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Salim Yaqub gives lecture on United States and Palestine 

Salim Yaqub gives lecture on United States and Palestine 

Yaqub gave a lecture on the U.S. and Palestine. | TADHG SAHUTSKE

Salim Yaqub P’26, a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, gave a lecture on Feb. 1 titled “The Weight of Conquest: The United States and Palestine Since 1967” in the Community Foundation Theater. The talk focused on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 and particularly emphasized the American influence on the conflict.

Yaqub earned his doctorate in American History from Yale University and has written several books on American involvement in the Middle East, most recently Winds of Hope, Storms of Discord: The United States since 1945.  

In the lecture, Yaqub highlighted several landmark events from 1967 to today concerning the conflict and their effects on the diplomatic possibilities of each party involved. In a discussion on the 2000 Camp David Summit, Yaqub pointed out how the vague —  and often contradictory — historical records of the peace talks are improperly used in political rhetoric. “A closer look at the record reveals a murkier process whereby Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, over a period of months, voted [on] various proposals for ending the conflict,” Yaqub said.

The lecture provided a historical background for the current conflict. Yaqub claimed that beginning after the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, the Palestinian population — largely refugees or in exile — no longer believed that the Arab countries could or would win an independent Palestinian state. This shift in perspective defined Yasser Arafat’s term as chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and Yaqub argued that this political reality created material conditions that encouraged the use of terrorism as political capital. 

Yaqub’s thesis of the lecture was that American policymakers have generally seen the establishment of a Palestinian state as beneficial to U.S. interests. He argued that a Palestinian state would diminish anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, allowing for a normalization of relations between the U.S. and its adversaries. Yaqub claimed that, despite national interests, American policymakers have not, and cannot, follow through in material support for a Palestinian state because they aren’t willing or able to muster the diplomatic or political resources to achieve that outcome. 

A Q&A section followed the lecture. Some of the questions focused on Henry Kissinger’s role in policy on Palestine, how Israel impacted Cold War goals in the Middle East and the effects of the Oct. 7 attacks on Palestinian support. One question in particular asked what changes would need to occur as a precursor to any peace settlement, to which Yaqub responded, “What I think needs to happen is for the United States to make it crystal clear that it will not bankroll Israel’s occupation.” 

At the end of his lecture, Yaqub addressed the audience directly. “Forgive me for being so grim, that I’ve been addressing you as an analyst who focuses on what has happened and what’s likely to happen,” he said. “What should happen is another matter. It’s something we all have the power to shape.”

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