist Federation referred to in the declaration was the British chapter of the Zionist organization established in 1897 under a man named Theodor Herzl. Their mission was to establish a sovereign state for the Jewish people.

KHALIDI: There was virulent anti-Semitism in Vienna where Herzl worked and lived. The mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger, was a fanatic anti-Semite.

ABDELFATAH: And Herzl saw Palestine as the perfect fit for a Jewish majority state.

KHALIDI: I start the book by talking about a letter written by my great-great-uncle who wrote to Theodor Herzl and who clearly recognized that Zionism intended to establish a Jewish state in a land that was overwhelmingly Arab and saw that that was a problem. And he wrote to Herzl.

ABDELFATAH: But Rashid says Herzl didn't see this as much of a problem or the Arab population as much of a threat. Herzl wrote that a Jewish state would, quote, "form a part of a wall of defense for Europe and Asia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism."


ARABLOUEI: In the book, you describe the early Zionist kind of project as a settler colonial project.


ARABLOUEI: Why do you use that term? And can you explain a little bit, like, how that fits into that contextual moment of that time?



KHALIDI: Well, the first thing to say is that in the 19 - early 1900s, settler colonialism was in extremely good odor globally. The European countries were engaged in settler colonial projects all over the world planting their populations in Algeria and Kenya and South Africa, having successfully planted their populations in North America and Australia and New Zealand.

And Europeans saw themselves as superior to non-Europeans and saw themselves as having the right to take over non-European lands with no regard for the wishes of the people that they colonized, whether they colonized them by ruling over them, like in India, or whether they took, you know, engaged in settler colonialism and replaced the population with a new European white population or dominated the existing population with a new European white population. So colonialism, in other words, was a good thing - seen as a good thing.


KHALIDI: It is a context which early Zionists embraced. I quote at length one of the most, I think, probably, in many ways, the most important thinker in early Zionism, a man named Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

ABDELFATAH: Jabotinsky wrote in 1923, quote, "every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonized. That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of Palestine into the Land of Israel."

KHALIDI: Zionism wasn't ashamed of its nature as a settler colonial movement.


KHALIDI: That changes in World War II. You're also moving in a direction of decolonization worldwide, and so you don't want to call yourself colonial anymore.


ABDELFATAH: Were there any Zionists - because we hear this a lot nowadays - were there any Zionists saying, well, actually, we're not displacing the Indigenous population - we are the Indigenous population, and we're just reclaiming that, like, from our biblical birthright?

KHALIDI: Absolutely. You know, you go back to the movie "Exodus." This land is our land. God gave this land to us. Well, you know, nowhere else in the world is this recognized. You know, the idea of the Muslims taking back Spain would be laughable.

There were various strands of Zionism. Most of them believed, as did Herzl, that it was to be a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. The idea was not to go from being a minority in eastern Europe and become a minority in Palestine. That's not Zionism. That's just emigration, you know? The idea was to go and found a nation-state which would be a Jewish state, a Jewish majority state, a Jewish sovereign state with, most importantly, control over immigration. So you bring in as many people as you can, and you slowly drive out the existing population.

ARABLOUEI: Jabotinsky wrote, Zionist colonization can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population behind an iron wall which the native population cannot breach.

KHALIDI: I know there are different ideas how to do it. There are people in the Brit Shalom group who thought that there was some way that you could arrive at coexistence with the Arabs. They were a tiny minority. And they had no political power. The real - the politically influential groups were mainly, originally Labor Zionism and then the revisionists who become the dominant force from the '70s onwards.

The thing about Jabotinsky, the reason I focus on Jabotinsky is not just because he ended up creating what becomes the majority strain of Zionism over the past 50 or so years. It's because he was frank about it. He understood that there was no such thing as getting the Arabs to agree to their own - to being supplanted in their - in what they saw as their own country. And of course they think it's their country. Every native population will fight colonization. And we just have to overcome them with superior force.

ARABLOUEI: How would some - like, how would your grandfather - obviously I'm not saying to go speak for what was in his head and his heart but - view the kind of early Zionists? Would they have viewed them as, you know, a threat, number one, to their kind of existence in that land?

KHALIDI: Well, I think there is a changing view among Palestinians and other Arabs of Zionism as time goes on...


