Someone Owes Rashid Khalidi An Apology
Posted Nov 1, 2008

Someone Owes Rashid Khalidi An Apology

by Sheila Musaji

updated 11/2/2008

A recent article by Andrew McCarthy The L.A. Times Suppresses Obama’s Khalidi Bash Tape in National Review has fueled a firestorm of demands that the tape of an Arab American Action Network (AAAN) dinner in 2003 honoring Rashid Khalidi and during which Obama praised Khalidi be released by the Times. The McCain campaign has also made this demand, and further McCain has compared Rashid Khalidi to a “neo-nazi”.  McCarthy’s telling of the story is full of innuendo and emotional language -  AAAN is “rabidly anti-Israel”.  Rashid Khalidi is a “former mouthpiece for master terrorist Yasser Arafat”.  Columbia University’s Middle East Studies Program is a “bubbling cauldron of anti-Semitism”.  Edward Sayyid was “another notorious terror apologist”.

As Scott Horton points out in Harper’s:

“McCarthy states that Khalidi “founded” the Arab American Action Network (AAAN). In fact, he neither founded it nor has anything to do with it. But AAAN is not, as McCarthy suggests, a political organization. It is a social-services organization, largely funded by the state of Illinois and private foundations, that provides support for English-language training, citizenship classes, after-school and summer programs for schoolchildren, women’s shelters, and child care among Chicago’s sizable Arab community (and for others on the city’s impoverished South Side). Does McCarthy consider this sort of civic activism objectionable? Since it was advocated aggressively by President Bush–this is “compassionate conservativism” in action–such an objection would be interesting. Nor was Khalidi ever a spokesman for the PLO, though that was reported in an erroneous column by the New York Times’s Tom Friedman in 1982. That left me curious about the final and most dramatic accusation laid at Khalidi’s doorstep: that the Khalidis babysat for the Obamas. Was it true? I put the question to Khalidi. “No, it is not true,” came the crisp reply. Somehow that was exactly the answer I expected.

Of course, Khalidi has been involved in Palestinian causes. McCarthy ought to ask John McCain about that, because McCain and Khalidi appear to have some joint interests, and that fact speaks very well of both of them. Indeed, the McCain–Khalidi connections are more substantial than the phony Obama–Khalidi connections McCarthy gussies up for his article. The Republican party’s congressionally funded international-networking organization, the International Republican Institute–long and ably chaired by John McCain and headed by McCain’s close friend, the capable Lorne Craner–has taken an interest in West Bank matters. IRI funded an ambitious project, called the Palestine Center, that Khalidi helped to support. Khalidi served on the Center’s board of directors. The goal of that project, shared by Khalidi and McCain, was the promotion of civic consciousness and engagement and the development of democratic values in the West Bank. Of course, McCarthy is not interested in looking too closely into the facts, because they would not serve his shrill partisan objectives.

I have a suggestion for Andy McCarthy and his Hyde Park project. If he really digs down deep enough, he will come up with a Hyde Park figure who stood in constant close contact with Barack Obama and who, unlike Ayers and Khalidi, really did influence Obama’s thinking about law, government, and policy. He is to my way of thinking a genuine radical. His name is Richard Posner, and he appears to be the most frequently and positively cited judge and legal academic in… National Review.”

More of this non-story was debunked by Ron Kampeas on JTA:

The problem with the “spokesman” claim is that you can actually prove it’s not true. In saner times, “prove it’s not true” would be a phrase frowned on in an innocent until proven guilty culture. Khalidi’s denial would be enough in the face of a lack of evidence as to same. Those promoting the claim cite a single 1982 article by Tom Friedman; Khalidi says Friedman got it wrong, and that the term “PLO spokesman” was used promiscuously in 1982 Beirut.

... So here’s the thing: What everyone acknowledges is that Khalidi was an adviser to the Palestinian delegation to the 1991 Madrid talks. That delegation - to a person - could not have had any formal affiliation with the PLO. Israel regarded the group as terrorist and its laws banned contact with its members; then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir made NOT being affiliated with the PLO it a condition of Israel’s agreement to participate. The names of the Palestinian team would have been vetted by Israeli intelligence.

This was something of a nudge and a wink, of course: Faisal Husseini, who headed the team, was in constant contact with PLO headquarters in Tunis.

Still, it should put to rest the notion that Khalidi was ever a “spokesman” for the group.”

