November 3, 2008


McCain's Shameful Slur: The Republicans' appalling attack on Rashid Khalidi (Christopher Hitchens, Nov. 3, 2008, Slate)

My main point, though, is not to call attention to the bullying and demagogy of McCain's attack. It is to observe how completely it undermines any claim on his part to foreign-policy experience. Khalidi has been known to me for some time and can easily be read and consulted by anyone with the remotest curiosity about the Israeli-Arab dispute. He is highly renowned, well beyond the borders of his own discipline, for his measure and care and scruple in weighing the issue. If he is seriously to be compared to a "neo-Nazi," then the Republican nominee has put the United States in the unbelievable position of slandering the most courageously "moderate" of the Palestinian Arabs as a brownshirt and a fascist. What then has been the point of every negotiation on a two-state solution since President George H.W. Bush convened the peace conference in Madrid in 1991? Nazis, after all, are to be crushed, not accommodated. One would have to think hard before coming up with a more crazy and irresponsible statement on any subject. Once again, it seems that McCain utterly lost his bearings.

I put the word moderate in quotation marks above because I dislike employing it in its usual form. Rashid Khalidi's family is a famous one in Jerusalem, long respected by Arab and Christian and Jew and Druze and Armenian, and holding a celebrated house and position in the city since approximately the time of the Crusades. I have had the honor of being invited to this very house. If Rashid chooses to state that he doesn't care to be evicted from his ancestral home in order to make way for some settler from Brooklyn who claims to have God on his side, I think he has a perfect right to say so. I would go further and say that if Barack Obama was looking for a Palestinian friend, he could not have chosen any better. But perhaps John McCain has decided that he doesn't need any Palestinian friends and neither do we. Perhaps he thinks it's all right to refer to refugees and victims of occupation, who have been promised self-determination and statehood at the podium of the United Nations and the U.S. Congress by George Bush and Condoleezza Rice, as if they were Hitlerites. How shameful. How disgusting. How ignorant.

The PLO's Professor (Philip Klein, 10.31.08, American Spectator)
ON JUNE 11, 1979, the New York Times ran an article explaining that the PLO was worried that the Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt would undermine Palestinians. The article quoted Khalidi opposing the deal for that very reason, and identified him as somebody "close to Al Fatah," an arm of the PLO.

It read:

One view shared by the Palestinian leadership and the rank and file, down to armed youths who guard doorways and intersections, is that the goal of an independent state will be foreclosed if the Camp David accords succeed. "We are in a make-or-break-it period," asserted Rashid Khalidi, a professor of political science who is close to Al Fatah. "If we don't turn the tide, if what (Egyptian President Anwar) Sadat is doing is not decisively repudiated, if the idea that Sadat had brought peace is allowed to stick without regard to Palestinian rights, then we are done in. Israel doesn't need to sign with us. They already control the land."

Also noteworthy about the quote was Khalidi's use of the term "we" in reference to the Palestinian leadership, which turns out to be more of a habit than an isolated occurrence.

For instance, a January 6, 1981 Christian Science Monitor article that refers to Khalidi as "a Palestinian with good access to the PLO leadership," reads:

Dr. Khalidi also argued that the PLO's standing among Arabs in the Israeli-occupied areas has grown significantly. "Quite apart from the politics of it, we have built up tremendous links with the Palestinians 'on the inside' in different ways. We can render them services, often through our compatriots in the West, that King Hussein, for example, could never match. We've never been stronger there, and the trend is continuing," he said.

Ironically, the same article quotes him as saying that hardliners within the PLO "perceive the new administration as basically hostile -- possibly more hostile than the Carter administration." Yes, on Planet Khalidi, even Jimmy Carter could be seen as being overtly hostile to the Palestinians.

But the evidence for the connections between Khalidi and the PLO are much more explicit than that. Thomas Friedman, in a June 8, 1982 New York Times piece about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, referred to Khalidi as "a director of the Palestinian press agency, Wafa." To be clear, Wafa is controlled by the PLO --and you don't have to take my word for it. Even Khalidi himself, on page 7 of his 1986 book Under Siege: P.L.O. Decisionmaking During the 1982 War, describes it as "the P.L.O.'s news agency."

That's not the most telling part of Under Siege. In the book's preface, Khalidi reserves his first paragraph of thanks for the research assistance provided by the PLO in general, and Arafat specifically. "Permission to utilize the P.L.O. Archives for the first time was generously given by the Chairman of the P.L.O. Executive Committee, Yasser 'Arafat," Khalidi wrote. "To him, and to the dedicated individuals working in the Office of the Chairman, the P.L.O. Archives, and the Palestine News Agency (WAFA), who extended every possible assistance to me on three trips to Tunis, I owe deep thanks."

We need not dwell on whether the PLO is neoNazi or not. It suffices that Mr. Hitchens thinks it appropriate for Senator Obama to pal around with a spokesman for the terrorist group. Rather few Americans would agree were the press reporting responsibly about it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 3, 2008 12:46 PM
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