KHALIDI: ...As its aims to become clearer and as it becomes stronger especially after getting the support of Britain. I think that, also, you have to distinguish between the way in which how Palestinians may have looked at Zionism and the way they looked at the Jewish population of the country. Part of the Jewish population of Palestine was like the Jewish population of Syria, of Damascus, of Baghdad, of Cairo. These are age-old communities, you know, thousands of years, probably, old. Others were Ashkenazi European Jewish pilgrims and immigrants who came to study and live and die in the Holy Land.


KHALIDI: For people like my grandfather, these people were part of the population of Palestine as they saw it.


KHALIDI: Over time, the politically motivated Eastern European immigrants who start to come in the 1880s and grow in numbers and establish settlements through land purchase and through the introduction of vast amounts of capital by external bodies like Baron Rothschild or like Baron Hirsch, or later on, the Zionist Organization itself, they saw them somewhat differently because they were not ignorant of their objectives. We know this from the newspapers.

They come to see that the Zionist movement is not just Jewish refugees from persecution coming to live in Palestine. It includes a group of people whose objective is to establish a Jewish state in Palestine which will ultimately take over the country. And by the '20s and '30s, with Britain supporting the Zionist project and suppressing the Arabs, that becomes sharper and sharp.


ABDELFATAH: In 1933, the situation in Europe became even more urgent for Jewish people living there. Hitler and the Nazi Party seized power in Germany. Tens of thousands of Jews left Europe over the next few years, seeking refuge in Palestine. Many tried to go to other places around the world as well, places like the United States. But many were turned away. The Zionist movement in Palestine saw this as making state-building more crucial. More Jewish immigrants meant more people to establish a Jewish state, which made a lot of Arabs in Palestine nervous. They worried about what that would mean for them and between 1936 to 1939 staged a revolt. The British came down hard on them.

KHALIDI: And they killed, wounded, exiled or imprisoned one out of every 10 Arab males, adult males, and armed the Zionist militias to fight as their auxiliaries.


ABDELFATAH: Then in the fall of 1939, World War II began and...

KHALIDI: You had the Holocaust where Hitler tried to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe and very nearly succeeded. Obviously, that had huge reverberations globally and in Palestine. It fortified the resolve of the Zionist movement. It made European states and the United States feel deeply guilty for their direct role in this. They were responsible for the deaths of many of these millions of people who could easily have been saved had the United States and Australia and New Zealand and other countries opened their gates. So they had a deeply guilty conscience with good reason.

This has been well documented. Deborah Lipstadt and many other authors have written about this. The post-World-War-II superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, each for its own reasons, wanted to support the creation in Palestine of a Jewish state. They didn't really care about an Arab state, whereas they armed, militarily supported and voted at the U.N. for the creation of Israel.


KHALIDI: So events globally played a huge role. Obviously, the Zionist movement and later the Israelis themselves, once the state had been created, are the key protagonists. But if you don't talk about Hitler, if you don't talk about Lord Balfour and the British and the crushing of the Arab revolt and so forth, if you don't talk about the Americans and the Soviets, you're talking about a fraction of reality.


ARABLOUEI: Take us to what happened in Sheikh Jarrah because it's, you know, right now at the center of what's happening - right? - obviously the removal of people from their homes there.


ARABLOUEI: What's going on around, like, 1948 in Sheikh Jarrah?

KHALIDI: What happens in 1948 involves something that was necessary for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, which was to decrease the Arab majority and increase the Jewish minority.

ABDELFATAH: A United Nations resolution that called for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states - but Arab leaders in the region rejected the proposed Arab state believing it to be an unfair deal. The U.N. granted 55% of the country to the Jewish minority, who by 1948 owned around 6% of the land in Palestine, which meant...

KHALIDI: You have to do a lot of ethnic cleansing, and you have to do a lot of dispossession of people of their property, which is what happens in 1948. Three-quarters of a million Palestinians, approximately, are driven from their homes or flee in terror, including about 300,000 who leave even before the state of Israel is created, while Britain is nominally in control of Palestine, before the Arab armies enter what becomes the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. So the cities of Jaffa, of Haifa, the Arab neighborhoods of West Jerusalem are depopulated, their people are driven out, and the property is taken.

ABDELFATAH: Why were people fleeing and, in that moment, were they worried that their lives were going to be in danger if they stayed?

KHALIDI: They were fleeing because, (laughter) first of all, in places like Jaffa and Haifa they were under constant bombardment. They were encouraged by a few exemplary massacres, Deir Yassin, April 10, 1948 and a few others. And where people wouldn't leave, a few men would be taken out and shot, and then everybody would run.


