Middle East studies in the News
Khalidi Ties Resurface
by Nathan Guttman
Barack Obama's relationship with a prominent Palestinian-American academic made its way into the last week of the presidential campaign, thanks to some pushing by John McCain.
Both McCain and his vice-presidential nominee made a public issue out of a report from April regarding Barack Obama's ties with scholar and pro-Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi.
The campaign attacked not only Obama but also the Los Angeles Times for refusing to publish a videotape of a farewell party for Khalidi in which the Democratic candidate reportedly praised Khalidi, an outspoken critic of Israel.
The event, first reported by the L.A. Times on April 10, took place in 2003. It was in honor of Khalidi who was leaving his post at the University of Chicago to take a position as a professor for Middle East studies at Columbia University. The newspaper reported it had obtained a videotape of the event from an anonymous source and had promised not to make the tape public.
"If there was a tape of John McCain in a neo-Nazi outfit, I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different," McCain said in an October 29 radio interview.
His running mate Sarah Palin also took on the issue, telling a crowd in Ohio "It must be nice for a candidate to have major news organizations looking out for their best interests like that."
The L.A. Times rejected claims of pro-Obama bias.
"The Times is not suppressing anything. Just the opposite — the L.A. Times brought the matter to light" said the papers' readers' representative Jamie Gold.
Barack Obama's campaign issued a statement blaming McCain for trying to distract voters from the economic issues and calling the allegations a "recycled, manufactured controversy."
The statement added "Khalidi is not an adviser to him or his campaign and that he does not share Khalidi's views."
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