He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been influential in scholarship, institutional development and diplomacy. His academic work in particular, according to Rashid Khalidi, has played a key role in shaping both Palestinian and broader Arab reactions to the loss of Palestine, and in outlining ways for the former to ensure that they remain visible as a presence within the Middle East map.
Khalidi was born, one of five children, in Jerusalem. His father, Ahmad Samih Khalidi, was dean of the Arab College of Jerusalem, and hailed from a family with roots in pre-Crusader Palestine. Khalidi's early tutor was the director of Education in Palestine, G. B. Farrell. His brother is the Islamic historian Tarif Khalidi. Khalidi graduated with a B.A. from the University of London in 1945, then studied at the University of Oxford, gaining an M.Litt. in 1951. He then taught at the Faculty of Oriental Studies in Oxford, until he resigned, after the trilateral British, French and Israeli assault on Egypt in 1956, to take up teaching at the American University of Beirut. In the 50s he wrote 2 essays on Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi, a Syrian Sufi scholar who had written on tolerance, and who practiced this in regard to Jews and Christians he encountered.
Under his guidance the Institute of Palestine Studies, established in 1963, produced a long series of monographs in English and Arabic and several important translations of Hebrew texts into Arabic: 'The History of the Haganah', David Ben-Gurion and Shertok's diaries—texts that still await translation into English. He has also produced ground-breaking work on the fall of Haifa and Deir Yassin. His best known works are Before Their Diaspora, a photographic essay on Palestinian society prior to 1948 and All That Remains, the encyclopedic collection of village histories which he edited. He became a senior research associate at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard in 1982. More broadly, his intellectual interests extend from modern European history to international relations, in strategic and military terms.
Position on the Palestine question
Khalidi's stated position on the Palestine question is for a two-state solution. From Foreign Affairs: "A Palestinian state in the occupied territories within the 1967 frontiers in peaceful coexistence alongside Israel is the only conceptual candidate for a historical compromise of this century-old conflict. Without it the conflict will remain an open-ended one."
Khalidi was a Palestinian representative to the Joint Palestinian–Jordanian delegation to the Middle East peace talks launched at the Madrid Conference, prior to the Oslo Agreements. He holds no office in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) or any of its bodies.
At the Palestinian Heritage Foundation's 15th Anniversary banquet, Khalidi was presented with an award for his commitment to the Palestinian cause, the Arab-American community, and the Arab nation.
Moshe Brawer, professor of Geography at Tel Aviv University wrote that Khalidi's encyclopedic work All that Remains suffers from "inadequate field research." Brawer criticized Khalidi's over-reliance on a modified version of the Village Statistics, which Khalidi acknowledged provide only rough estimates, while not making use of other sources such as the Village Files or RAF aerial photographs which would have yielded more accurate estimates.
Ann M. Lesch of Villanova University wrote that "As scholarly documentation, All That Remains will become the definitive source for research into the Palestinian displacement in 1948."
(1959) Why Did the Palestinians Leave? Middle East Forum, 24, 21–24, (July 1959). Reprinted as 'Why Did the Palestinians Leave Revisited', 2005, Journal of Palestine Studies, XXXIV, No. 2, 42–54.
(1959) The Fall of Haifa. Middle East Forum, 35, 22–32, (December 1959).
^Hirsch, Moshe; Housen-Couriel, Deborah; Lapidoth, Ruth (1995). "44". Whither Jerusalem?: proposals and positions concerning the future of Jerusalem (Mekhon Yerushalayim le-ḥeḳer Yiśraʼel ed.). The Hague u.a.: Nijhoff. p. 98. ISBN978-90-411-0077-1. Retrieved 4 October 2013. Proposal by Dr. Walid Khalidi Date: 1978, 1988 Source: W. Khalidi, "Thinking the Unthinkable: A Sovereign Palestinian State," 56 Foreign Affairs 695, 1978. idem, "Toward Peace in the Holy Land," 66 Foreign Affairs 71, 1988. Background: Walid Khalidi was professor of Political Studies at the American university of Beirut until 1982 and currently is a Research Fellow at the Harvard Center for International Affairs. In the past he was a member of the Palestinian national Council and carried out various political missions for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. National Aspirations # East Jerusalem will be the capital of "Arab Pastine," and west Jerusalem of Israel. # The two states would agree to arrangements for "freedom of residence between two capitals." # Both parts of the city would be "demilitarized in part or wholly for essential internal security forces." Holy Places # Extraterritorial status would be granted to the Holy Places of Jerusalem in east Jerusalem, and freedom of access to them should be guaranteed. # An "interfaith ocuncil" would be set up, composed of senior representatives of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The council will be chaired by a representative of the U.N. or by rotating chairmanship among the members. # The council "could oversee the special interests, Holy Places and institutions of each religion and act as an arbitration and conciliation body for disputes or claims arising with regard to them." Municipal Administration # Two "separate municipalities of each sovereign state" would provide services to the city's residencts. # "A joint inter-state great municipal council would operate and supervise certain essential common services."