Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who is Rashid Khalidi?

By Martin Kramer: "Khalidi and Obama- Kindred Spirits" 30 October 2008 "He has family literally all over the world. I feel a kindred spirit from that." —Rashid Khalidi on Barack Obama The link between Palestinian-American agitprof Rashid Khalidi and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has finally been picked up by the mainstream media. It's something they should have looked at long ago, and even now, they aren't really digging. They're simply reporting the demand of the McCain campaign that the Los Angeles Times release the video of Obama's praise of Khalidi, at a farewell gathering for Khalidi in 2003. Obama and Khalidi (and their wives) became friends in the 1990s, when Obama began to teach at the University of Chicago, where Khalidi also taught. In 2003, Khalidi accepted the Edward Said Professorship of Arab Studies at Columbia; the videotaped event was his Chicago farewell party. The Los Angeles Times, which refuses to release the tape (and which endorsed Obama on October 19) reported last spring that Obama praised Khalidi's "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases." Other speakers reportedly said incendiary things against Israel. Whether or how Obama reacted, only the videotape might tell. That Obama spoke on this important occasion suggests that his attachment to Khalidi wasn't a superficial acquaintance. As Obama admits, the two had many "conversations" over dinner at the Khalidis' home, and these may well have constituted Obama's primer on the Middle East. Yet Obama has given no account of these conversations, even as he has repeatedly emphasized other ones which would seem far less significant. For example, Obama, in an interview and in his spring AIPAC speech, recalled conversations with a Jewish-American camp counselor he encountered—when he was all of eleven years old. "During the course of this two-week camp he shared with me the idea of returning to a homeland and what that meant for people who had suffered from the Holocaust, and he talked about the idea of preserving a culture when a people had been uprooted with the view of eventually returning home. There was something so powerful and compelling for me, maybe because I was a kid who never entirely felt like he was rooted." (In the same interview, Obama said Israel "speaks to my history of being uprooted, it speaks to the African-American story of exodus.") Of course, the story of someone like Khalidi could have just as readily spoken to Obama's history of uprootedness, exodus, preserving a culture, and longing to return home. (So too would the story of the late Edward Said, who was photographed seated at a dinner with Obama in 1998, and who entitled his memoir Out of Place. Obama has never said anything about the impact, if any, of that conversation.) And indeed, it stretches credulity to believe that a two-week childhood encounter at a summer camp was more significant to Obama that his decade-long association, as a mature adult, with his senior university colleague, Khalidi. Nor does it seem far-fetched that the sense of "kindred spirit" felt by Khalidi toward Obama was mutual. One particularly striking parallel deserves mention. Obama, it will be recalled, was born to a nominally Muslim father (a Kenyan bureaucat) and an American Christian mother, which has created some confusion as to the religious tradition in which he was raised. Khalidi's father, a nominally Muslim Palestinian (and a bureaucrat who worked for the United Nations) married his mother, a Lebanese Christian, in a Unitarian Church in Brooklyn, where Khalidi would later attend Sunday school. For such people caught between traditions, Third Worldist sympathies often serve as ecumenical substitutes for religion. (Obama himself allows that as an undergraduate, "in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism and patriarchy." One wonders how Israel fared in those conversations.) Were we to see the videotape, it might give us some sense of how far down the road Obama went in that direction—and not all that long ago. It would be interesting to know, for example, if there was reference to Iraq. In 2003, when Khalidi's friends gave him his goodbye party, he was deep into propagandizing against the Iraq war. Among his arguments, he included this one: This war will be fought because these neoconservatives desire to make the Middle East safe not for democracy, but for Israeli hegemony. They are convinced that the Middle East is irremediably hostile to both the United States and Israel; and they firmly hold the racist view that Middle Easterners understand only force. For these American Likudniks and their Israeli counterparts, sad to say, the tragedy of September 11 was a godsend: It enabled them to draft the United States to help fight Israel's enemies. This argument against the war was not at all unusual on the faculty of the University of Chicago at the time. Another professor of Middle East history, Fred Donner, gave it blatant expression on the pages of the Chicago Tribune, calling the Iraq war "a vision deriving from Likud-oriented members of the president's team—particularly Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith." So perhaps it is not surprising that Obama, in his October 2002 antiwar speech, declared: "What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne." No mention of Cheney or Rumsfeld—and no need to mention them, to a constituency that knew who was really behind the push for war, and why. (Later, the same argument would figure prominently in The Israel Lobby, co-authored by another Chicago professor, John Mearsheimer.) Obama, when pressed during an appearance before a Jewish audience, admitted that "I do know him [Khalidi] because I taught at the University of Chicago." This sounds wholly innocuous; I also know Khalidi because I taught at the University of Chicago—twice, in 1990 and 1991, when I had an office on the same hall. Obama continues: "And I do know him and I have had conversations." Well, even I've had conversations with Khalidi. (A former Chicago graduate student who must keep meticulous records writes to me that he spotted me on December 6, 1990, at the Quad Club lunching with Khalidi.) Nor does it mean much if Khalidi introduced Obama to Edward Said; Khalidi introduced me to Edward Said in New York in November 1986. The difference is that while I came away from these encounters convinced that Khalidi's purported moderation was a sham, and have said so, Obama went the other direction, maintaining their friendship right up to Khalidi's send-off from Chicago, to which he contributed an encomium. Which is why I'd really like to see that videotape. I'm just curious which of Rashid Khalidi's virtues I somehow missed, and Barack Obama saw. Pointer: The next public sighting of Khalidi will be at a Columbia conference entitled "Orientalism from the Standpoint of its Victims—An Edward Said Conference," on November 7. Khalidi will deliver the opening address.

