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Ta-Nehisi Coates and Rashid Khalidi on Israeli Occupation, Apartheid & the 100-Year War on Palestine

StoryNovember 24, 2023
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In this special broadcast, we air excerpts from a recent event organized by the Palestine Festival of Literature at the Union Theological Seminary here in New York. The event featured a discussion between the acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi. Coates won the National Book Award for his book Between the World and Me. Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia. His books include The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine. Their conversation was moderated by civil rights attorney Michelle Alexander.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. In this special broadcast, we’re airing excerpts of a recent event organized by the Palestine Festival of Literature at the Union Theological Seminary here in New York. It featured a discussion between the acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi. Coates won the National Book Award for his book Between the World and Me. His other books, We Were Eight Years in Power, The Beautiful Struggle and the novel The Water Dancer. Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University. His books include The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine. Their conversation was moderated by the civil rights attorney and author Michelle Alexander, who asked about personal connections to Palestine. This is professor Rashid Khalidi.

RASHID KHALIDI: I’m honored to be here, and I’m extremely pleased that it was possible to put this together. This is the second Palestine Festival of Literature event that has been canceled and canceled again, and the heroic organizers managed to pull it together. They did the same thing in London, where I was supposed to speak last Friday. And it was canceled and canceled again in London. They sent the anti-terrorism police to the Royal Geographic Society and told them they could not hold the event, but they held it anyway.

My connection to Palestine is obviously a personal one. My family is from there. I have family there now. My niece’s family is actually in Gaza. They live in Nu’man, which is a neighborhood of Gaza right near the sea, or not far from the sea. They fled from their home under bombardment to the southern part of Gaza. They were being bombarded there. And so they went back to the shelter of their home. And then, just two days — just yesterday, because they were warned that the neighborhood would be bombed, they moved to the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, which is, like all hospitals in Gaza, threatened by the Israeli military with being bombed. So that’s part of my connection. And I have family in other places there.

I was there last in March, and it was obvious that the situation was on the point of exploding. One has to be there to see exactly how awful occupation and dispossession and decades of living as people have had to live, whether in refugee camps or in other parts of occupied Palestine, whether they’re Palestinian citizens living as fifth-class citizens in Israel, whether they’re in the Gaza Strip, whether they’re in the West Bank, whether they’re in Jerusalem. I should say that my wish is that every single one of you has a chance to go there. People who have been there have found it a transformative experience. You actually cannot believe what settler colonialism is like, you cannot believe that in the 21st century this is being done to an entire people, unless you see it. You can read about it, you can understand it theoretically, but you have to see it. And I urge those of you who have the opportunity to please try and go there.

TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah, I want to pick up on wherever she left off. I went with PalFest. Yasmin, Omar and all the organizers of PalFest hosted me. And I was there for five days in the Occupied Territories, in Jerusalem, and then I stayed another five days after that.

And I had this degree of anxiety about going, because I knew I was going to see something, something I couldn’t quite name. And I knew, because of my upbringing, because of my mother, because of my father, because of my wife, because my son, because of my community, that after I saw the thing, I would have to come back and talk about it, that there was no option in which I did not talk about it.

And I thought I was going to another country, but, in fact, what amazed me was I actually felt that I was in the same country, but I was in a different time. I was in the time of my parents and my grandparents.

I can think back to all of the articles I’ve read, all the things I’ve seen said about how complicated and how complex the situation is and the occupation is. It’s complex, it’s complicated. And it’s made to sound as though you need a degree in Middle Eastern studies or some such, a Ph.D., to really understand what’s happening. But I understood the first day.

We went to East Jerusalem to try to visit in the way that Muslims visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque. And I can remember being there, and there were four IDF guards, biggest guns I’d ever seen in my life. And they checked our IDs, and they gave us our IDs back. And then they did nothing. They just made us wait. And we waited. And we waited. And we waited. There was no list. There was no protocol. There was no anything. They were just making us wait because they could. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I was like, “I know what this is. I know exactly what this is.”

The second day, we went to Hebron. And I can remember walking down streets with a Palestinian guide. And we would get to certain streets, and he would say, “I can’t walk down this street with you. You can walk. I cannot, because I’m Palestinian.” And I thought, “I know what that is.”