Peter Wallsten in an L.A. Times article last year noted about Khalidi:  “He is seen as a moderate in Palestinian circles, having decried suicide bombings against civilians as a “war crime” and criticized the conduct of Hamas and other Palestinian leaders. Still, many of Khalidi’s opinions are troubling to pro-Israel activists, such as his defense of Palestinians’ right to resist Israeli occupation and his critique of U.S. policy as biased toward Israel.”

And Stephen Zunes adds to this:  “In reality, rather than allying himself with anti-Israeli extremists, Khalidi is far more closely identified with Palestinian moderates and the Israeli peace camp. For example, he serves on the national advisory committee of the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East, a highly regarded interfaith group advocating dialogue, education and peace advocacy.  Furthermore, while recognizing the international legal right for a people to resist uniformed foreign occupation forces, Khalidi has opposed terrorism and has explicitly stated that killing Israeli civilians is a “war crime” and “a violation of international law.”

Adam Serwer in an article entitled “What’s the Point” at The American Prospect noted that:  “I can’t really tell what exactly is supposed to be frightening about Rashid Khalidi or his relationship with Barack Obama, but it’s very clear the McCain campaign is doing a successful job of keeping his name in the news. From what I can tell, Khalidi is a Palestinian academic who has been critical of Israel and has done work trying to promote democracy in the West Bank, and was trustworthy enough for McCain to have given Khalidi’s group nearly a half a million dollars in grants while McCain chaired the International Republican Institute.”

Josh Marshall answers Adam Serwer’s question and gets to the point:  “The McCain campaign has been throwing around so much mud and smears in recent weeks that it’s easy to miss just how ugly and shameful their character assassination of Rashid Khalidi is. This is an entirely respectable, highly respected scholar. To go further into making a case for him would only be to enable and indulge McCain’s sordid appeal to racism. For McCain, personally, to compare Khalidi to a neo-nazi, it’s just an offense McCain should never be forgiven for. It’s right down in the gutter with Joe McCarthy and the worst of the worst. Khalidi is in this new McCain set piece for one reason—as a generic Arab, to spur the idea that Obama is foreign, friendly with terrorists and possibly Muslim.”


The New McCarthyism, Scott Horton
McCain camp demands L.A. Times release video, Ben Smith
Khalidi and the PLO, Ron Kampeas
McCain’s Disgrace, Josh Marshall
Khalidi: The Republicans’ Latest Smear Against Obama, Stephen Zunes’_latest_smear_against_obama/
What’s the Point, Adam Serwer
McCain: Obama Decent, no Arab, Juan Cole:
Fisking Martin Kramer’s Fisking, Ron Kampeas
Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Barack Obama, Peter Wallsten,1,2127459,full.story


The Knowledge That Doesn’t Equal Power, Philip Kennicott
Columbia U. Prof. Rashid Khalidi: “Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom Are Necessary For Unpopular and Difficult Ideas”
Palestine: Liberation Deferred, Rashid Khalidi
The LA Times, McCain/Palin, and Rashid Khalidi
McCain Gave Rashid Khalidi Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars
McCain Funded Work Of Palestinian His Campaign Hopes To Tie To Obama
Dear John McCain, Wajahat Ali
Political Storm Finds a Columbia Professor, Marc Santora, Elissa Gootman
The politics of myopia, Patty Fisher
John McCain’s ‘Trick or Treat’?, Michael Dobbs
Rashid Khalidi: more nonsense, Michael Tomasky
Who is Rashid Khalidi and why is he a factor in the presidential election?, Ray Hanania

The Rashid Khalidi, Iran, Anti Israel Bogeymen, Taylor Marsh
The IRI (International Republical Institute) Confirms, Tries to Distance Self, from Khalidi, Jake Tapper
Super-Zionist Peretz Defends Khalidi, Jake Tapper
Rashid Khalidi: Will Anyone Stand for McCain’s Final Smear?, Dan Amira—20081031&imw=Y&f=most-emailed-24h5
The Last Gasp, Daniel Larison
Khalidi, Hilzoy
If You Have a Racist Friend, Now Is the Time for That Friendship to End, Eric Martin
McCain Racism, Hypocrisy on Khalidi Issue, Juan Cole
Rashid Who?, Ethan Porter
McCain the Mudslinger?, Ian Faerstein
Attacks on Khalidi Are Sowing a Whirlwind, Spencer Ackerman
John McCain’s witch-hunt, Eric Alterman
Rashid Khalidi Controversy, Jo-Ann Mort
Putting on Ayers