Middle East studies in the News
Rashid Khalidi: Will Anyone Stand for McCain's Final Smear?
by Dan Amira
As we wrote yesterday, John McCain has been fussing over the link between Barack Obama and Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi. The Los Angeles Times reported in April that Obama had some kind words for Khalidi at the latter's University of Chicago farewell dinner in 2003, but the paper has refused to release a videotape of the event because of a promise made to their source not to do so. It's already been pointed out that if speaking at a dinner for Khalidi is an offense, then McCain has some explaining to do for the hundreds of thousands of dollars granted to Khalidi's organization by the foundation McCain chairs. But that didn't stop McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb from pushing the story yesterday to CNN's Rick Sanchez and embarrassing himself in the process. Meanwhile, the backlash against McCain's latest addition to the kitchen-sink strategy is growing.
• Michael Dobbs awards the McCain campaign two Pinocchios for their Khalidi argument, labeling it "a case of guilt by association gone haywire." Whether or not Khalidi was ever officially a spokesman for the PLO "may be a question of semantics," but both President Bush and Secretary of State Rice "have had extensive dealings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is much more closely identified with the PLO than Rashidi ever was." Plus, as the Obama campaign pointed out, a foundation that McCain chairs gave a Khalidi-founded organization nearly half a million dollars. [Fact Checker/WP]
• Josh Marshall calls Khalidi an "entirely respectable, highly respected scholar," and McCain's "character assassination" is "ugly and shameful." Khalidi is simply being used "as a generic Arab, to spur the idea that Obama is foreign, friendly with terrorists and possibly Muslim." It's "an offense McCain should never be forgiven for." [Talking Points Memo]
• Matthew Yglesias contends that "we're a pretty sick society where a person can be seriously accused of … being acquainted with someone (an Arab someone!) whose views on Israel are unpopular as if it were a hanging offense." [Think Progress]
• The Washington Post editorial board doesn't "agree with a lot of what Mr. Khalidi has had to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the years, and Mr. Obama has made clear that he doesn't, either." But comparing him to a neo-Nazi, as McCain has personally done, "is a vile smear." If one wants to question why Obama felt comfortable "in the company of men whose views diverge sharply from" his own, it's probably because "Obama is a man of considerable intellectual curiosity who can hear out a smart, if militant, advocate for the Palestinians without compromising his own position." [WP]
• Marc Santora and Elissa Gootman explore Khalidi's history as an academic and quote friends and colleagues who are taken aback by his inclusion as one of Obama's "radical friends." [NYT]
• Andy McCarthy tells the Times to check its own archives, in which it had referred to Khalidi in 1982 as "director of the Palestinian press agency, Wafa." [Corner/National Review]
• Hilzoy agrees that "comparing Rashid Khalidi to a neo-Nazi" is "beyond vile." McCain knows that "mentioning his name produces the effect it does because that name is Arab." McCain wouldn't have taken part in this "bigotry" a few years ago, and "in a few weeks, when he contemplates the shredded remains of his honor," he'll wish he hadn't. [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]
• Andrew Sullivan suggests that the truth is out there, but "the complexities of a scholar's thought and record are not best explored in the heat of a campaign's final days." [Daily Dish/Atlantic]
• Joe Klein claims that the only bigot here is Michael Goldfarb, "who, if he's intent on calling people antisemitic — or any other epithet — should be required to provide chapter and verse, which he does not do on CNN." [Swampland/Time]
• Jeffery Goldberg calls Khalidi "a fierce partisan of the Palestinian cause" whose "sympathies frequently cause him to distort Middle East history." But he's not an anti-Semite, and in fact, he's "one of the rare Palestinian advocates who argues, as he has with me, that Arabs must study Jewish history, including and especially the history of Jew-hatred, in order to better understand Israel, and to reach a compromise with it." [Atlantic]
• Kevin Drum is challenging readers to try and come up with more slurs directed at Obama from the McCain campaign and its allies in addition to "anti-Semitic, Marxist, anti-American, a socialist, an extremist Afrocentrist, and a terrorist sympathizer." [Mother Jones]
• Ethan Porer suspects that McCain's accusations about Khalidi may be overly partisan for Jewish voters and could "further alienate" them. [New Republic]
• And finally, John Derbyshire posits that the LAT's refusal to release the videotape of the Khalidi dinner is part of a conspiracy to get Obama to bail out the struggling Tribune Company once he becomes president. [Corner/National Review]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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