The Question of Palestine

by Edward W. Said

James Cornwall | Published in

This book sets out to pose the question of Palestine: it is unable to provide a satisfactory answer. This is hardly surprising given the complexities of the subject: its author is strictly partisan, pleading the 'Palestinian case' in the bitter debate over the state of Israel. Edward Said is himself an expatriate Palestinian now domiciled in the USA. He is a Professor of English at Columbia University and a member of the Palestine National Council. His complaint is that the American public, with its influential Jewish lobby, denies the claim for Palestinian independence.

In his first chapter the author blames the Balfour Declaration of November, 1917 for sponsoring 'the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People'. He omits to mention that the Declaration continued: 'it being clearly understood that nothing can be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non- Jewish communities in Palestine'. This was fair enough in theory, but in practice the two objectives proved difficult to reconcile. In 1919 the Paris Peace Conference gave Britain the Mandate to govern Palestine, then inhabited by about half a million Muslim Arabs and 65,000 Jews. Professor Said is not content with championing the rights of those 'existing' Palestinian Arabs and claims:

'The question of Palestine is... a matter with a detailed history traced in the lives of every one of the 4 million Palestinians.' The original half-million have grown to four million. This of course includes the hundreds of thousands who abandoned their homes in 1948, when UNO established lsrael as an independent State, which was immediately invaded by all the contiguous Arab countries.

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