“The colonial nature of Israel has been invisible to most North Americans” – Dr. Rashid Khalidi – Join OFIP’s virtual book launch November 23.

On Monday, November 23, OFIP will host Dr. Rashid Khalidi in a “virtual Canadian book launch” for his controversial new book re-examining the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict over the last 100 years. Khalidi argues that Israel’s basic “colonial” character has been mostly invisible to North Americans. He also thinks the Palestinian leadership has made some strategic mistakes based on their own myths about Israeli society. Read more…

Professor Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Middle East Studies at Columbia University and a leading Palestinian scholar (if not THE leading scholar) on the Israel/Palestine issue. He comes from a well known Palestinian family and has spent many years in the Middle East. He was teaching at the American University of Beirut in 1982 when Israel attacked Lebanon and occupied Beirut. He has also been involved with the PLO in negotiations around the “Peace Process”.

December 11, 1917, (barely 30 days after the Balfour Declaration), British General Allenby finishes the conquest of Palestine and enters Jerusalem

His book is a fascinating historical review which breaks the Israel/Palestine conflict into 6 stages starting with the Balfour Declaration in 1917. Based on his extensive experience, Khalidi offers both new insights and original interpretations.

In addition to being very critical of Israel, the UK and the US, of course, he is also rather frank in his criticisms of the PLO and its leadership. He does not spare Yassir Arafat – whom he had occasion to meet several times, in particular analyzing strategic decisions that he thinks were unwise. And he offers some advice going forward.

The book will especially appeal to activists and serious historians who want to know more.   It even got a rather favourable review in the very establishment US publication Foreign Affairs. (Octopus Books in Ottawa has several on order.)

Join the webinar with Dr. Khalidi

The webinar, on Monday, November 23rd, @ 7:30 p.m. will be for anyone interested in better understanding the Israel/Palestine conflict. Even if you aren’t an “expert” in Middle East politics, you will find Dr. Khalidi low key, thoughtful and informative. We will try to ask Dr. Khalidi challenging questions. And there will be plenty of time for Q and A from the audience.

Here is the information you need to register for this interesting webinar. To register in advance:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

NOTE: The event will be available live on YouTube and will be recorded for later sharing.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org.


    1. Hey Dyala, thanks for your question.
      Some people, like Dr. Khalidi, think Israel is basically a colonial enterprise. But others, including the Israelis, the Canadian government, the UN and even many Palestinian human rights organizations in North America don’t see it that way. (See the comment from Mr. Sigman as an example.)
      That is what makes it controversial.
      But if you know all this already, don’t waste your time listening to the webinar with this remarkable Palestinian American intellectual.

    2. When my grandfather immigrated from Silesia to the Galilee in 1930 he was hired as a labourer by a Palestinian for whom he worked for several years, until he had enough money to buy his own plot of land, he farmed that land for the rest of his life

      Can you show me another example where the ‘colonialists’ are the day labourers of the ‘natives’

      Another question for you : colonies always have their capitol, for the Indian Raj it was London, for the pieds-noir it was Paris
      What was the Capitol of the Zionists?

      1. Hey Ahik,
        thanks for your comments, and for telling us of your father’s experience, which is interesting. I suspect it was also rather unusual. Most of the European Jewish immigrants (colonists) settled in lands which were purchased from absentee landlords, created their own colonies (kibbutz, etc.) Sometimes Palestinians worked for them, but more generally the idea was for the Jews to be self sufficient.

        On your point about colonies having “capitals”. As I see it colonization is a process. At first, the colonists look back to the mother country. e.g. London, later the colonists create their own capital (e.g. Washington, Ottawa.)

        As you know, the European Jewish colonists came from many countries (including Poland, like your grandfather). There was no “mother country”. It was not a Polish project, it was a British project. I doubt whether your grandfather felt he had any link to the UK.

        However, as the Jewish numbers increased the Jewish Agency started to become a proto-government for the Jewish colony. I believe it was first established in Jaffa (the main port of entry) and some time later moved to Jerusalem, which it saw as the capital of the new state

  1. North Americans do not recognize the Jewish state as a having a colonial nature as the Jews did not arrive in the Ottoman Palestinian region as colonists. They arrived as legal immigrants. They did not arrive with an army. They did not exploit and enslave the Arabs living there. They did not import slaves. They legally bought land from its legal owners.

    1. Hey Mr. Sigman,
      As you know, the earliest Zionists proudly called themselves colonists. That was dropped post WWII as colonialism became a bad word. And while the Zionists did not have an army (at least at first), they came invited by and under the protection of the British, who DID have an army.

