Middle East studies in the News
'Obama Will Immediately Birth Palestinian State' [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
JERUSALEM – The Palestinian Authority is hoping Sen. Barack Obama wins the presidential election in November and expects the Illinois Democrat to immediately set out to create a Palestinian state once he takes office, a top PA official said.
"We would like to see Obama elected. If he is elected, an agreement about the foundation of a Palestinian state (would be) reached," PA Planning Minister Samir Abdullah told reporters in Tokyo this weekend.
Abdullah, who is the former head of the Palestinian Communist Party, said the PA expects Obama to win in November. He said once Obama takes office, "he will immediately study the Palestinian cause and will try to push it forward."
"Obama promised he will not wait until the last period of his office to relaunch negotiations ... he will begin doing this since his first day in office unlike President Bush, who waited until his last period of power."
Abdullah's remarks were published yesterday in the Firas Press Network, a Palestinian news website identified with PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization.
Abdullah is not the only Palestinian official to recently express support for Obama.
In a headline-making interview, Ahmed Yousuf, Hamas' chief political adviser in the Gaza Strip, told WND and WABC Radio in April he "hopes" Obama becomes president.
"We like Mr. Obama, and we hope that he will win the elections," said Yousef.
"I hope Mr. Obama and the Democrats will change the political discourse. ... I do believe [Obama] is like John Kennedy, a great man with a great principal. And he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community, but not with humiliation and arrogance," Yousef said, speaking from Gaza.
Obama has repeatedly condemned Hamas as a terrorist organization that should be isolated until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel.
Obama questioned over ties to Palestinian activist
Obama has been assailed over his stated commitment to Israel, although he has repeatedly insisted during interviews he is a strong supporter of the Jewish state.
At a recent event in a Boca Raton, Fla., synagogue, participants in a panel discussion quizzed Obama about his relationship with Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi, a pro-Palestinian activist and harsh critic of Israel who has been described as a friend of the senator.
Obama replied: "You mentioned Rashid Khalidi, who's a professor at Columbia. I do know him, because I taught at the University of Chicago. And he is Palestinian. And I do know him, and I have had conversations. He is not one of my advisers; he's not one of my foreign policy people. His kids went to the Lab school where my kids go as well. He is a respected scholar, although he vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israel's policy."
Khalidi's ties to Obama were first exposed by WND in February in a widely cited article.
According to a professor at the University of Chicago who said he has known Obama for 12 years, the Democratic presidential hopeful befriended Khalidi when the two worked together at the university. The professor spoke on condition of anonymity. Khalidi lectured at the University of Chicago until 2003 while Obama taught law there from 1993 until his election to the Senate in 2004.
Sources at the university told WND that Khalidi and Obama lived in nearby faculty residential zones and that the two families dined together a number of times. The sources said the Obamas even babysat the Khalidi children.
Khalidi in 2000 held what was described as a successful fundraiser for Obama's failed bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, a fact not denied by Khalidi, who spoke to WND in February.
As WND reported, an anti-Israel Arab group run by Khalidi's wife, Mona, received crucial funding from a Chicago nonprofit, the Woods Fund, for which Obama served as a board member.
When Khalidi departed the University of Chicago in 2003, Obama delivered an in-person testimonial at a farewell ceremony reminiscing about conversations over meals prepared by Mona Khalidi.
Last month, WND noted Obama termed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a "constant sore" in an interview just five days after Khalidi wrote an opinion piece in the Nation magazine in which he called the "Palestinian question" a "running sore."
In his piece, "Palestine: Liberation Deferred," Khalidi suggests Israel carried out "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians; writes Western powers backed Israel's establishment due to guilt of the Holocaust; laments the Palestinian Authority's stated acceptance of a Palestinian state "only" in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern sections of Jerusalem; and argues Israel should be dissolved and instead a binational, cantonal system should be set up in which Jews and Arabs reside.
