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What Does the President See in Rashid Khalidi?

On May 31, 2010 a so called “Peace Flotilla”  attempted to break through the legal Israeli  blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Flotilla was asked to cease their attempt to illegally  dock at the Gaza Strip and dock at the Israeli port of Ashdod instead, they refused to comply. Flotilla ships were then stopped by Israeli forces and a conflict ensued onboard one ship the Mavri Marmara. Israeli Commando’s boarded this ship full of “Peace Activists”, armed only with paintball guns, crowd control items, and pistols for emergency use,  were met by a mob attacking them with metal poles, knives, chairs, firebombs, and possibly guns before the Commandos ever touched the deck of the ship. One Commando was thrown overboard and seriously injured, 6 Israeli’s were injured in total and 10 Activists were killed.

In the wake of this event Israel has been villianized for defending it’s legal blockade and several calls have gone up for further blockade running attempts. One website fundraising for another Flotilla Blockade running attempt is US to Gaza. Their website states:

Dear Friends,

This is an important moment in history. In the aftermath of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre and increased world-wide scrutiny of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the Israeli government has mounted a huge public relations campaign spreading the lie that by letting a few more items into Gaza the blockade has been lifted. This is not the reality. Gaza is still under siege, vital building materials and other supplies are banned, exports of goods from Gaza are denied and neither ships nor people can travel without permission from Israel, permission which Israel will not give. Gaza is essentially an open-air prison under a U.S.-backed Israeli blockade.

We are planning to launch a U.S. boat to Gaza, joining a flotilla of ships from Europe, Canada, India, South Africa and parts of the Middle East due to set sail in September/ October of this year. In order to succeed in this essential but costly human rights project, we need significant financial support.

Citizens around the world have responded to the plight of the Palestinian people and are taking action to help break the blockade which is suffocating the lives of the people of Gaza and denying them their liberty. The U.S. government is complicit through established policies that uncritically support Israel in its brutal attack on the Palestinian people and on those who attempt to intervene on their behalf. We in the United States must continue to step up and do our part. We must join with others from across the world to support an end to the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

We turn to you to help make the U.S. boat, The Audacity of Hope, a reality. We must raise at least $370,000 in the next month. These funds will be used to purchase a boat large enough for 40-60 people, secure a crew, and cover the licensing and registering of the boat. In addition, the funds will subsidize some other costs of sending a U.S. delegation. We can make this happen together. For example, with 370 people giving $1,000, or with 3,700 people giving $100, we will have raised our full amount.

We have already received donations ranging from $10 to $10,000. So, give what you can and give generously. From the deck of The Audacity of Hope, we will be in a powerful and unique position to challenge U.S. foreign policy and affirm the universal obligation to uphold human rights and international law. Let us act now because every moment counts and every dollar counts. Together we will contribute to the great effort to end the blockade of Gaza and the illegal occupation of Palestine.

So in addition to lying and omitting information about the incident, They are raising money to build a ship they will name after one of President Obama’s books, “The Audacity of Hope” which they will use to attempt breaking the legal blockade of the Gaza Strip.

One name on the list of contributors for this project stands out, Rashid Khalidi. Rashid Khalidi is currently a college professor at Colombia University and is a personal friend of Barack Obama. Before his teaching days from 1970 to 1983 he had extremely close ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which the United States considered a terrorist organization. The American Spectator Explains:

While living in Lebanon from the early 1970s through 1983 (where the PLO was based at the time), Khalidi was frequently cited in the press as being close to the organization, and he even used the word “we” while speaking on the group’s behalf. He was described as a “director” of Wafa, the PLO’s official news agency, and he thanked Arafat for research assistance in the preface of one of his books. In 1991, Khalidi was part of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid peace talks with Israel — by his own account, he did so at the request of the PLO.

The article goes on to list several quotes and instances Rashid Khalidi worked for & with the PLO including mentioning his roles with them in his book, “Palestinian Identity”

Defining Rashid Khalidi himself is difficult. He knows the boundaries and dances back and forth across the lines. He is obviously Pro-Palestinian and Anti-Israel. How far he takes it is difficult to determine. To show what I mean here are excerpts from a transcript of MSNBC’s Scarborough Country which aired on August 29, 2003

SCARBOROUGH: And tonight, we’re spotlighting Columbia University, where the Middle East Studies Department has been criticized for hiring outspoken opponents of American and Israeli policy. Now, some Israeli supporters are concerned that Columbia has just appointed Rashid Khalidi, a fervent opponent of Israel, to the anonymously endowed Edward Said Chair.