KHALIDI: In 1948, after the Arab city of Jaffa was emptied of its population by bombardments and siege and eventually an assault and the people were driven out, my grandfather tried to stay in the house. He really didn't want to leave. His library was there. He had spent decades there. All of - most of his children had been born there. And it was only during the first truce that one of my uncles went back with - I think the Red Cross help and got him out.


KHALIDI: And that takes us to Sheikh Jarrah and takes us to 2021 in the sense that the people who were threatened with dispossession and eviction in the weeks leading up to this war that started against Gaza more recently were people who were themselves refugees from Jaffa and Haifa. They were people who had property, had lived in homes in Jaffa and Haifa which they were not allowed to return to, which they were not allowed to reclaim and which under Israeli law they had no right to, whereas Jewish settler organizations that claimed they had title to land in occupied Arab East Jerusalem were using the might of the Israeli state to dispossess them.

And so this triggers among Palestinians a memory of the trauma of 1948 of the injustice of settler groups being able to make a claim - whether legitimate or not is not the point - on property in East Jerusalem, whereas Palestinians are not allowed by Israel to make a claim to their property in West Jerusalem or anywhere else. So that's what ties the Nakba of 1948 to Sheikh Jarrah.

The Jordanian government took over this property, irrespective of title, in the 1950s after the 1948 war because Jordan ended up in control of the eastern part of the city. Israel ended up in control of the western part of Jerusalem. And some Jewish residents were driven out of East Jerusalem, and some - many, many Arab - 30,000 Arabs were driven out of Arab neighborhoods of West Jerusalem. After '67, the Jordanian authorities had to deal with all of these refugees. And so they resettled some of them by building homes for them in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. And these are homes that have been now taken over systematically. As a piece in Haaretz put it, what's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine too.


ABDELFATAH: We'll get into the 1967 era in a second. But I do want to dig into the Nakba, which translates into catastrophe. As a Palestinian, I mean, the Nakba is like - that's just - you know about the Nakba from when you first learn (laughter) how to speak. But you know, I don't know that it's as familiar to a lot of Americans. And going back to that settler colonial idea - right? - like, this is a moment when, I mean, it is just this rupture, right?


ABDELFATAH: So can you just, in basic terms, break down what this rupture does? Beyond displacing hundreds of thousands of people, like, what does it actually do in terms of the control of the land?

KHALIDI: Well, I mean in turns what was a majority-Arab country into a majority-Jewish country because most Palestinians have been driven out.


KHALIDI: There remained approximately a couple of hundred thousand people, of Palestinian Arabs who become citizens of the state of Israel and are promptly placed under martial law for the next 18 years until 1966. So there's a demographic transformation, but there's also a property transformation. The Zionist movement take over all the property of all the people whom they've driven out putting it under something called the custodian of absentee property. And that body then proceeds to distribute the land through the Israel Lands Administration and through the Keren Kayemet, the Jewish National Fund. The Jewish National Fund has in its charter a specification that land can only be sold released to Jews, that it's an inalienable property of the Jewish people.


KHALIDI: Now, most of this is, you know, our property. (Laughter) Doesn't it belong to Palestinians before that? But it has become the inalienable property of the Jewish people. And in addition to taking all the land of all the people who are expelled or driven out or who fled, you also have a process whereby these Palestinians who become citizens of the state and who are now under martial law see much of their land also sequestered, seized, placed in closed military zones, handed over to neighboring Israeli settlements, turned into national parks, forested areas, whatever, green zones. So through these two processes, most of the land of Palestine, most of which had belonged to the Palestinians, now belongs to the state of Israel and is distributed in various ways.


KHALIDI: For Israelis and for most other people who know only the Israeli narrative, 1948 represents the miraculous establishment of a Jewish state in the wake of the Holocaust. For Palestinians, it represents the destruction of their society, the loss of self - the right to self-determination and the expulsion of most of them and the expropriation of the property of most of them. That's why it's a catastrophe for Palestinians.


ARABLOUEI: And in that moment of - on one side what's a triumph, on the other side is a catastrophe, how does the world respond to this moment of - 'cause there's decolonization happening while there's a kind of creation of this state in a traditional kind of settler colonial way - how does the U.S. and other countries respond?