As we drove through the Occupied Territories and I would look out and I would see roads that Palestinians could use and roads that only Israeli Jews could use, I said, “I know what this is.” As I saw different colored license plates for different classes of people, I said, “I know what this is.” As I saw communities that I can only describe as segregated, I said, “This is Chicago. It’s Baltimore. It’s Philadelphia.”

And I don’t mean to center the whole world on America. We have a tendency to do that. But my lens is my lens. This is all I have. And what I felt was a tremendous weight. I felt the obvious thing that I think all of us feel, that our tax dollars are effectively subsidizing apartheid, are subsidizing a segregationist order, a Jim Crow regime. But I also felt that, as an African American who was reared on the fight against Jim Crow, against white supremacy, against apartheid, I felt tremendous shame. How could I not know? How could I not know that the only democracy in the Middle East, as it bills itself, is segregated? How did I know that?

And what I came to, Michelle, was that Israel is a democracy, the only democracy in the Middle East, in the exact same way that America is the oldest democracy in the world. So, the relationship was quite clear. It was quite clear. It was palpable. It was felt. And the responsibility was clear after that.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Yeah. So, let’s take a step back and talk a little bit about the history. Both of you have written a lot about the importance of understanding history in order to engage meaningfully with our present. Both of you have talked about history as ongoing processes rather than as complete, finished and in the past. And you’ve written that there was no isolated event, the Nakba that began and ended in 1948, but rather a hundred years’ war on Palestine. And so I’m wondering if you could share with us what you think people need to know, need to understand about the history of Palestine in order to act in meaningful and courageous ways now. And also, what do they need to know about the history of Palestinian resistance, since it is so often portrayed in the media in such an ahistorical fashion, as though Palestinian resistance is driven by hate rather than by a natural, unquenchable yearning to be free? And so, share with us what we need to know, in your view.

RASHID KHALIDI: Thanks, Michelle. What we need to know, all of us, is more about the history. What we need to know is, I think, summed up in the title of the book that you just mentioned. This is part of a hundred years’ war on Palestine. It’s not a war in Palestine. It’s a war to implant a settler colonial presence at the expense of an Indigenous people, which is being pushed out slowly but surely. And when we say the Nakba, the disaster, we start by talking about what happened in 1948, but that’s part of a much longer process.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Can you explain what happened in 1948?

RASHID KHALIDI: I will. In 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes, starting months before the state of Israel was created, including 70,000 people in Jaffa, 70,000 in Haifa — two of the largest Arab cities in Palestine — 30,000 people in Jerusalem, all of this before Israel was even created. And then, once Israel was created, once the war between Israel and the Arab states started, hundreds of thousands of more were driven out.

That was not a result of war. That was part of a settler colonial process which dictates that you must eliminate, reduce, push out the Indigenous population in order to replace it with settlers. That is what Israel is. Israel is a national fact, but it is also a settler colonial fact. It is a fact very similar to the facts that were created in Ireland by settlers sent over by England to push the Indigenous population to the west of Ireland, settlers brought to this country to push the Indigenous population west and out of the land that white colonists wanted to settle. It’s different, but it’s exactly — it’s different in its specifics, but it’s exactly the same process.

And the war is not one between equals. It is a war between a Indigenous population and a externally supported powerful movement rooted always in Western Europe and the United States. This is the metropole for that project. This is where that project gets its money, its guns, its vetoes in the Security Council. Without that, we wouldn’t be where we are, without the Balfour Declaration, without the British, without the British and the French, without the United States.

And I think it’s really, really important to understand all of these facts, that it is a — this has been a process which is driven by a demographic imperative, to create a Jewish majority in a country which until 1948 had an overwhelming Arab majority, to create a Jewish state, which was the objective of Zionism. In an overwhelmingly Arab land, you had to reduce the Arab population. And in order to do that, you had ultimately to use force. That’s what the Nakba starts with: force. Hundreds of thousands more are pushed out after the 1967 War. And in the interim, there’s constant pressure on Palestinians to leave. Permits are revoked, residencies are revoked, you’re not allowed to enter, you’re not allowed to retain this citizenship or to live here — all of it designed to squeeze the population either out of the country or into smaller and smaller spaces. You can call them Area A, Area B, Area C. You can call them Bantustans. You can call them Native American reservations. It’s the same thing. It’s the same process. It’s the same logic. It’s the same racism.

