He's no Jeremiah Wright or Bill Ayers, but Palestinian academic and Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi may be next in the parade of radical ghosts from Obama's past.
The McCain campaign launched its television ad about Barack Obama and Bill Ayers yesterday–and McCain is now speaking of the connection for the first time in stump speeches. Obama's connection to the educator and one-time Weather Underground fugitive was first reported in February.
Hubbub about Obama's relationship with Rashid Khalidi has been around just about as long, and it shows signs of picking up steam. An April 2008 Los Angeles Times article introduced the connection.
It was a celebration of Palestinian culture — a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics. Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York.
A special tribute came from Khalidi's friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi's wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.
His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table," but around "this entire world."
Today, five years later, Obama is a U.S. senator from Illinois who expresses a firmly pro-Israel view of Middle East politics, pleasing many of the Jewish leaders and advocates for Israel whom he is courting in his presidential campaign.
Now Stanley Kurtz, who wrote the column the McCain campaign cites in its commercial about Obama and Ayers, is working the Khalidi angle. Here he is in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt:
Hewitt: Tell us about Khalidi. Tell us who he is and his role in Obama's life.
Kurtz: Rashid Khalidi is really, in a sense, the American successor of Edward Said, a very strong advocate for the Palestinians, extremely radical in his views and his opposition to American foreign policy. He was a friend and colleague of Obama. Apparently they used to get together and discuss world affairs. And he's practically the best friend of Bill Ayers. Bill Ayers features Khalidi in some of his books about how to politicize the teaching for students.
Hewitt: Would most Americans be, I don't know much about his work other than that he's at Columbia, would most Americans who support Israel be upset that Obama is close to Rashid Khalidi, so close that they share many, many…
Kurtz: They would be horrified, Hugh. They would be horrified. It would be like saying that the strongest advocate for the Palestinians and the greatest critic of Israel in the United States was close to Obama. And you know something? He is, and he was and he is. And so friends of Israel are rightly horrified by this.
Hewitt: Do you think they are aware of it?
Kurtz: Oh, the ones who are are disturbed, and not near enough of them know about it.
So we have a news Axis Of Evil: Obama, Ayers and Khalidi. All the Axis needs is scary music. Thank you Fox News, who produced this horror movie trailer of a news piece on October 6:
In the Fox piece Khalidi is said to have work for the Palestinian Liberation Organization's official press agency in the early '80s, when the PLO was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States Government. Also presented as evidence of Khalidi's extremism is his wife's role Chicago's Arab American Action Network. Sean Hannity apparently found the combination of the words Arab American, action, and network enough to damn the organization, because he reports nothing of their work–just that Obama and Ayers sat on the board of the foundation that gave the organization grant money.
CBS News columnist Ari Berman challenged "smears" like this all the way back in March, responding to early talk of Khalidi's relationship with Obama by WorldNetDaily Jerusalem correspondent Aaron Klein (about Klein's employer, Berman says it's "a sort of National Enquirer for the right."):
Klein penned two stories in late February wildly distorting Obama's links, from his days in Chicago, to pro-Palestinian activists like Rashid Khalidi, a respected professor of Middle East studies at Columbia University who previously taught at the University of Chicago (hardly a bastion of left-wing activism). Klein's story goes something like this: Obama sat on the board of a foundation in Chicago that gave a grant to the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), run by Khalidi's wife, which supposedly rejects Israel's existence; and Khalidi directed the PLO's Beirut press office and is a supporter "for Palestinian terror." (In fact, the AAAN focuses solely on social service work in Chicago and takes no position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Khalidi says he was never employed by the PLO; he has been a harsh critic of Palestinian suicide bombings and a longtime supporter of a two-state solution, and he has never been an adviser to Obama. As for Obama's past statements, at least in Chicago, being pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian is not a contradiction in terms.)
Obama, for his part, has cautiously distanced himself from Khalidi without dismissing the scholar's distinguished career–first at the University of Chicago and today at Columbia University. "He is not one of my advisors. He is not one of my foreign policy people," Obama has said. "He is a respected scholar although he vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israel policy."
So far McCain has not uttered Khalidi's name–but he's just getting started on Ayers. There is no question he's being baited by the conservative media. Will he take the bait?
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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