With me now, Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi, and Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum. Professor, let me begin with you and just ask you to defend yourself against these charges that you are anti-American or that you are anti-Israeli.

RASHID KHALIDI, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, I don’t think I should have to defend myself. The charges themselves are scurrilous and the people who are making them are not very reputable themselves. I am somebody whose record and what I’ve written is well known. I’m somebody who thinks that the United States has made some mistakes in the Middle East and that these are things that are not in the best interest of the United States or the American people.

And the kind of people who would call critics of this or that policy unpatriotic or un-American, I think, are doing the United States and the people of the United States a terrible disservice.

SCARBOROUGH: Fair enough, Professor.

KHALIDI: So I don’t think I really need to defend myself at all.

SCARBOROUGH: OK, well, let me bring up a quote or two and have you respond to these quotes and whether you think they are being misinterpreted. This is what you said in a speech in June: “Israel has killed three times as many innocent civilians as have Palestinians, for all the media hysteria about suicide bombers. Killing civilians is a war crime, whoever does it, although resistance to Israeli occupation is legitimate in international law.” [DP addition: this quote derives in part from Adam Daifallah, "Said Chair At Columbia Also Backed By Saudis: Hauser Helped Fund Professor of Hate," The New York Sun, July 23, 2003]

Now, Professor, it sounds like you are saying there very much that suicide bombings, like the tragic one last week that killed quite a few young children, are legitimate in international law. Do you agree or disagree with that?

KHALIDI: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

SCARBOROUGH: You do not believe that?

KHALIDI: Absolutely. That is not what I said and that’s not even what the New York Post, which is notorious for making mistakes on things like this, said. What I said and what I believe is that killing civilians, in any manner, form, or shape, is a war crime, is a violation of international law. The massacre of innocent children by suicide bombers is, in my view, a war crime. And that is what I said in the speech that was taken out of context in that New York Post article.

KHALIDI: What I went on to say is that, in international law, in a situation where you have military occupation, resistance against that occupation is, under international law, considered legitimate. That is a far cry from suicide bombs or attacks on civilians, which are, as far as I’m concerned and as far as international law is concerned, war crimes.

SCARBOROUGH: All right, Daniel Pipes, the professor sounds very reasonable. But there’s been a big stir that he and other Columbia professors actually believe that suicide bombings are legitimate political expressions. Has the professor gotten a bad rap or do you really believe that he is anti-Israeli?

DANIEL PIPES, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: Well, the question isn’t whether he’s pro-Israeli or anti, Joe. The question is, what is he justifying? And he did justify violence against those in occupation.

So my question for Mr. Khalidi is, are Israelis living within the Green Line occupiers or are they legitimate citizens of a state whose existence you accept?

KHALIDI: I don’t really think I have to answer questions from the like of Daniel Pipes. But what I would say is that any Israeli living within Israel, the legitimate borders of the state of Israel, yet to be defined, because there has not yet been a treaty defining them—but everybody accepts that Israel is a state, has legitimacy within certain frontiers yet to be defined, presumably the Green Line—those people obviously should be immune from attack. There is no question that civilians inside Israel, civilians anywhere in the world should not be attacked.

And I don’t quite understand why the likes of Mr. Pipes is being put on television to question me. I would ask Mr. Pipes, how does he feel about the killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli occupation forces? What does he feel about the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation that has gone on for several decades?

SCARBOROUGH: Mr. Pipes, Mr. Pipes, obviously, you are an outspoken critic of Hamas and the Palestinians. Answer that question.

PIPES: Well, I regret every time any Palestinian is killed who is innocent. That goes without question. But I have a second question for Mr. Khalidi. And I know he doesn’t want to take it, but I will ask it anyway. How about the children and innocents who are living outside of the Green Line? Is it OK to murder them or is …

KHALIDI: I would argue that the killing of civilians anywhere, under any circumstances, is a war crime.

PIPES: Good.

SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second right there. I think that answers the question.

And, professor, you said the New York Post misquoted you. I want to read you another quote and see if this is also a misquote, because I think you have answered your charges thus far very eloquently. There was, of course, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who you supposedly called “a fanatic, extreme right-wing Zionist.” You said that Israel is a “racist” state with an “apartheid system” and that America has been “brainwashed” by Israel. Now, did you say those things, yes or no? And if you did say them, do you believe that American politicians have been brainwashed by Israel?