KHALIDI: The United States and the world community takes a number of steps, but they're essentially - how shall I put it? - they're token steps. One thing that is done is that a resolution is passed, Resolution 194, which calls on Israel to allow the return and the compensation of the people it had just driven out or was still, in fact, driving out. That resolution has obviously never been implemented. But it was voted for by the United States. For years and years and years, it was reiterated as part of resolutions about the Palestine question by the United Nations General Assembly.


KHALIDI: The United States comes to see Israel for both domestic, I think, and strategic reasons as an asset and is unwilling to do much of anything to put pressure on it.


KHALIDI: So they basically let Israel have a pass in how it deals with the Palestinians whether inside Israel or after '67 in the occupied territories.


ABDELFATAH: When we come back, we go to 1967 and the dawn of a new era of settlements.


FIONA: Hi, my name's Fiona. I'm calling from Sydney, Australia, and you're listening to THROUGHLINE from NPR.


ARABLOUEI: In the decades after 1948, the year the modern state of Israel was founded, tensions between the newly founded nation and its Arab neighbors escalated. Amid the wave of displacement of Palestinians from what became Israel, there were Jews coming in after being forced out of Arab countries. New borders were also part of the conflict. What was Palestine? What was Israel, what was Egypt? What was Syria? There was a lot of contention. By 1967. Things had become very bad. After several skirmishes, Egypt and Jordan started building up their military forces near Israel's border.

ABDELFATAH: In June 1967, the Israeli air force initiated a surprise pre-emptive attack on Egypt. In one day, Israel destroyed nearly all of Egypt's air force and sparked an all-out battle with its Arab neighbors.

ARABLOUEI: Over the next six days, Israel would achieve a historic military victory, and in the process, it would take the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria and East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan.

ABDELFATAH: Gaza and the West Bank would become known as the Palestinian territories. And after the war, Israel began regulating who and what came through the territories with a strong military presence, later called an illegal occupation by the United Nations. Israel maintains that these are, quote, "disputed territories whose status can only be determined through negotiations," according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Israel also supported its citizens as they began to move into these territories soon after 1967 to form settlements.

ARABLOUEI: We do want to acknowledge that at every juncture of this story, including today, there have always been Israeli Jews who disputed the practice of settlements to expand territory for the state.

ABDELFATAH: 1967, like 1948, is seen by Palestinians as a disaster.

KHALIDI: It's a big shock to the Palestinians for multiple reasons. For one, it leads to the expulsion and the flight of another several hundred thousand people, maybe as many as 300,000, possibly including your family.

ABDELFATAH: You know, my parents relocated soon after 1967 to Jordan, a refugee camp there. And I think that, in addition to the Nakba, to 1948, is a really important moment in this kind of settler colonialism project.

KHALIDI: Yes. It's a spur and an impetus to Palestinian nationalism. The Palestinian national movement had been in the doldrums after 1948. It gets a boost from the 1967 war, and the PLO emerges. It was established in '64, but it emerges as a major actor after the '67 war. And it marks the absorption of what was formerly British mandatory Palestine under Israeli control. What has developed since 1967 is a one-state reality, including both the area of Israel as it was at the end of the 1948 war and the territories it occupied in 1967. You can't tell when you leave Israel and go into the occupied territories today. You go in and out through roads which don't mark where the former border was. And there are Israelis living on both sides of it. There's 700,000 Israelis living in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem.


KHALIDI: On the side of Israel, you have a messianic religious impulse which is very, very limited in Israel before '67 and which has become more and more important in the decades since. It's come to animate the settler movement, the movement of colonists who are actively engaged in trying to make the entirety of the West Bank part of Israel, want to see a Greater Land of Israel.

ABDELFATAH: Why does it take on that sort of messianic bend?

KHALIDI: I mean, I have students who've worked on this, actually. It's a really interesting question. And there's some very good work that's been done on it. Someone named Rav Kook, a rabbi - a leading rabbi - sees the '67 war as a kind of mark of God's favor. Something has happened here that he and other religious figures see as a turning point in terms of the redemption of the entire land of Israel. And they become the gurus, if you want - that's importing one term from one religion into another, but anyway - of this messianic religious nationalism which comes to be - which - and which calls for establishing the Greater Land of Israel.

You know, the state of Israel up until 1967 and 78% of what had formally been mandatory Palestine, as far as many Israelis were concerned, had various problems. It was vulnerable. It had various issues. But that was Israel. And what this new movement says, no, the land of Israel includes the historic places of Hebron, historic places - and they go on, so on and so forth - going back to the Bible as a sort of a basis for claims. And that has become more and more important in Israeli politics ever since.