And I guess the last thing I’d say about the history is that in this unequal struggle, which involves unremitting violence, one of the first leaders of the Zionist movement, a man named Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the spiritual father of every government since Yitzhak Shamir’s government, he said — he said it: We need an iron wall, we need force, or we cannot do this. Every Native population resists its dispossession. That’s not me. That’s Jabotinsky. And he said it again and again and again. And that is what has produced Palestinian resistance, unremitting violence. You cannot have dispossession, you cannot have people’s homes and property taken away, without the use of violence. You cannot force 750,000 people from their homes without violence. And that is what the Palestinians have suffered in this war.

And they have resisted. Sometimes they’ve been successful. Sometimes they’ve been unsuccessful. Sometimes that resistance was political or nonviolent. Quite frequently it was violent. Violence inevitably breeds violence. And every time the Palestinians have tried to resist nonviolently, the response was almost even — almost more ferocious than violent resistance. Why? Because if Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or action before the International Criminal Court or the Great March of Return in Gaza a couple of years ago, when Israeli snipers shot down hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of unarmed demonstrators — if those things can succeed, then Israel is naked, in a way that it’s not when the resistance is violent. So, when you ask, “Why do you have violent resistance?” you have violent resistance both because in order to impose this settler colonial reality on this people, unremitting, unceasing violence has been applied to them, and because, finally, people can only take so much. People can only take so much.

And so, I think that in order to understand this and in order to advocate effectively for this cause, it’s really necessary for us to understand all of these things, to understand the legal aspects, the kind of things that Noura Erakat has written about, to understand details about the politics, the kinds of things that many other people have written about, and to understand the history. This has been portrayed by a movement that is political, that is national — I’m talking about Zionism — that is economic, that is military, but is also a public relations project. It has sold a picture — what you were talking about, Ta-Nehisi — which people have swallowed with their mother’s milk. And it is necessary to deconstruct that, and the only way to do that is to know better than they do the reality of what has been happening in Palestine for more than a hundred years.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: But, Ta-Nehisi, can you — well, you can respond to that. But also, I’m especially interested in your thoughts about the history of Black solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and kind of the extent to which you think it’s vital for Black people to be in solidarity with Palestine and the struggle to free Palestine today.

TA-NEHISI COATES: Yeah. Well, I’ll say a couple things. I think it’s really important to acknowledge something. And that is that, you know, I’m a relative latecomer to this. It’s not something that I had a real knowledge of. I had an intuition for it. I had an awareness of the tradition. But it really was not until I went there that I had a tactile feeling for it.

One of the things I will probably be making amends for until the day they put me in the ground, if I’m honest, is in one of my most celebrated works of journalism, when I had to demonstrate tangibly how a reparations program could be done. I looked to Israel. And, you know, like, I think about that. And one of my golden rules about writing is that, you know, you only write after you’ve reported, you only write after. And I wrote without going. I wrote without going. And so, while there is this long tradition of solidarity, for me, personally, there’s a thing of making amends. And it is terribly, ferociously important to me. I think about that.

And I think about how gracious people were when I was over there. I think about how they took me into their homes. I think about how they fed me. And I think about how their only request was: When you go back, don’t lose your voice. That was all they asked. That was all they asked. And so, for me, I am obviously aware of the tradition. But this is like personal. You know what I mean? Like, I have some debts to pay, you know? And I think, like, it’s really, really important to me that I be clear about that.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll return to this conversation between the acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi in a minute. They were speaking at a November 1st event organized by the Palestine Festival of Literature at Union Theological Seminary here in New York, the discussion moderated by the civil rights attorney and author Michelle Alexander. Back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. As we continue to look at Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, we return to a recent conversation between the acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi. They spoke at a November 1st event organized by the Palestine Festival of Literature at Union Theological Seminary here in New York, the discussion moderated by the civil rights attorney and author Michelle Alexander.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: I feel like I came late to my awareness, as well. I had heard things, including one time from a friend, a good friend, who is not prone to hyperbole, who went to Palestine, returned and said, “You know, I was active in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and had been to South Africa many times.” He says, “But what I saw in Israel and Palestine was worse than what I had seen there.” And I remember filing that fact away somewhere, what he said, but imagined that the work that I was doing at home was what was most deserving of my attention.

