Middle East studies in the News
Barack Obama's Anti-Israel Alliances [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
by Rachel Neuwirth
Barack Obama claims to be a supporter of Israel and a friend of the Jewish people. But many of the people who helped him in the course of his rise to political power, or whom he helped during his political ascent, are extremely anti-Israel, or even outright anti-Semitic. Let's examine the views and careers of just a few of Obama's anti-Israel and/or anti-Semitic benefactors and protégés:
Rashid Khalidi was the director of the PLO's press agency WAFA from 1976 to 1982, at a time when the PLO was conducting a massacre of 37 Israeli civilians in a bus on Israel's coastal road, the brutal murder of a four-year-old Israeli girl in Nahariya, and numerous other terrorist killings of Israeli civilians. The PLO was also waging a brutal war against the Lebanese Christian community during this period, and carried out numerous massacres of Lebanese Christians; the worst of these was the killing of about 500 people in the village of Damour. During this same period, Rashid's wife Mona Khalidi was an English translator for WAFA. Rashid Khalidi is now an advocate of a "one state solution" for all of "Palestine" - meaning the destruction of Israel and its replacement by an Arab state. Asaf Romirowsky and Jonathan Calt Harris, in an article in the Washington Times on July 9, 2004, summarized Rashid Khalidi's views about Israel this way: "[His] extremism comes out when he calls Israel an ‘apartheid system in creation' and a ‘racist state' that ‘brainwashed' Americans do not understand. Jerusalem, with its Jewish majority since the 1880s, he deems ‘an Arab city' whose control by Israeli ‘foreigners' is ‘unacceptable.' And so on." Khalidi also accuses Israel of "ethnic cleansing."
In 1995 Rashid and Mona Khalidi co-founded the The Arab-American Action Network, a virulently anti-Israel organization that strongly supports the Palestinian Arab terrorist movement. It regards the creation of the state of Israel as a "naqba" ("catastrophe" in Arabic). Mona Khalidi served as the group's President from its inception until some time this year, although she is now listed only as a member of its board of directors.
Rashid and Mona Khalidi became close friends of Barack and Michelle Obama during the time when both Barack and Rashid taught at the University of Chicago (1992-2003). At a lavish farewell party for Khalidi in Chicago in 2003, when Khalidi left his prestigious position at the University of Chicago for an even more prestigious one at Columbia University in New York, Obama gave Khalidi a glowing eulogy. He said that he and his wife Michelle had been frequent dinner guests of the Khalidis, and that the Khalidis had frequently babysat for the Obama children. According to a Los Angeles Times account based on a video of Obama's speech, he added that "his many talks with the Khalidis, . . .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.'"
Obama's assistance to the Khalidis, however, went beyond mere kind words at a farewell party. In 2001 and again in 2002, Obama, in his capacity as a member of the board of directors of the Leftist non-profit organization the Woods Fund, voted to give the Arab-American Action Network co-founded by Rashid and Mona, and directed by Mona Khalidi, $75,000 in grants.
Rashid and Mona Khalidi anticipated Obama's generosity to AAAN by holding a fundraiser in their house for Obama's unsuccessful run for Congress in 2000. It would seem that it later proved to be a profitable event for the Khalidis.
Ali Abunimah is the "executive director" of The Electronic Intifada, which is the principal internet mouthpiece for the Palestinian terrorist movement in the United States. Abunimah writes that he became friendly with Obama in the late 1990s in Chicago when Obama was a frequent guest at Palestinian Arab fundraisers in Chicago. One such fundraiser was for the Deisheh refugee camp near Jerusalem - which was soon to become a base for terrorist attacks on Israelis during the "Al-Aksa Intifada" which began in 2000. At one such fundraising dinner, Obama was seated at the same table as Edward Said, the chief PLO propagandist in the United States and the author of Yasser Arafat's notorious "gun and the olive branch" speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 1974.