      1. Mr. Sigman
        It usually helps to consider definitions of terms like “colony”. Here is what is in my usual dictionary.

        colony | ˈkɒləni |
        noun (plural colonies)
        1 a country or area under the full or partial political control of another country and occupied by settlers from that country

        Jews began to arrive in large numbers in Palestine when it was effectively under the control of Britain. When the British agreed to leave, Israel became very dependant on other countries for arms to fight Arabs. Not too long ago Netanyahu stated that he would not make moves in the Occupied West Bank without approval from the USA. One Colonial power has replaced another.

        Israel differs from most colonies because the settlers came from many countries. However, the dominant groups were all European. It behaves like a European colony. For example, while most of the countries in the Eurovision Song contest are in Europe there are two exceptions Israel is one, Australia, another former colony, is the other.

      2. Hey Mr. Larson,

        I called myself a sailor, but I was not much of one. I just shoveled coal. Being considered a colonist was romantic during that time frame but the Jews had nothing in common with actual colonists. And they started coming in the 1860s, 58 years before the British conquered the Palestinian region. While the British were required to protect everyone in British Mandate Palestine, they did not provide capital to assist Jews moving to the region.

      3. I don’t know whether the Jews who came to Palestine in the 1860’s saw themselves as colonists.

        But by the end of the 19th century, that was the case. You might want to read Ari Shavit’s book “My Promised Land” as he talks about his Zionist forbears. Here is a quote: “Is this colonialism?… If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is probably a duck. (….) The language that my great grandfather uses in his diary is incriminating, too. There is no ambiguity, no beating around the bush. His aim, and that of his London circle (of Jews) is to colonize Palestine.” p. 18

      4. Mr. Parnas,

        1 “a country or area under the full or partial political control of another country and occupied by settlers from that country”

        That description does not fit British mandate Palestine. Israel has never been a colonial power. Jews began arriving in large numbers due to European antisemitism, particularly that of Nazi Germany.

        Just as the Arabs were dependent on other countries for arms to fight their genocidal war against the Jews, so did the Jews need weapons for defense and then offense which they could not yet manufacture.

        As for Eurovision, Arab antisemitism prevents Israel from competing within its region.

      5. At the time, being a so-called colonist was exciting and romantic. Regardless, these were immigrants, the same as the Jews who moved to NYC, buying property, homes, building businesses and the like. The Jews who immigrated to NYC in the 1880s were not colonists, no matter what they called themselves.

      6. Mr. Sigman, The Jews who immigrated to NYC at the end of the 19th century were not colonists. Neither were they Zionists for the most part.
        Some might have gone out west, where colonisation was still taking place as the US expanded and displaced native americans.
        Being a “colonist” might well have felt exciting and romantic for colonists. It didn’t feel very exciting or romantic for the indigenous peoples whose country was being colonised.

      7. Mr. Sigman,

        I knew the Jews who moved to NYC quite well. My family consisted primarily of such immigrants. Some arrived in the 2Oth century but others had arrived much earlier. Almost all arrived fully understanding that there was an existing society and they had to learn to contribute to that society and fit in. Almost all learned the local language (even those who were not well educated) and acquired skills or had their older skills certified so that they could legally work with the previous inhabitants according to existing rules. The second generation fit in perfectly to the point that many could not speak their parent’s mother tongue but spoke the local language. When they rented or bought property, they respected the existing rules and paid for it. They did not seize or destroy existing housing. In other words, they did not behave as colonists.

        Contrast this with the original European colonists in North America. They were mostly contemptuous of the people who were there when they arrived – regarding them as an annoyance to be expelled (and sometimes killed). They took land without adequate compensation. Few learned the local languages but insisted that the Natives learned a European language (mostly English or French). They sometimes traded with the Natives but generally did not want them in their society. Even today, there is prejudice against the aboriginals.

        Now, look at the Jews who migrated to Palestine. Most will see that they behaved far more like the colonists than like their fellows who immigrated to North America.

    2. In earlier years a fund was established by the Zionists in Palestine called something like Jewish colonial trust fund. The word colonial was in it. Who gave part of Palestine to Jews, without any talks with the Palestinians. Maybe you’d like to read some quotes from Ben Gurion, Herzel, Jabotinsky and others to realise how they arrived there and with what intentions. About enslavement, you might research about the Zionists wjo at the beginning did not want even one oriental Jew to come to Palestine. Only later they changed full 180 degrees, realising that they need those Jews for demographic numbers and cheap labor for construction. Ben Gurion said that oriental Jews are “human dust” and compared them to the slaves that were brought to U.S. Would I be correct to say that you have “Alternative facts”?