And it wasn’t until the Ferguson uprisings, when I began to hear that activists on the street who were facing tear gas and tanks, they were getting advice from Palestinians halfway across the globe, tweeting to them about how to deal with militaristic occupation and attacks. And following the experience that those activists had in Ferguson, many of them went to Palestine and came back with stories and deep knowledge of the history. And as I began to learn more, I also came to learn that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was staunchly in support of the Palestinian cause, that Muhammad Ali had identified himself as strongly in support of the Palestinian cause, that there was a long tradition of, you know, Black activists standing in solidarity with Palestinians.

And I have to give a shoutout to my sister’s new book. She’s a historian. She just published a book called Fear of a Black Republic. It’s about Haiti and the rise and the birth of Black internationalism in the United States. But it is that long history of Black people understanding that their struggle for liberation crosses boundaries, and that solidarity is necessary across those boundaries, I think, is calling to us now. And the fact that Palestinians were supporting folks in the street of Ferguson, and who also, I have heard, were showing their support for people in Flint, Michigan, giving advice about how to survive when your water is shut off, and so it’s encouraging to me to hear about that kind of international solidarity in this time.

But let’s turn to some political realities in the United States right now. The United States’ support, as we all know, for Israel has been absolutely unwavering for decades, even among supposedly progressive politicians and elected officials. Marc Lamont Hill and Mitchell Plitnick have written an excellent book called Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics. And I’d love to hear from both of you a little bit about these political realities in the United States right now. We are witnessing in real time exactly how unshakable support is for Israel, as the Biden administration refuses to draw any lines in the sand or place any limitations at all on the billions of dollars of aid that we send to Israel every year, even as it commits horrific war crimes broadcast around the globe. Why is our government not only tolerating this, but sending billions more dollars to Israel?

And before you answer, I want to note that I think a clue can be found in a speech that a young U.S. senator named Joe Biden delivered on the Senate floor in June 1986. It’s available on YouTube. He said defiantly, quote, “If we look at the Middle East, I think it’s about time we stop apologizing for our support for Israel. There is no apology to be made. None. It is the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect our interests in the region. The United States would have to go out and invent an Israel,” end-quote. So, what was Biden saying exactly? What do we need to understand about U.S. support for Israel?

RASHID KHALIDI: Hot potato, eh?

I think we need to understand a bunch of things. We need to understand that there’s a strategic thing there, serves American imperial interests, has always done. That’s why the British started this project. They did not do it for the brown eyes of the Jewish people. They did it because it was in the strategic interests of the British Empire. And that’s one reason the United States does it. We do not give $3.8 billion a year, plus the $10 billion that Biden has asked for additionally this year, for anything to do with sentiment. It has to do with strategy. It has to do with oil, has to do with interests, imperial interests.

It has to do with a couple other things. It does have to do with the evangelical right. That’s one of the things that moved Britain to support the Balfour Declaration, to support a Jewish national home in an almost entirely Arab country. And it’s one of the things that moves American politicians, the votes, the money, the concentrated political power of the evangelical right.

It has to do with money. Our politicians are whores. They’re bought and sold. That needs to be said. And the bigger — the bigger the donor, the more services they get. And that’s part of the — that’s part of it.

And if we ask, “Why is it that our media is so complicit?” well, it’s partly because our media is a echo chamber for the people in power in Washington. I read The New York Times some mornings, and I say ”The New York Pravda Times.” And I read The Washington Post, I read ”The Washington Izvestia Post.” They are like the Soviet press during the Cold War. They are — whether it’s the Ukraine war or whether it’s this war, they echo power.

But they also echo money. Who owns The Washington Post? Jeff Bezos. Who owns MSNBC, NBCUniversal — well, MSNBC, NBCUniversal? Who owns those institutions, those institutions of the press? The same people who own the politicians. The same people who own our universities. Who runs our universities? Who runs our universities? Not the presidents and the deans and the department chairmans — chairmen and women. It’s the board of trustees. What is the board of trustees? It’s the same people who finance the politicians, same people who own the media.

So, if we see a compliant media with a government that is supportive of Israel, because of votes, because of the evangelical right, because of imperial strategic objectives, it’s very simple. When we see university administrations kowtowing to one narrative on Palestine, as they have done right across the country, it’s for the same reason that our media does it and the same reason that our government does it. It’s money. It’s power. It’s very, very, very simple. I can give you a more sophisticated explanation, but I think that that really sums it up, frankly.

