Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness

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Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness

By Rashid Khalidi
Columbia University Press, 1997
304 pp. $29.50
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Like many scholars these days, Khalidi rejects any notion of a fixed, unchanging Palestinian identity, arguing that all identities are "constructed," woven from multiple "narratives." In the late nineteenth century, most of those who lived in Palestine were simultaneously aware of themselves as Ottomans, Arabs, Muslims, or Christians, members of different extended families, and so forth. But already a sense of "Palestinianness" can be detected, and not only at the level of the elite. Indeed, Khalidi argues that the elite sometimes became aware of the specificity of Palestinian identity as poor peasants were forced from their land by arriving Zionist colonizers and became radicalized. Khalidi does not accept the view that Palestinian nationalism was merely a response to Zionism, but he does appreciate the importance of the intense struggle between them, which has made it particularly difficult to see Palestinian identity as distinct. The study is best in its analysis of the years leading up to the 1930s. It is a major contribution to historical understanding of Palestinian nationalism.