October 31, 2008
“The McCain campaign has been throwing around so much mud and smears in recent weeks that it’s easy to miss just how ugly and shameful their character assassination of Rashid Khalidi is. This is an entirely respectable, highly respected scholar. To go further into making a case for him would only be to enable and indulge McCain’s sordid appeal to racism. For McCain, personally, to compare Khalidi to a neo-nazi, it’s just an offense McCain should never be forgiven for. It’s right down in the gutter with Joe McCarthy and the worst of the worst. Khalidi is in this new McCain set piece for one reason — as a generic Arab, to spur the idea that Obama is foreign, friendly with terrorists and possibly Muslim.”
I couldn’t agree more, and I share his disgust. I differ on one point, though – I am so angry over this that I am compelled to make a strong defense of Prof. Khalidi.
Prof. Khalidi is, by all accounts, an honorable man. A New Yorker by birth, he attended Yale for his undergraduate studies and received his PhD from Oxford in 1974. He was a professor at the University of Chicago where he was director of the Center for International Studies (with such radical, left-wing colleagues as Bob Pape and John Mearsheimer). He is now director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. His books are frequently found on the syllabi of university classes on the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“Mr. Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia, was born in Manhattan in 1948. His father, a Palestinian Muslim born in Jerusalem, worked for the United Nations, and his mother, a Lebanese-American Christian, was an interior decorator. He graduated from the United Nations International School and earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale in 1970 and a doctorate from Oxford University in 1974.
He taught at universities in Lebanon until the mid-’80s, and some critics accuse him of having been a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Mr. Khalidi has denied working for the group, and says he was consulted as an expert by reporters seeking to understand it.
He was an adviser to the Palestinian delegation during Middle East peace talks from 1991 to 1993. From 1987 until 2003, he was a professor at the University of Chicago, where he became friends with Mr. Obama.”
Prof. Khalidi left the University of Chicago for Columbia University in 2003. Obama attended and spoke at Khalidi’s going-away party. A videotape of the event was given to the Los Angeles Times, under the condition that the Times could report on what’s on the tape provided the tape itself wasn’t released (for, I’d say, obvious reasons – you can imagine the McCain TV ad). This, btw, is not an unusual request from a source, and the LA Times readily agreed to the condition. This is no different than any other sort of confidentiality agreement with a source, which is absolutely standard practice. Here’s Bill Sammon, the deputy managing editor of none other than FOX NEWS(!):
“To me, it’s pretty simple. Reporter Peter Wallsten made an agreement with a source to refrain from publicly disclosing the tape. Unless that source lets Wallsten off the hook, the reporter is journalistically bound to abide by the agreement, regardless of how much heat his newspaper takes from pundits on TV. Indeed, Wallsten has little choice in the matter. If he were to cave in to mounting public demands for the tape, no self-respecting source would ever give him another shred of information. Nor should they.”
“Yesterday, the Times published an article explaining its decision to withhold the video. Here’s editor Russ Stanton:
‘The Los Angeles Times did not publish the videotape because it was provided by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it. The Times keeps its promises to its sources.’
Stanton’s explanation is beyond plausible; in fact, such deals with sources are quite common in journalism. Anyone who has worked as a reporter has been given access to a document, allowed to take notes on that document and write a story based on those notes, but not allowed to publish or otherwise distribute the document. So unless we’re prepared to call Stanton a liar, there shouldn’t be any problem taking him at his word.”
Yet John McCain has personally demanded that the Times release the videotape, and had this to say:
“Now why that should not be made public is beyond me. I guarantee you, if there was a tape with me and Sarah Palin and some neo-Nazi or one of those, you think that that tape wouldn’t be made public?”
Not content with that, here’s Sarah Palin:
“If there’s a Pulitzer Prize category for excelling in cow-towing [sic], then the LA Times, you’re winning.”
So there you go. Attending the going-away party for this Chicago professor is akin to McCain attending a neo-Nazi event, and the LA Times is a terrorist outfit.
A short disclaimer here: I have had lunch with Juan Cole, the highly controversial Middle Eastern history professor at Michigan. He’s been accused, by the right wing, of far worse than Khalidi – anti-semitism, terrorist-coddling, etc., etc. I had lunch with him in broad daylight at Legal Seafoods, for the world to see. I’ve never had lunch with Prof. Khalidi, but if I had the opportunity to do so and refused for poltiical reasons, I could kiss my career goodbye. But you see, this is the same as giving Hitler a sloppy wet kiss on the mouth. With tongue. In church. In front of Christ.
So what’s the big deal with this guy? In nutshell, the issue is Prof. Khalidi’s take on the Arab-Israeli conflict. He’s described as anti-semitic, pro-Palestinian terrorists, in favor of anti-Israeli violence, and extremists views.
Yet here’s the Washington Post (yes, that evil mouthpiece for the Communist Muslim Party):
“It turns out that McCain is treading on tricky ground when he cites the Khalidi case as an example of Obama consorting with terrorist sympathizers. The Obama campaign was quick to point out that an organization co-founded by Khalidi has received large sums of grant money from the International Republican Institute, chaired by McCain since 1993. One such grant was for $448,873 in 1998 to assist the Center for Palestine Research and Studies in its work in the West Bank.
This is a case of guilt by association gone haywire. Both President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice have had extensive dealings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is much more closely identified with the PLO than Rashidi ever was. Verdict: the McCain camp has wildly exaggerated the significance of the Obama-Ayers-Khalidi triangle.”
“For the record, Mr. Khalidi is an American born in New York who graduated from Yale a couple of years after George W. Bush. For much of his long academic career, he taught at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife became friends with Barack and Michelle Obama. In the early 1990s, he worked as an adviser to the Palestinian delegation at peace talks in Madrid and Washington sponsored by the first Bush administration. We don’t agree with a lot of what Mr. Khalidi has had to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the years, and Mr. Obama has made clear that he doesn’t, either. But to compare the professor to neo-Nazis — or even to Mr. Ayers — is a vile smear.”