But it was at the 2000 fundraiser at the home of Rashid and Mona Khalidi for Obama's failed 2000 run for Congress where Abunimah says he "had a chance to really talk to [Obama]. It was an intimate setting. He convinced me he was very aware of the issues [and] critical of U.S. bias toward Israel and lack of sensitivity to Arabs. ... He was very supportive of U.S. pressure on Israel." "On that occasion and others," according to Abunimah, "Obama was forthright in his criticism of U.S. policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict." Obama was "quite frank that the U.S. needed to be more evenhanded, that it leaned too much toward Israel." He was also "very comfortable in speaking up for and being associated with Palestinian rights and opposing the Israeli occupation." Later, during Obama's 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate, at another private gathering in Chicago's (and Obama's and Khalidi's) Hyde Park neighborhood, he excused himself to Abunimah for not being "more up front" in his advocacy of the Palestinian cause: "'Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.' He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy [and said:] ‘Keep up the good work!'" The Obama campaign has denied the accuracy of Abunimah's account of this conversation. But it offered no explanation as to why Abunimah would have invented it.
The story of Barack Obama's political alliance with Chicago Leftist activists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn ,the couple who had co-founded and led the Weatherman terrorist organization in the 1970s, when Obama was launching his own political career twenty-something years later, has in recent weeks received some modest attention in sections of the press; it has even been mentioned by vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. We do not have space here to review in detail the sordid history of the Obama-Ayers-Dohrn relationship, beyond mentioning that it involved the fundraiser and meet-the candidate reception at Ayers' and Dohrns' house that launched Obama's political career in 1995, and seven years of collaboration by Obama and Ayers as co-executives of two Leftist nonprofit organizations, including the one that funded the Khalidis' AAAN.
With regard to Ayers' and Dohrn's terrorist history, we will note only that the Weathermen killed five people, wounded or attempted to kill scores of others, and bombed up to 35 buildings; that Ayers boasted of these terrorist actions, affirmed his belief in their moral correctness, and allowed himself to be photographed trampling on the American flag in two interviews published in 2001; and that Obama continued to work with Ayers for at leasta year even after he made these public declarations of non-repentance for his murderous youth.
Less well known are Ayers' extremely anti-Israel views. Here are some samples of his comments about the Arab-Israel conflict on his web blog: "In modern times, the founders of Israel used terrorism against the British and the Palestinians; the Palestinians use terrorism against Israel; and Israel currently employs terror in the service of settlement and occupation;" "A bombing in a café in Israel is terrorism, and an Israeli assault on a neighborhood in Gaza is terrorism;" (note Ayers'use of the moral equivalency argument here, which he also uses to justify his own terrorism in the 1970s); "We name the obstacles to our own freedom, to our humanity. We unite with others. We fight against the obstacles. U.S. war and expansion in Iraq , for example, or Israel's insistence on its right to slowly annihilate the Palestinian people. . ." " ‘How is it,' Edward Said asks, ‘that the premises on which Western support for Israel is based are still maintained even though the reality, the facts, cannot possibly bear these premises out?' ...He's right, of course." (Ayers praises the late Edward Said to the skies in his blog).
He complains about what he calls an Israeli "invasion" of New York City's public schools. According to Ayers, this "invasion" took the form of the removal from the curriculum of a New York City Board of Education teacher training program of a course concerned with the Arab-Israel conflict and the Middle East-taught by none other than his friend Rashid Khalidi, who is now "Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies" at Columbia University, and director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. Khalidi, for his part, in the acknowledgment section of his 2004 book Resurrecting Empire, thanks "Bill" for being "particularly generous in letting me use his family's dining room table to do some writing for the project.". It would seem that both the Khalidi and Ayers dinner tables were very lively places in the 1990s and early 2000s!
Barack Obama has never condemned or unambiguously disassociated himself from either the Khalidis' or the Ayers-Dohrn's views about Israel and the Arab-Israel conflict.
Khalid al-Mansour is a somewhat shadowy but nevertheless influential and well-connected figure. In his capacity as a lawyer, he represented the international oil cartel OPEC in an important court case in 1981. Under his birth name Donald Warden in the1960s, Mansour "mentored" the Black Panther party and its leaders, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, who soon became deeply involved in terrorism. He claims to have acted as a financial and investment adviser to the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal, whom he befriended when the prince was an undergraduate student at Menlo College in California in the 1970s (Prince Alwaleed is the man who offered New York City $10 million dollars to rebuild after 9/11, but made a public statement at the same time alleging that the United States was partially to blame for the attack because of its support for Israel; New York's mayor, Rudy Giuliani, rightly rejected the grant offer). Mansour also claims that Alwaleed introduced him to Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, and that he (Mansour) has in turn introduced King Fahd to over 50 African heads of state. While we cannot verify all of Khalid al-Mansour's claims, there is no question that he is a man with some influence in both African-American and international Muslim political-financial circles.