6 comments:

New Mom said...

"and not all that long ago"? Are you serious? You are seriously convicting someone for their thoughts in college? He was in college years before I was! God, I pray for people like you. You really are sick and I am grateful that most people are not judged by the thoughts and questions they had in College.

Mike Licht said...

McCain Funds PLO?

See http://notionscapital.wordpress.com/2008/10/30/mccain-funds-plo/

Anonymous said...

Don't bother commenting on Lt Cut and Paste's blog. He never responds, too scared to actually speak for himself. He only trolls Fox Noize for his articles that he cowardly copies and pastes, right Lt Copy and Paste?

Did you know MCain's group donated almost $1,000,000 to this guy? Careful with the guilt by association attacks, Lt CaP.

Quit sucking up to the GOP with these smears; I'm sure you could find work as a secretary, you know, copying and pasting.

Anonymous said...

From Jed Report
http://www.jedreport.com/

I am not at all disturbed by Barack Obama's alleged relationship with Rashidi Khalidi, nor am I disturbed by Khalidi himself, and I say this as a supporter of Israel, as a Jew, and as an American.

I am, however, terribly disturbed by the McCain campaign's systematic assault on this man who not only has played no voluntary role in this campaign, but also owes what little prominence he does have at least in part to John McCain, who generously funded his organization in the 1990s.

Obviously, the reason this man is being targeted for his name and nothing more. I was watching a Palin rally yesterday in which she launched an attack on Khalidi, in the process so badly mangling his name that it was hardly recognizable, though it was clearly foreign-sounding.

Before she had finished mispronouncing it, however, the crowd was already booing. They had no idea who this man was. All they knew is that they didn't like the way his name sounded.

That's not the America we want to live in. That's McCarthyism. That's what McCain and Palin now represent, and on Tuesday, we bid them farewell.

It will be a good riddance.


>>>Well said. Take heed, Lt McCarthy

Anonymous said...

From the Washington Post:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/30/AR2008103003244.html?nav=hcmodule


An 'Idiot Wind'
John McCain's latest attempt to link Barack Obama to extremism
Friday, October 31, 2008; A18

WITH THE presidential campaign clock ticking down, Sen. John McCain has suddenly discovered a new boogeyman to link to Sen. Barack Obama: a sometimes controversial but widely respected Middle East scholar named Rashid Khalidi. In the past couple of days, Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, have likened Mr. Khalidi, the director of a Middle East institute at Columbia University, to neo-Nazis; called him "a PLO spokesman"; and suggested that the Los Angeles Times is hiding something sinister by refusing to release a videotape of a 2003 dinner in honor of Mr. Khalidi at which Mr. Obama spoke. Mr. McCain even threw former Weatherman Bill Ayers into the mix, suggesting that the tape might reveal that Mr. Ayers -- a terrorist-turned-professor who also has been an Obama acquaintance -- was at the dinner.

For the record, Mr. Khalidi is an American born in New York who graduated from Yale a couple of years after George W. Bush. For much of his long academic career, he taught at the University of Chicago, where he and his wife became friends with Barack and Michelle Obama. In the early 1990s, he worked as an adviser to the Palestinian delegation at peace talks in Madrid and Washington sponsored by the first Bush administration. We don'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 to compare the professor to neo-Nazis -- or even to Mr. Ayers -- is a vile smear.

Perhaps unsurprising for a member of academia, Mr. Khalidi holds complex views. In an article published this year in the Nation magazine, he scathingly denounced Israeli practices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and U.S. Middle East policy but also condemned Palestinians for failing to embrace a nonviolent strategy. He said that the two-state solution favored by the Bush administration (and Mr. Obama) was "deeply flawed" but conceded there were also "flaws in the alternatives." Listening to Mr. Khalidi can be challenging -- as Mr. Obama put it in the dinner toast recorded on the 2003 tape and reported by the Times in a detailed account of the event last April, he "offers constant reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases."

It's fair to question why Mr. Obama felt as comfortable as he apparently did during his Chicago days in the company of men whose views diverge sharply from what the presidential candidate espouses. Our sense is that Mr. 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. To suggest, as Mr. McCain has, that there is something reprehensible about associating with Mr. Khalidi is itself condemnable -- especially during a campaign in which Arab ancestry has been the subject of insults. To further argue that the Times, which obtained the tape from a source in exchange for a promise not to publicly release it, is trying to hide something is simply ludicrous, as Mr. McCain surely knows.

Which reminds us: We did ask Mr. Khalidi whether he wanted to respond to the campaign charges against him. He answered, via e-mail, that "I will stick to my policy of letting this idiot wind blow over." That's good advice for anyone still listening to the McCain campaign's increasingly reckless ad hominem attacks. Sadly, that wind is likely to keep blowing for four more days.

Anonymous said...

Here is all you need to know about the author of this smear piece, Martin Kramer, from Wikipedia:

Martin Kramer was an early advocate of attacking Saddam Hussein in the wake of 9/11, arguing in December 2001 that regardless of a possible involvement, he posed a threat to the entire Middle East.[10] However, he was critical of the shifting rationale for the war in October 2002, questioning the United States' "tools of social engineering" needed to promote an eventual democracy process in the Arab world.[11]
He was a senior policy adviser on the Middle East to the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Campaign.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Kramer

ALWAYS RESEARCH THE SOURCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!