During documented speeches and public events, Khalidi has called Israel an "apartheid system in creation" and a destructive "racist" state.
He has multiple times implied support for Palestinian terror, calling suicide bombings a response to "Israeli aggression." He dedicated his 1986 book, "Under Siege," to "those who gave their lives ... in defense of the cause of Palestine and independence of Lebanon."
Critics assailed the book as excusing Palestinian terrorism and claim the dedication is in reference to the Palestine Liberation Organization, which at that time committed scores of anti-Western attacks and was labeled by the U.S. as a terrorist group.
Top Obama adviser: New York City, Miami Jews the problem
Obama also came under fire last week for comments made by Merrill A. McPeak, Obama's military adviser and national campaign co-chairman, in which he implied U.S. politicians are afraid of Jewish voters in Miami and New York City and that American Jews are the "problem" impeding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Republican Jewish Coalition last week took out ads in top Florida newspapers petitioning Jews in the Sunshine State to question Obama over McPeak's remarks, which were highlighted in March by WND.
McPeak was asked during a 2003 interview with the Oregonian newspaper whether the problem in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict originated with the White House or the State Department.
"So where's the problem?" the interviewer asked.
McPeak replied, "New York City. Miami. We have a large vote – vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it."
McPeak went on to insist that to solve the conflict, Israelis must "stop settling the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and maybe even withdraw some of the settlements that've already been put there. And nobody wants to take on that problem. It's just too tough politically."
Obama adviser: Divide Jerusalem
Much concern has also been expressed about Obama's top Midde East adviser, Daniel Kurtzer, who has long been seen as one of Israel's greatest foes in Washington.
In April, Kurtzer stressed Jerusalem must be included in any negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, has been identified by Israeli leaders, including prime ministers, as biased against Israel and is notorious for urging extreme concessions from the Jewish state. He was appointed as a primary Obama adviser on the Middle East earlier this year.
Obama's appointment of Kurtzer raised eyebrows among the pro-Israel Jewish community.
"We oppose the appointment of Kurtzer because of his long, documented record of hostility to and severe pressure upon Israel," said Zionist Organization of America National Chairman Morton Klein.
Kurtzer has been blasted by mainstream Jewish organizations, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
He has angered Israeli leaders many times for pushing Israel into what they described as extreme concessions to the Palestinians.
"With Jews like Kurtzer, it is impossible to build a healthy relationship between Israel and the United States," Benjamin Nentanyahu was quoted saying in 2001 by Israel's Haaretz newspaper.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Kurtzer "frequently pressured Israel to make one-sided concessions to the Arabs; he constantly blamed Israel for the absence of Mideast peace, and paid little or no attention to the fact that the Palestinians were carrying out terrorist attacks and openly calling for the destruction of Israel."
Morris Amitay, former executive director of the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2001: "Kurtzer ... will use his Jewishness as a protective cover for his anti-Israel views."
The ZOA points out how Israel's leading daily, Yediot Ahronot, editorialized on Kurtzer's negative influence against Israel:
"Possibly more than any other U.S. State Department official, Kurtzer has been instrumental in promoting the goals of the Palestinians and in raising their afflictions to the center of the U.S. policymakers' agenda," the paper stated.
Kurtzer first rose to prominence in 1988 when, as a State Department adviser, he counseled the Reagan administration to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization led by Yasser Arafat. The PLO had carried out scores of anti-Western attacks, but in the late '80s Arafat claimed to have renounced violence.
In 1988, Kurtzer was noted as the principal author of a major policy speech by then-Secretary of State George Shultz in which the U.S. government first recognized the "legitimate rights" of the Palestinians.
Haaretz reported in 2001 that Kurtzer had a "vocal conflict" with an Israeli government official in Philadelphia in the summer of 1990 after Kurtzer "attacked the Israeli government for refusing to include the PLO in the peace process [and] said that this constituted the main obstacle to peace."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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