ARABLOUEI: You know, one clarifying question that I think is often misunderstood - when we say - when people say the word settlements, often people think of like, you know, a small village. But that's - can you just talk about what a settlement actually looks like and is?

KHALIDI: Well, I mean, the settlements that have been set up in the occupied territories since 1967 range from small what are called outposts to cities. They're small cities but their cities are not villages and they're not rural communities built with a defensive purpose built on commanding heights, built on land seized from the Palestinians or state land the Israeli occupation authorities have taken. All of them are illegal under international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention says that occupying powers have - are not allowed to export their population into territories they occupy, and Israel has been doing that since 1967 in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. But some of them have developed - I mean, Maale, Adumim, east of Jerusalem, when you drive by it, it's a big urban area - Ariel in the northern part of the West Bank. There are a couple of others that are, you know, almost as big, extraordinarily well built up.

The infrastructure that Israel has created belies the idea that Israel ever had any intention of giving the occupied territories back. They criss-cross the West Bank, the infrastructure, water systems and communication systems and military posts and installations for - essentially for the settler population only, which is now 700,000 people living in anything ranging from these small so-called outposts to these bigger cities, like, as I said, Ariel. And some of the neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are settlements originally, and they now have sort of melded into the urban fabric. But they are also settlements. They're built on occupied territory in violation of international law.

ARABLOUEI: What is the claim right now? Like, how has the claim evolved from the Israeli perspective? So, you know, I think one of the things that's for me often hard to understand, is what's the central argument for, for example, being able to take the homes in Sheikh Jarrah? Like, what is the argument that the settlers and the Israeli legal system is making?

KHALIDI: Well, in 2018, the Israeli Knesset passed the law, the Jewish nation-state law which argued that settlement - it should be a task of the state. The state should actively pursue Jewish settlement. It also states that there is only people - one people has the unique right of self-determination in Israel, which is the Jewish people. In other words, there is no Arab people, and it doesn't have a right of self-determination. And the Arabs are not entitled to national or cultural or the rights that a people would have as part of self-determination.

And given that Israel controls the entirety of the country, and as far as Israel is concerned, all of it is the Greater Land of Israel. What this essentially means is that there is a claim that - first of all, there is no such thing as occupied territories. They are disputed. And Israel's claim is superior to them. And that's the basis of the claim. This land is our land. God gave this land to us, and there's one people with the right of self-determination in Israel, period.

ABDELFATAH: You know, I think - you know, Ramtin was getting at this earlier, like, when we refer to settlements, it's like, what are we actually talking about? But then it's also - kind of another question I have around that and I think a lot of people have is, how do you actually, you know, build what are illegal settlements repeatedly in different places and actually then, you know, codify them into law? What is the mechanism for doing that? And is the U.S. in any way involved in that process?

KHALIDI: Yes. Good question. You can get away with doing this because nobody will apply international law because the United States will prevent it from doing so. The only reason that all those U.N. Security Council resolutions are never implemented is because the United States won't allow that to happen. So the impunity that Israel enjoys from international law, whether for war crimes or whether for its illegal installation of its population in occupied territories, is entirely a result of U.S. protection. The U.N. Security Council voted that settlements were illegal. But because the United States prevents implementation, will not allow implementation as it would not allow the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution on the Gaza war several times, Israel has essentially got impunity.

In addition, Israel is armed to the teeth by the United States - $3.8 billion a year, which are supposedly only to be used for defensive purposes but which are used to control and suppress the population of the occupied territories and expand the settler colonial project and are used periodically in wars like the war on Gaza for what are, for some people, manifestly not defensive purposes. The fact that the United States runs diplomatic interference for Israel, the fact that the United States arms Israel, the fact that the United States allows 501(c)(3)s to funnel tax-deductible contributions to Israel for settlement purposes, among many others, are the reasons that Israel does - is able to do what it does.


ARABLOUEI: When we come back, how the conflict in Palestine and Israel might end according to Rashid Khalidi.


LUCY FORD: Hey, guys. This is Lucy Ford (ph) up in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. And you're listening to THROUGHLINE. I always enjoy your deep dive into great topics. Thanks a lot, guys. Bye.


ARABLOUEI: So, you know, one of the things we hear right now is that what's happening right now in Palestine is essentially, like, a land dispute just like all the other land disputes in the world - right? - and that by focusing on it, it's inherently anti-Semitic. You know, people compare it to what's happening in, you know, India and Pakistan with Kashmir. What do you make of that argument?

