Middle East studies in the News
In Obama's Hyde Park, It's All in the Family [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
It is this world … where white folks' greed runs a world in need[.]" Barack Obama was writing his memoir, Dreams from My Father, and quoting his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Wright is a racist proponent of Black Liberation Theology, a Marxist creed that depicts America as an imperial, terrorist, apartheid state.
It was a black-separatist creed that Obama and his wife, Michelle, chose to make a core part of their lives. Year after year, they attended Wright's Trinity Church. They contributed tens of thousands of their personal dollars to it — and Obama added tens of thousands more when he sat with his friend Bill Ayers on the board of the Leftist Woods Fund.
Most demonstrably, the Obamas chose Wright to baptize their children, whom they brought week after week to Trinity, freely exposing them to Wright's hate-mongering about their country.
Wright is such a baleful figure that there really is no defending Obama on this score. So, instead, his media allies have engaged in risible psychoanalysis: As if, though Obama had to pass by about 100 other churches in Chicago to get to Trinity, we are off-base in inferring that he was drawn to Wright's message.
Of course that is not going to fly. Wright is what enabled Hillary Clinton to turn a primary rout into a horserace Obama would have lost if the revelations had come any earlier. Desperate to pull their guy across the final finish line, the Obamedia has done what the media can still do powerfully well: Reduce the story's impact by ignoring it. In this, they've had a much needed assist from the craven error of the McCain campaign. Petrified of being called a racist by a bunch of race-baiters, the Maverick has taken Wright off the table.
But Wright can't be taken completely off the table. Obama has planted him there too firmly. The "white folks' greed" drivel is drawn from a Wright sermon, "The Audacity to Hope." Obama was so taken by it that the sermon provided the (derived) title of The Audacity of Hope, the young Chicago pol's second memoir — making him the first presidential candidate to emerge from the U.S. Senate with two autobiographies and no legislative accomplishments.
Wright's overtones echo whenever the usually hyper-scripted Obama departs from the script and lets slip his intention to "spread the wealth," enforce "redistributive change," or remediate an America he has compared to Nazi Germany. Wright shone through when Obama rejected the individual liberty of the capitalist system — America's "strong bias toward individual action," which "idolize[s] the John Wayne hero who comes in to correct things with both guns blazing" — in favor of "collective action[,] … institutions and organizations."
And while the candidate has obviously put his irascible wife on ice during the campaign's homestretch, one needn't deeply penetrate Michelle's verbal bombshells about "just downright mean" America to make out the preacher's echoes. Nor does it take a deep wade through the anti-integration railings in Michelle's college thesis — Princeton having admitted her notwithstanding mean old America's apartheid society — to realize how uniquely receptive to Wright's bile she would have been. Ditto, again, Obama himself: as Hank De Zutter wrote after interviewing Obama for this favorable 1995 profile, he'd learned to see "integration was a one-way street, with blacks expected to assimilate into a white world that never gave ground."
The United States gave the Obamas privileged educational opportunities. At America's top colleges, they were steeped in Leftist radicalism. As they came of age, they thought nothing of exposing their children to an ideology that paints their country as racist, rife with injustice, and in need of drastic, fundamental change. And why should we expect otherwise? It is what they believe.
It is also the way things are done in the circle of friends they developed during years of living in Hyde Park — friends like Rashid and Mona Khalidi, and Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.
Like Obama's empirical remoteness from what he diagnoses as Black America's struggle against white folks' greed, Rashid Khalidi is well insulated from the reality of what he portrays as the illegitimate Jewish state's remorseless oppression of Palestinians.
Two New York Times obituaries, one published when his father, Ismail, died in 1968, and the other when his more famous uncle, Hussein, died in 1962, paint a portrait of Rashid Khalidi as Palestinian royalty — albeit with elusive Palestinian roots. Ismail Khalidi was actually a Saudi citizen, educated in American schools in Lebanon and in the U.S. — including at Columbia, his son Rashid's current pulpit, where the elder Khalidi got his doctorate in 1955.
