Middle East studies in the News
Site Offers $50K for Clip of Obama Honoring Radical [on Rashid Khalidi]
The US Internet news portal Breitbart News is offering a $50,000 reward to anyone who can provide a videotape of a 2003 dinner honoring a radical Palestinian American academic attended by then- Illinois state senator Barack Obama.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, the Los Angeles Times reported that Obama attended a farewell dinner in Chicago for his longtime friend Rashid Khalidi.
Khalidi reportedly served as the director of the PLO's WAFA news agency in Beirut during the 1970s. At that time, the PLO was one of the most active terrorist organizations in the world.
The 2003 dinner was a tribute to Khalidi on the eve of his departure from the faculty of the University of Chicago. Khalidi left the university for Columbia University in New York City where he was appointed the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies and the director of Columbia's Middle East Institute.
Obama has acknowledged a close, long-term friendship between his family and the Khalidi family. Khalidi and his wife, Mona, who was the editor of the PLO's English news service in Beirut from 1976 to 1982, hosted a fundraiser for Obama's failed congressional campaign in 2000.
According to the Times report, at the 2003 dinner, Khalidi told his Palestinian American guests to support Obama's 2004 bid for the US Senate. According to the report Khalidi said, "You will not have a better senator under any circumstances."
During Obama's tenure as a director on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, the charitable group donated $75,000 to Khalidi's Arab American Action Network.
The Times article notes the virulently anti-Israel discussion that took place at the 2003 Khalidi dinner. Among other things, a Palestinian read a poem accusing Israel's government of terrorism and sharply criticizing US support for Israel. The speaker reportedly threatened Israel, saying that if Palestinian interests are not secured, "then you [Israel] will never see a day of peace." Another speaker likened Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria to Osama bin Laden.
The report claimed that Obama struck "a different tone... and called for finding common ground," but provided no direct citations of his speech to that effect.
The event was videotaped and the Times reported that it had a copy of the video.
Due to the nature of the anti-Israel rhetoric expressed at the dinner and the longstanding friendship and mutual professional support between the Obamas and the Khalidis, the Times report generated widespread public interest, particularly among opponents of Obama's 2008 presidential run. The Times was asked repeatedly to release the videotape.
Despite the obvious public interest in the film, the newspaper repeatedly refused to honor those requests. Four years after its initial publication, interest in the dinner still runs strong.
In light of the continued relevance of the story, Breitbart News announced its decision to offer $50,000 to anyone who will provide the videotape of the dinner. The $50,000 reward is contingent on Breitbart News being able to obtain independent authentication of the video recording, as well as verification that the video recording contains Obama's complete remarks at the event.
Explaining the initiative, Breitbart News editor-inchief Joel Pollak told The Jerusalem Post, "The Khalidi tape may be crucial to understanding Barack Obama's policy of confrontation and isolation towards Israel. The Los Angeles Times refused to provide a full account of what was on the video, and other media failed to question that decision or to search for the facts themselves. It is essential that the American people see the video for themselves – not just to understand the past but to make an informed decision about the next four years. It is well past time that we vetted Barack Obama – and the mainstream media."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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