Mansour was also instrumental in securing Barack Obama's admission to Harvard University law school, and hence in his subsequent rise to political prominence. According to the now retired, but then very powerful, African-American New York City politician Percy Sutton, Mansour approached him in 1988 and asked him to intervene to secure the admission of Obama, whom he described as a "genius," to Sutton's alma mater, Harvard Law School. Mansour also told Sutton that he was raising money to finance Obama's future law studies at Harvard. Sutton duly wrote to his contacts at Harvard Law School that Obama was a "genius," although he had apparently never met him; and Obama was duly admitted, despite mediocre grades as an undergraduate at Columbia.
Of course Obama's eventual graduation from the Harvard Law School immeasurably improved his prospects for a political career. But why did Mansour help Obama in this way? How, when and where did Mansour come to know Obama? Who brought these two men together? These are important questions whose answers we do not know, but we think the American people have a right to know them before they cast their ballots for the next President.
What we do know is that Mansour holds views that can reasonably be regarded as both anti-Israel and anti-Jewish, not to mention anti-white. For example, he asserts that it is a "lie" that "Ashkenazi" (European) Jews are descended from the ancient Israelites, and that they therefore have no legitimate claim to Palestine, which they "stole" from its rightful Arab owners. According to Mansour, European Jews are really descended from a Central Asian tribe known as the Khazars, not the ancient Jews. This is a theory that was invented by American (white) racists in the late nineteenth century, was strongly endorsed by the Nazis, and has recently been adopted by the PLO, other Arab and Muslim propagandists, as well as the (white racist, Aryanist) Christian Identity movement in the United States. Mansour has also said in a video-recorded speech that American blacks have a right to kill and even torture whites as revenge for the wrongs that whites have done them.
We hope that by now nearly everyone who follows the news knows, as they certainly should know, of the sermon in which Barack Obama's pastor for over 20 years, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, repeatedly exclaimed, "God d*** America " just a few years ago. Some of Wright's other unpatriotic sentiments and unsubstantiated accusations against America may be less well known - for example, that he regards the bombing of the World Trade Center as "chickens coming home to roost" for America's bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, its extermination of the American Indians, its alleged support for South African "apartheid" and its alleged support for Israeli "genocide" against the Palestinians; and that he has alleged that the United States invented the AIDS virus and deliberately spread it in Africa in order to exterminate black people.
Least well known, perhaps, is Wright's fierce hostility to Israel. As we have seen, Wright has accused Israel of "genocide;" he has also repeatedly characterized it as an "apartheid" state; and he has expressed support for the terrorist organization Hamas, which openly seeks Israel's destruction and has murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians. He has supported calls for U.S. businesses to "disinvest" in Israel, and has equated the current disinvestment campaign against Israel with the previous disinvestment campaign against white-ruled "apartheid" South Africa - a standard anti-Israel propaganda line. He has compared what he regards as the vindictiveness of America towards its enemies today with what he depicts as the vindictiveness of the ancient Israelites towards their enemies, the Babylonians. Wright even went so far, in one sermon, as to call the very word "Israel" a "dirty word." Only last year, in November 2007, through his journal The Trumpet, Wright gave a ‘lifetime achievement" award to the notorious anti-Semite, Israel-hater and racist Louis Farrakhan, and lavished praise on the old demagogue.
The facts make it difficult for us to believe that Barack Obama disagrees strongly with Wright's views about either America or Israel. Wright was the pastor of the only church to which Obama has ever belonged - Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Obama remained in that church for over 20 years while Wright was its pastor, and only left it in May 31st of this year - after Wright had retired. Wright married Barack and Michelle Obama and baptized their children, as Obama himself was quick to point out when his relationship with Wright was first questioned early in the spring of 2008. Obama has repeatedly described Wright as his spiritual advisor and mentor, and has publicly lauded him as a "great leader;" he even took the title of his second book, The Audacity of Hope, from a sermon by Wright. He only publicly disassociated himself from Wright when he came under intense public pressure to do so. 