So it turns out that Rashid Khalidi's claim to Palestinian heritage is derived not from the struggle but from antiquity. He was not born not among the impoverished masses of Gaza or the West Bank but into a life of privilege in New York City. The Times tells us that Khalidis claim they are descended from Khalid Ibn Walid, "who defeated the Byzantine armies at the battle of the Yarmuk River in 634 that opened the way for the Arab conquest of the Middle East, North Africa and Spain" — making the family, the Times tells us, "one of Palestine's oldest and most influential."
Rashid was born well connected. Uncle Hussein had been the first elected mayor of Jerusalem and was evidently quite bitter about having to abandon the Khalidi family estate during the 1948 War — the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" as Rashid, like most Palestinians, refers to the creation of Israel. Hussein fled to Jordan, where the Times records that he "was twice Foreign Minister before becoming Prime Minister for a brief period in 1957 during the attempt to overthrow" the country's young king. Meanwhile, Rashid's father, Ismail, landed influential positions at the U.N. while Rashid attended Yale and then Oxford. In fact, Rashid would have been at Yale in the riotous days of 1968, the year his father died while on leave in Beirut — in the months after 1967's Six Day War, when Yasser Arafat, whom Rashid would later serve as a spokesman, formally declared that the extermination of Israel was the PLO's animating goal.
In Hyde Park during the 1980s, Rashid made the easy transition from Arafat apologist to American academic. So, ultimately, did his wife Mona. In Chicago, Mona, a former top PLO translator, joined with her husband to found the Arab American Action Network, an activist anti-Israel/pro-illegal-immigration organization that was generously funded by Obama and Ayers at the Woods Fund. Later, after Rashid made the move from the University of Chicago to the Edward Said professorship at Columbia, Mona became an assistant dean of student affairs and assistant director of graduate programs at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs.
But it was in Hyde Park, the same milieu where the Obamas would raise their children, that the Khalidis brought up theirs, including a son, Ismail, apparently named after Rashid's father. The younger Ismail has recently been in the news for penning a contribution to a book distributed widely on some of today's American campuses. It's called Letters from Young Activists: Today's Rebels Speak Out.
The book, you'll no doubt be stunned to learn, is edited by Chesa Boudin (among others). Boudin, like Professor Rashid Khalidi, graduated from Yale and went on to Oxford. He was raised in Hyde Park by Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, who are now also well-known academics, having made the transition to prestigious professorships from their days as terrorist revolutionaries. Dohrn, in fact, wrote the preface for Letters from Young Activists and is credited as one of the co-editors.
Dorhn and Ayers have two other children, whom they named Malik (the Muslim name of Malcolm X) and Zayd. Zayd's namesake is Zayd Shakur, a Black Panther killed while driving the radical JoAnne Chesimard (a.k.a. Assata Shakur) to a hideout — the resulting traffic stop shootout ended in the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper. The former Weather Underground terrorists raised Boudin because his natural parents, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, were serving lengthy prison sentences for their roles in the Brinks murders, a joint Weatherman and Black Liberation Army operation in which two police officers and an armed guard were killed. Unlike Ayers, Dohrn actually spent time in prison as a result of their terrorist activities — a contempt citation for refusing to honor a grand jury subpoena in the Brinks investigation.
Another chip off the old block, Chesa Boudin has also written a book lavishing praise on Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution (called The Venezuelan Revolution: 100 Questions, 100 Answers). At a Caracas "education" conference in 2006, Bill Ayers gave a glowing speech about Venezuela — that "beacon to the world" — with Chavez, the smiling dictator, looking on. Also front and center was Boudin. Proud papa (who has posted the speech on his website) took the opportunity to "thank my youngest son, Chesa Boudin, who is interpreting my talk this morning and whose book on the Bolivarian revolution has played an important part in countering the barrage of lies spread by the U.S. State Department and the corrupted Northamerican media."
Like father like son. As Boudin had told the New York Times in a 2002 interview, "My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world. I'm dedicated to the same thing."
Why would Barack and Michelle Obama expose their children to Rev. Wright's America-hating spew? Because in the circle from which Obama hails, that spew isn't considered spew. It's considered truth, and it gets passed along from generation to generation.
— National Review's Andrew C. McCarthy chairs the Center for Law & Counterterrorism at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and is the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (Encounter Books 2008). Claudia Rosett is FDD's journalist-in-residence, heads its Investigative Reporting Project, and writes a weekly column on foreign affairs for Forbes.com.
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