Middle East studies in the News
LA Times Refuses to Release Tape of Obama Praising Controversial Activist [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
The Los Angeles Times is refusing to release a videotape that it says shows Barack Obama praising a Chicago professor who was an alleged mouthpiece for the Palestine Liberation Organization while it was a designated terrorist group in the 1970s and '80s.
According an LA Times article written by Peter Wallsten in April, Obama was a "friend and frequent dinner companion" of Rashid Khalidi, who from 1976 to1982 was reportedly a director of the official Palestinian press agency, WAFA, which was operating in exile from Beirut with the PLO.
In the article -- based on the videotape obtained by the Times -- Wallsten said Obama addressed an audience during a 2003 farewell dinner for Khalidi, who was Obama's colleague at the University of Chicago, before his departure for Columbia University in New York. Obama said his many talks with Khalidi and his wife Mona stood as "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases."
Khalidi is currently the Edward Said professor of Arab Studies at Columbia. A pro-Palestinian activist, he has been a fierce critic of American foreign policy and of Israel, which he has accused of establishing an "apartheid system" of government. The PLO advocate helped facilitate negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the early '90s, but he has denied he was ever an employee of the group, contradicting accounts in the New York Times and Washington Times.
The LA Times told FOXNews.com that it won't reveal how it obtained the tape of Khalidi's farewell party, nor will the newspaper release it. Spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan said the paper is not interested in revisiting the story. "As far as we're concerned, the story speaks for itself," she said.
The newspaper reported Tuesday evening in a story on its Web site that the tape was from a confidential source.
"The Los Angeles Times did not publish the videotape because it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it," the Times' editor, Russ Stanton, said. "The Times keeps its promises to sources."
In recent months Obama has distanced himself from the man the Times says he once called a friend. "He is not one of my advisers. He's not one of my foreign policy people," Obama said at a campaign event in May. "He is a respected scholar, although he vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israel's policy."
But on the tape, according to the Times, Obama said in his toast that he hoped his relationship with Khalidi would continue even after the professor left Chicago. "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."
A number of Web sites have accused the Times of purposely suppressing the tape of the event -- which former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn reportedly attended.
Sullivan said she would not give details of what else may be on the tape, adding that anyone interested in the video should read the newspaper's report, which was its final account.
"This is a story that we reported on six months ago, so any suggestion that we're suppressing the tape is absurd -- we're the ones that brought the existence of the tape to light," Sullivan said.
The Los Angeles Times endorsed Obama for president on October 19.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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