The larger conceptual framework into which The Iron Cage must be fitted is a history of two contending nationalisms that have not yet reached an acceptable accommodation. Zionism resulted in Israel, but the Palestinian struggle for statehood got off to a shakier start and remains unfinished. These two unequal contenders, moreover, have always been caught up in regional and international politics. Khalidi concentrates on the Palestinian side of this complex sui generis case. His image of the "iron cage" is meant to demonstrate how the Palestinians faced and still face unusually imposing obstacles -- an argument that can hardly be denied. Yet Khalidi's book is no exercise in victimology. He is tough on the British, the Israelis, and the Americans, but he is scarcely less hard-hitting in appraising the Palestinians, including such leaders as Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, and Yasir Arafat. The final chapter provides an excellent critique of the Palestine Liberation Organization's labored moves toward the recognition of Israel and of the idea, increasingly bruited, that a two-state solution is no longer feasible.
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