TA-NEHISI COATES: I don’t have a better answer than that.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, because I reflect on the fact that —

RASHID KHALIDI: Can I say something? I hope I did not insult sex workers. I did not mean to do that. I did not mean to do that. I’m very sorry.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Appreciated.

RASHID KHALIDI: They’re far above politicians. Sorry, I had to say that.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Well, I think we should probably spend a minute talking about censorship, fear and censorship. I know that both of you have significant experience with censorship, having your work censored. I do, too. And we have seen in recent years the censorship of books labeled critical race theory — that’s turned out to be a very broad category — books about LGBTQ people and issues. Kind of the scope of censorship keeps broadening. But we are seeing now kind of new forms, or very old forms being born again, of censorship in this kind of war context. And I do worry about the possibility of us entering into another McCarthyite era. The challenges of finding a site just for this conversation, I think, speak to the real risk of that.

And I wonder if both of you — and I’ll start with you — could say a little bit about where you think we are right now in terms of censorship. And as was mentioned earlier, people have real fears, fears that are grounded, you know, in reality, the possibility of losing jobs, of retaliation, and even being attacked violently or killed as a result of expressing their views. Where are we now in terms of censorship? What do you fear? And how do you think people ought to respond in this moment in time?

TA-NEHISI COATES: You know, oddly enough, I think we’re in a great place. And I don’t say that blithely. I say that, as you mentioned, having some very, very direct experience with my own work being banned in schools and libraries, and then, this week, helping where I could, and, ultimately, you know, as you, Michelle, but trying to, you know, figure out where we could hold this event, seeing, you know, Yasmin and go through all of the hoops. So, what I’ve gleaned from that is, when people start resorting to instruments as blunt and direct as book bans or not allowing discussions, they’re threatened. It’s the weapon of a weak and a decaying order.

You know, I have to say a little something. I’ll never forget. I came back, right? I come back from Palestine. This is like, you know, late May, and I’m going crazy. Like, I’m going to sleep, and I’m dreaming about Palestine. And I’m waking up, and I got that glassy-eyed look in my face. And my wife is worried about me, and everybody’s worried about me. And I emailed a friend, and I said, “Do you have a contact with Rashid Khalidi at all?” And he said, “Yeah, I do.” And he connected us. And I wrote a message: “You don’t know me from Adam, but I got to talk to somebody about what I saw.” And he said, “It’s OK.” He said, “Look, I’m having a dinner this weekend. Why don’t you and your wife come?” And I came, and we sat in community, and it was the thing that I needed. And among the many things Rashid said that night, he said, “I have been fighting this fight for a long time, and I’ve never seen our side this strong. I’ve never seen the students in university so galvanized. I’ve never…”

And you can confuse the ferociousness of the pushback with strength. You know what I mean? But the fact of the matter is, in African American history, for instance, here in our struggle, the struggle is the most violent when people are the most threatened. The original and the oldest and the most lethal form of domestic terrorism was pioneered after the Civil War, and what it was was in response to the fact that suddenly you had multiple states throughout this country with Black majorities. You had a majority-Black Legislature in South Carolina. The pushback had to be ferocious. It had to be violent. It needed to be, because of the sheer strength of the threat. That’s generally been our history.

And so, now in this moment, when I look out and I see, you know, not just my work banned, but I see the work of my colleagues banned, I see, as you mentioned, LGBTQ authors banned, when I situate myself within the history of Black writing, and I understand the fact that there was never any safe moment for Black writing in this country’s history, when I understand that — when Frederick Douglass publishes his Narrative, and he goes and he talks about it, he has a price on his head. He can be dragged back into slavery at any moment. When I’ve seen that Ida B. Wells was driven out of Memphis, Tennessee, for reporting on the lynching and the murder of her friends, and she continued to report on it nonetheless, when I understand that Elijah Lovejoy was shot to death and his press was shoved into the river, you have to be realistic about this moment.

What happened to you, man? You had to find another location for your talk tonight. That was it, actually quite simple compared to the long history of things. My wife was kind enough to send me an article about this district where they had banned Between the World and Me, right? And there had been — and this is a deep red district, and there had been this whole fight about it. And they went and they interviewed the librarian. And the librarian said, “This is the most checked-out book we’ve ever had.” That’s not because of me. That’s because of the ban. You understand what I’m saying?

