Past Event

The History of Gaza: the Key to War and Peace in the Middle East

February 16, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
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Jean-Pierre Filiu, in conversation with Rashid Khalidi

French historian Jean-Pierre Filiu provides insights into the past and present importance of Gaza in this virtual conversation with Rashid Khalidi. Filiu has written the authoritative Gaza, a History, praised by critics as a “thoroughly researched, comprehensive, and deftly written historical account of the Gaza Strip beginning with the Hyksos from 18th century BCE and extending to the present; Filiu … has arguably written the best book on Gaza’s history. He shows the historical intricacies between political and military developments and how such processes have shaped the Arab-Israeli conflict. … A must read for students and scholars of the modern Middle East, and anyone who wants to understand Palestinian history” (Choice).  Gaza, a History reveals that Gaza has been since Antiquity a prosperous oasis and a commercial hub that served as a springboard for any Middle Eastern empire to conquer Egypt and for any Nile Valley-based power to attack the Levant. This imperial pendulum went back and forth for centuries until the British Army, led by Allenby, entered Gaza in 1917, on the very day that the Balfour Declaration was made public in London. But worse was to come in 1948, with Gaza turning into the enclave of a geographical “strip,” and one quarter of the Arab population of Palestine now crowded on only 1% of their historical homeland. Since then, Israel has waged no less than fifteen wars on Gaza, all won militarily, but lost politically, Filiu argues, except for the first Intifada that paved the way for the first Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Any attempt to revive such a peace process should start from Gaza, which remains the key to war and peace in the Middle East.  

Jean-Pierre Filiu is professor of Middle East Studies at Sciences Po, Paris. A historian and an Arabist, he has also held visiting professorships at the Universities of Columbia and Georgetown. Hurst and Oxford University Press published his Arab Revolution in 2011, Gaza, a History in 2014 (MEMO Book Award) and From Deep State to Islamic State in 2015, after University of California Press had published in 2011 his award-winning Apocalypse in Islam. He recently published  The Middle East, a Political History, from 395 to the Present with Polity, and Comment la Palestine fut perdu et pourquoi Israël n’a pas gagné: Histoire d’un conflit (XIX-XXIe siècle) with Seuil. Filiu’s books have been translated in more than fifteen languages, including Arabic and Turkish.

Rashid Khalidi is Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University.  He is editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, and was President of the Middle East Studies Association, and an advisor to the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid and Washington Arab-Israeli peace negotiations from October 1991 until June 1993. He is author of: The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917- 2017 (2020); Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. has Undermined Peace in the Middle East (2013); Sowing Crisis: American Dominance and the Cold War in the Middle East (2009); The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (2006); Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East (2004); Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (1996); Under Siege: PLO Decision-Making During the 1982 War (1986); British Policy Towards Syria and Palestine, 1906-1914 (1980); and co-editor of Palestine and the Gulf (1982) and The Origins of Arab Nationalism (1991), and The Other Jerusalem: Rethinking the History of the Sacred City (2020).

This virtual conversation is co-sponsored by the Department of History, MESAAS, the Columbia Maison Française, the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, the Acting Dean of Humanities, and the Middle East Institute at Columbia.