KHALIDI: That's a wonderfully disingenuous argument.


KHALIDI: If I criticize the government of Saudi Arabia or if I criticize the government of Iran, both of which are, by the way, theocratic governments, I don't think anybody would accuse me of being Islamophobic. If I criticize Donald J. Trump's actions in terms of white Christian Nationalism, I don't think anybody would accuse me of being anti-Christian. However, if you criticize the government of the state of Israel and its actions to support the settler project in the occupied territories, for some reason, you're considered anti-Semitic.

I mean, Israel is a state like any other. It's a state uniquely supported by the United States. It's the recipient of tens and tens and tens of billions of dollars of our tax dollars. And the idea that we shouldn't be able to criticize that state because it proclaims itself as a Jewish state involves a unique kind of immunity from any kind of criticism. So we're supposed to give this money and not have any voice over how it's used? We're supposed to run diplomatic interference for war crimes or whatever else that may be going on? And we're not allowed to say anything. And if we open our mouths, we're anti-Semites? I mean, it's to accept an idea that anything Israel does represents the entire Jewish people.

And now, I have hundreds of Jewish students and colleagues who don't feel represented by the state of Israel. If I say something critical of the policies of the state of Israel, am I attacking my friends and colleagues and neighbors and students? That's absurd.


KHALIDI: I think, frankly - how shall I put this? - it's a mark of desperation. If you can't defend these policies and actions of this state on their merits, and if you can't answer the arguments that would defend Palestinian rights or criticize Israeli actions on their merits and you have to resort to this kind of smearing ad hominem slander, well, then you pretty - your arguments are pretty weak. And you've got a problem.


KHALIDI: But, you know, there is such a thing as anti-Semitism among some supporters of Palestine, and it's perfectly legitimate to call that out. But to say that anybody who supports Palestinian rights or criticizes Israel, including American or Israeli Jews, is an anti-Semite, that's absurd. That's grotesque. And that is to demean and devalue the real problem of anti-Semitism


ABDELFATAH: It's easy to see the violence that grips Israel and Palestine every few years as a kind of deja vu, like Rashid said at the top - a cycle without end. Which is why it can feel like the question - when will this end? - has no answer. So I'm going to ask you the impossible question, I guess, but - where do you see this conflict ending if you think there is an ending in sight? And do you think the U.S. will play any role in that?

KHALIDI: Well, I think things is in the United States are changing. They could change back, of course. But I think they're changing in the right direction. I think there's a growing recognition that everybody deserves the same rights, and that some of these abuses are rooted in things that Americans should be able to recognize from our own settler colonial history, from our own abusive part of our population and deprivation of its rights, whether through slavery or through the post-Reconstruction imposition of Jim Crow or through segregation. It's not the same thing. Jim Crow is not Israel, but there are some similarities. And, you know, equal rights for all people should be the basis and I think can be the basis for a solution - equal national rights, equal political, civil, religious and other rights.

I don't think we're anywhere near that, but I think that as in when people understand that that is a possible thing - and they don't now, and I don't really blame them, partly because the Palestinians aren't articulating clearly how that can work. But as soon as they can, and once people recognize that that should be the basis for a solution, whether it's a one-state solution or a two-state solution or a binational - it doesn't really matter. Then I think you will see that the solution could be possible. And I think the United States is part of the problem, a major part of the problem in some respects, the major part of the problem.

And I think that as the United States ceases to be as big a part of the problem, it can begin to be what it has never been as far as Palestine is concerned, which is part of the solution. And I think that involves taking principles that we accept that all men and women are created equal and have certain inalienable rights and applying it to Palestine and to Israel, that if Israelis have a right to sovereignty, so do Palestinians - not limited sovereignty, not sovereignty where the Israelis decide who's on the population register, who can enter, who can leave.

That's what Israel has offered as a, quote-unquote, "state." No - equal rights, or equal rights within one state. It doesn't really matter. If Israelis are entitled to certain properties, so are Palestinians. If Israelis are entitled to worship in certain ways in certain places, so are Palestinians, and so on and so forth. I mean, if Israelis would hope and expect that nobody comes into their synagogues firing tear gas grenades and shock - stun grenades, then the Palestinians should be able to expect that on Ramadan nights, they can worship in the al-Aqsa Mosque and not have that happen to them. That's not the case in Palestine today. People do not have equal rights. You don't have the right to enter or leave Gaza if you're a Gazan.