And so, like, the very fact that you guys are here, the very unfortunate fact that some of you who are watching this couldn’t get in — you know what I mean? — the fact that we had to struggle to find a venue for this event, doesn’t say anything about the strength of this movement here. It doesn’t say anything about our strength. Says a lot about the threat and what people feel and the weakness. So, I don’t know. I, like — anybody that knows me knows that I am not one known for my optimism. But I feel it in this moment. I really do.

RASHID KHALIDI: I mean, I don’t have much to say after that. But I am completely convinced that Ta-Nehisi is right.

The first thing is, this idea that the international community supports what Israel is doing acts as if the United States, Western Europe and a few white settler colonies in Japan are the international community. They aren’t. They’re a pimple on the backside of humanity. The international community is India and China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Congo, Nigeria, Brazil — I could go on. Those are the people who voted in the United Nations for a ceasefire, 120 countries. There were 14 — there were 14 that voted against: six island nations, the United States, Israel and a bunch of hangers-on. That’s not the world. The world is actually with us, indeed in this country. The press? No. The politicians? No. The universities? Certainly no. And by that, I mean the administrations.

But look at the campus that I teach on. Five years ago, Columbia students voted overwhelmingly in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of companies that support the occupation. Overwhelmingly. Same thing happened at Brown. Same thing happened at Barnard. Same thing happened at Michigan. Same thing happened at almost every university where the thing was put to a vote. The students are with us. By a vote, we know that.

I was on the television the other day, for my sins. It’s a terrible thing to go on television, I promise you. Don’t do it if you don’t have to. And I mentioned that young people are with us. And, God bless her, the interviewer said to me, “Yeah, there’s a poll here that says, on Biden’s handling of the Gaza situation, in the age group from 18 to 35, he has 10% support.” Ten percent. I could give you — I could give you — I could give you more polls. They are terrified of us. That’s why. That’s why we’re getting censorship.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: We’ve got to close now. And, you know, I think as we sit here in the center of the most powerful empire in the world, we need to think about what our responsibility is, as King said in his speech, to those who have been defined as our enemy, and consider not just, like, what we must say, but what we must do. And I’m wondering if you have thoughts that you want to share.

RASHID KHALIDI: I do. Thank you. One of the things that I argue in this book, that you mentioned, is this is not a war on the Palestinians waged by the Zionist movement or Israel alone. It’s a war waged on the Palestinian people by Israel and the United States. Those are our weapons. Those are American F-35s, American F-15s, American F-16s, American 175-millimeter guns, American 155-millimeter guns. They fire shells of a hundred pounds each. I could tell you their kill radius. I could tell you how large the diameter of a 2,000-pound bomb dropped from an American plane is. That’s us, our tax dollars, our votes.

We must oppose, with action, with words, not just weapons that we send to Israel to kill people with being used in that way — and, incidentally, in violation of U.S. law. U.S. law mandates that weapons can only be used for defensive purposes. Why do you think they keep saying in every one of their statements that Israel has a right to defend itself? Because, otherwise, they would be in violation of U.S. law in sending those weapons to Israel. If killing children in Jabaliya camp is a defensive purpose, then it’s legal. And if it’s not, they’re in violation of the law. We must oppose that.

And we must oppose the possibility of the United States being complicit in ethnic cleansing. We must oppose it as strongly as we can. Otherwise, we are the ethnic cleansers, and we are the killers. We may not be the ones pulling the trigger. We may not be the people forcing people out into Egypt or into Jordan, but we are responsible. Our government has just said that it’s willing to fund that. Now, maybe they’ll pull back on it, but they’ll only pull back on it if we make them stop. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi in conversation with the acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates at a November 1st event organized by the Palestine Festival of Literature at Union Theological Seminary here in New York. The discussion was moderated by the civil rights attorney and author Michelle Alexander.

Democracy Now! is produced with Mike Burke, Renée Feltz, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Sonyi Lopez. Our executive director is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo, Miguel Nogueira, Hugh Gran, Denis Moynihan, David Prude, Dennis McCormick, Matt Ealy and Emily Anderson. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

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