Louis Farrakhan's anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-white views, including his description of Judaism as a "gutter religion," are too familiar to require recapitulation here. But we should note that the entire religious-political ideology of Farrakhan's organization, the Nation of Islam, is built on a foundation of racist myth; NOI maintains that blacks are "the original nation of earth," and whites are not indigenous to our planet, but were created by a mad black scientist named Jakub 6,600 years ago. We should also recall that Louis Farrakhan is widely suspected within the African-American community to having had a hand in the assassination of Malcolm X; Malcolm's daughter even tried to hire a hit-man to eliminate Farrakhan in revenge.
In spite of Louis Farrakhan's extremely dubious record, Barack Obama has done some work for him in the past; and he has apparently been rewarded for it by political support from Farrakhan in his bid for the Presidency. Obama helped Farrakhan organize the Million Man March to Washington in 1995, supposedly aimed at instilling greater self-esteem in Black men; and he addressed the assembled crowd in Washington from the same rostrum as Farrakhan, who was the principal and featured speaker. While a member of the Illinois State Senate, Obama had three members of the Nation of Islam, the organization headed by Farrakhan, on his staff. He still has a member of the NOI on his U.S. Senatorial staff, working in his Chicago office and assigned to "constituency services." More recently, Farrakhan has strongly endorsed Obama's candidacy for President, and has even suggested to his congregation that Obama may be the Messiah, or at least the Messiah's "herald." Obama, for his part, condemned Farrakhan's anti-Semitic "comments" when asked about it during a debate with Hillary Clinton; but he pointedly declined to reject Farrakhan's endorsement.
Jesse Jackson denies being an official part of the Barack Obama campaign, and the campaign's headquarters supports his denial; but no one denies that Obama and Jackson have been close over the years. The way Jackson puts it,Obama is "a neighbor or, better still, a member of the family." New York Post reporter Amir Taheri points out that "Jackson's son has been a close friend of Obama for years, and Jackson's daughter went to school with Obama's wife Michelle." "We helped him start his career," Taheri quotes Jackson as having told him. "And then we were always there to help him move ahead. He is the continuation of our struggle for justice not only for the black people but also for all those who have been wronged." Jesse Jackson's son, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who represents the Illinois' 2nd congressional district, serves as a national co-chairman of the Barack Obama Presidential campaign.
It is therefore a matter of legitimate concern when Taheri reported in the New York Post that Jackson had told a meeting of a group called the World Policy Forum, which met in Evian, France in early October that "‘decades of putting Israel's interests first' would end" under Barack Obama's administration. According to Taheri, "Jackson believes that, although ‘Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades' remain strong, they'll lose a great deal of their clout when Barack Obama enters the White House.'" After an account of Jackson's remarks at the policy forum and in a subsequent interview with Taheri was published by the Post on October 14, Jackson issued a statement claiming that "The recent column in the New York Post by Amir Taheri in no way represents my views on Middle East peace and security. The writer is selectively imposing his own point of view, and distorting mine. I have a long held position of a two state solution to achieve peace in the Middle East. I stand forthrightly for the security and stability of Israel, its protection from any form of hostility, and a peaceful, non-violent resolution to co-existing with its Palestinian neighbors." Jackson specifically denied having used the word "Zionist;" but he did not deny outright the other words attributed to him by the Post reporter. Both Jackson and the Obama campaign issued statements denying that Jackson had spoken with Obama recently about the policies he intends to pursue towards Israel.
However, Amir Taheri is an experienced and respected journalist, making it seem highly unlikely to us that he fabricated Jackson's reported remarks out of whole cloth; and Jackson certainly knows Obama well enough to make at least an "educated guess" about what policies Obama will adopt, as President, towards Israel and the American Jewish community. And we should not forget the facts that Jackson employed Louis Farrakhan as a "warm-up speaker" during his own campaign for the Presidency in 1984, or that he referred to Jews as "Hymies" and New York City as "Hymietown" during that campaign. Whatever influence Jackson may have exerted on Obama's thinking about Israel and Jews over the years is most unlikely to be helpful to either.
Politicians have a way of repaying the political debts that they owe to those who have helped them, directly or indirectly, to climb up the political ladder to high office. It is therefore a matter of the utmost concern to us that many of the political debts that Barack Obama owes are to Israel-haters, Israel-bashers, and/or anti-Semites.
John Landau contributed to this article.
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Rachel Neuwirth is an internationally recognized political commentator and analyst. She specializes in Middle Eastern Affairs with particular emphasis on Militant Islam and Israeli foreign policy. She is president of Middle East Solutions.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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