What Israelis would expect to have as sort of rights has to also be extended to Palestinians in any solution, and I don't think that's entirely impossible. I mean, in places like Ireland, in places like South Africa, which have much longer histories of separate colonialism, a modus vivendi has been reached in the case of South Africa. Reconciliation has begun. And hopefully, Palestine can move not in the same direction but in a parallel direction, with the idea that everybody has the right to protection and security, not just the security state of Israel, which is a mantra that politicians will never cease to utter.

I'd love it if they would start saying Israel has a right to defend itself. The Palestinians have a right to defend themselves. I think that those are not principles that are alien to American political culture, and when and if they are the basis of an approach by the United States, I think the United States going from being one of the main obstacles to a resolution to being a party that can actually help resolve this.

ABDELFATAH: I want to give you the chance - we always like to ask is - if there's anything that you wanted to add before we let you go.

KHALIDI: No, only - I hope that in spite of all the bitterness, that I think that the events of the last few weeks of have created, people realize that the status quo before was pretty awful before Sheikh Jarrah, before what happened in the al-Aqsa Mosque, before the rockets and the bombs. That was an untenable, unsustainable status quo. A lot of people were living in a dreamland, thinking, oh, everything's fine. Status quo is sustainable. The Arabs don't care about Palestine. The Palestinians are quiescent. We can continue to step all over them or let someone else step all over them with our money and our guns. That wasn't ever true. And however difficult it is to envisage a different future, we have to move on from where we are today. The status quo is just not sustainable, not tenable.

And there are a lot of parties invested in the status quo that are benefiting from it, among them not just Prime Minister Netanyahu or, in my view, Hamas or, in my view, the Palestinian Authority and many Arab governments. A lot of politicians in the United States are perfectly happy to leave things where they are. Well, they can't be left where they are. And I hope that - bitter and sad though what has happened has been and costly in terms of lives and property and psychological damage - I mean, children - I can only imagine what Palestinian children and also Israeli children, Palestinian children under occupation or in Gaza, Israeli children who are in shelters, I can only imagine the effect of this on them over time.

So there's all kinds of costs to this. You know, going back and doing what Israel describes as mowing the grass every seven or eight years in Gaza, that's not the way to deal with this. It's not the way to deal with this. Continuing the occupation, continuing to take people's land away is not the way to deal with this. I don't think firing rockets, frankly, is the way to deal with this either. But I think we need a little help in getting out of it. And I hope that people who might have been shaken a little bit by what's happened the past few weeks, tragic though it is, to start to envisage different ways of getting out of it.

ABDELFATAH: That was historian Rashid Khalidi. His book, "The Hundred Years' War On Palestine," is dedicated to his three grandchildren, all born in the 21st century, who he hopes, quote, "will see the end of this hundred years' war."


ARABLOUEI: That's it for this week's show. I'm Ramtin Arablouei.

ABDELFATAH: I'm Rund Abdelfatah. And you've been listening to THROUGHLINE from NPR.

ARABLOUEI: This episode was produced by me...

ABDELFATAH: ...And me and...








ABDELFATAH: Fact-checking for this episode was done by Kevin Volkl.

ARABLOUEI: Thanks also to Anya Grundmann, Gerry Holmes and Larry Kaplow.

ABDELFATAH: Our music was composed by Ramtin and his band, Drop Electric, which includes...

NAVID MARVI: Navid Marvi.

SHO FUJIWARA: Sho Fujiwara.

ANYA MIZANI: Anya Mizani.

ARABLOUEI: We cover complicated topics on all of our episodes and continue exploring histories through varied voices and sources. If you're looking for more resources on the history of settlements, please head to

ABDELFATAH: If you have an idea or like something you heard on the show, please write us at, or find us on Twitter - @throughlinenpr. Thanks for listening.


ABDELFATAH: Why do you sound so tired today?

ARABLOUEI: I was staying up late last night writing music for our episode.

ABDELFATAH: Oh, you know what would help?

ARABLOUEI: It's Brewline. I know. They get it. We've been here before.

ABDELFATAH: I was going to say a good night's sleep.

ARABLOUEI: Oh, my bad. I thought you were just going to start going on about Brewline...

ABDELFATAH: Brewline coffee - so good, Ramtin can't stop talking about it.

ARABLOUEI: Grab a bag at so I don't have to go through this anymore.

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