    3. For the record;
      Despite massive Jewish immigration during the British Mandate, Jews comprised just 31% of the population & privately owned only 6 to 7% of the land. Outrageously, the Partition Plan recommended Jews receive 56% of Palestine as a state!! (Native Arab Palestinian Jews comprised 10% of the Jewish population and were vehemently opposed to Zionism.)
      48% of the total land area of mandated Palestine was privately owned (‘mulk khaas’) by Palestinian Arabs. (To repeat, total Jewish privately owned land was between 6% and 7%.) About 45% of the total land area was state owned (i.e., by its citizens)* and it was comprised of Communal Property (‘mashaa’), Endowment Property, (‘waqf’), and Government Property, (‘miri’.) The British Mandate kept an extensive land registry and the UN used the registry during its early deliberations. It has in its archives 453,000 records of individual Palestinian owners defined by name, location & area. *Only 30% of the Jewish immigrants had taken out citizenship & tens of thousands were illegals.

      Land ownership in all of mandated Palestine on Nov. 29, 1947: By Sub district – Acre: 87% Palestinian owned, 3% Jewish owned, 10% state owned; Safed: 68% Palestinian owned, 18% Jewish owned, 14% state owned; Haifa: 42% Palestinian owned, 35% Jewish owned, 23% state owned; Nazareth: 52% Palestinian owned, 28% Jewish owned, 20% state owned; Tiberias: 51% Palestinian owned, 38% Jewish owned, 11% state owned; Jenin: 84% Palestinian owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 16% state owned; Beisnan: 44% Palestinian owned, 34% Jewish owned, 22% state owned; Tulkarm: 78% PalestinIan owned; 17% Jewish owned, 5% state owned; Nablus: 87% Palestinian owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 13% state owned; Jaffa: 47% Palestinian owned, 39% Jewish owned, 14% state owned; Ramleh: 77% Palestinian owned, 14% Jewish owned, 9% state owned; Ramallah: 99% Palestinian owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, less than 1% state owned; Jerusalem (West and East): 84% Palestinian owned, 2% Jewish owned, 14% state owned; Gaza: 75% Palestinian owned, 4% Jewish owned, 21% state owned; Hebron: 96% Palestinian owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 4% state owned; Bersheeba: 15% Palestinian owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 85% state owned. (Village Statistics, Jerusalem: Palestine Government, 1945; subsequently published as United Nations Map no. 94b, August, 1950)

      Regarding land ownership in West and East Jerusalem in 1947: The total land area of West Jerusalem (the New City) was 19,331 dunams (about 4,833 acres) of which 40 per cent was owned by Palestinian Muslims and Christians, 26.12 per cent by Jews and 13.86 per cent by others, including Christian communities. Government and municipal land made up 2.90 per cent and roads and railways 17.12 per cent.

      East Jerusalem (the Old City) consisted of 800 dunams (about 200 acres) of which five dunams (just over one acre) were Jewish owned and the remaining 795 dunams were owned by Palestinian Muslims and Christians. (“Assessing Palestinian Property in the City,” by Dalia Habash and Terry Rempel, Jerusalem 1948: The Arab Neighbourhoods and their Fate in the War, 1999, pp. 184-85)

      1. Hey Gary, thank you.
        IMHO the percentages of land is not as important as the quality of the land. Half of mandate Palestine lies in the Negev desert.

        But there are 3 principal agricultural rich areas: 1 along the coast, 2 the Galilee and 3 the Jordan Valley.
        Israel took over the first two in 1948, and is now in the process of taking over the third area – the Jordan valley.

        The process of expropriation was similar to what whites colonists did in Canada. We took over the best land in the south and relegated the indigenous peoples to the less valuable areas farther north.

      2. One more time. The UNGA partition recommendation allotted 56% percent of the land to 56% of the population that was to become the Jewish state. That is approx. 1 million people; 600,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs. Nothing outrageous about it. It was fair and just. Additionally, a significant portion of the land was the Negev desert.

      3. Hey Jack, that 600,000 Jews you referred to were not there yet.
        I agree that the Negev was of little value. But the partition plan gave almost ALL of the valuable agricultural land (on the coast and in the Galilee) to the new Jewish State. The Arabs got the arid highlands of the West Bank. Not all that different from what we in Canada did to our own native people, pushing them north off the best land.

  2. You need to change the caption on the photo mid-page. The date is 100 years off, I think.

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