KHALIDI: I have to tell you, Joe, I don’t recognize any one of those quotes.

SCARBOROUGH: Really?

KHALIDI: I do think—let me answer your question. I do think that we are in the unfortunate situation of having an administration in which, instead of people who have real expertise about the Middle East being called upon, people in the Central Intelligence Agency, people in the Defense Intelligence Agency, people in the State Department, we have a bunch of ideologues, a bunch of people who follow one narrow political philosophy and who, generally speaking, couldn’t find their way from the airport to the Hilton without a minder in most Middle East capitals, in the office of the secretary of defense, in the vice president’s office, leading us around by the nose.

Now, some of these people are extreme American nationalists. Some of these people are virulent supporters of Israel. And some of these people are supporters of other philosophies.

KHALIDI: I think that they are leading us down the garden path. And I think that their policy on the Palestine-Israel question and their policy on Iraq is mistaken. And we can see the fruits of it before our eyes.

SCARBOROUGH: OK, I am glad you said that, Professor, because I’ve got to tell you, one of the things that frustrates me so much is, I hear people saying how right-wing, how fanatical, high Zionist this administration is. But if that’s the case, then forget just this administration. Why have Bill Clinton and George Bush so aggressively tried to create a Palestinian state, have set up—I mean, George Bush was attacked by his own right-wing when he tried to set up his road map for peace. And it seems like, every time we start taking those first steps toward Palestinian statehood, Hamas detonates another bomb and blows the peace process up. What’s happening there?

KHALIDI: I think what’s happening there is, MSNBC and ABC and all the rest of you are not doing a very good job of covering what goes on. Hamas and the Israeli army are engaged in a very deadly dance. The fact that Hamas is attacking Israelis—which, in my view, is reprehensible—I am a much more severe critic of Hamas than Mr. Pipes is—is not the whole issue. It is part of the issue. They are working to derail efforts that would take them away from the center of politics, but so is the Israeli army.

You guys never quoted the Israeli minister of defense, when he said: We have to show the Palestinians. We have to make them understand that they are a defeated people. You never quote Israeli journalists who talk about how the policy of assassination is provoking these hideous suicide bombings. I think that you all are not doing a very good job of covering the Middle East, frankly. You repeat the same little bits again and again, the same little bits of conventional wisdom. You have the likes of Mr. Pipes on. But you don’t really show exactly who, not just Hamas, but also, for example, the Israeli army or the settlers, are working against this road map and working against a settlement.

SCARBOROUGH: We are running out of time.

PIPES: Quickly, can I add something?

SCARBOROUGH: I’ve got to have a quick response from you, Mr. Pipes. Then we’ve got to go.

PIPES: Mr. Khalidi denied calling Paul Wolfowitz “a fanatical, extreme, right-wing Zionist.”

PIPES: Let me give the reference for it, Mr. Khalidi. It was an article called “Bush Winds Back U.S. Policy,” Australian Financial Review, February 8, 2001. Your viewers can go see it. Mr. Khalidi is, as usual, not quite fully telling the truth.

Mr. Khalidi plays word games. Whenever he openly speaks radically, and is quoted as saying such, he immediately claims he was misquoted, or has no idea what your reffering too. In public he claims to be anti violence, but every once in a while he states a true opinion. He does skirt the line in his Anti-Israel stance. In this video he implies that the Israeli “Occupation” of the Gaza Strip is the same as a Nazi Police State through description, without actually saying it. Shrewd indeed.

In his New York Times Opinion Editorial titled: “What You Don’t Know About Gaza” he states that any loss of life is tragic, even as he blames Israel for any continuaton of violence because they maintain the Gaza blockade, even while admitting the rocket attacks against Israel declined but did not stop.

During the 2008 campaign Rashid Khalidi became an issue due to very close ties to Obama.  In an LA Times article titled “Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Obama” they detail just how close this relationship is:

A special tribute came from Khalidi’s friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi’s wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.

His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It’s for that reason that I’m hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid’s dinner table,” but around “this entire world.”

Several attempts to bring this information to light were made by the McCain Campaign as well as the fact that The Woods Fund Foundation (which was chaired by Barack Obama and William (Bill) Ayers) gave the Arab American Action Network (run by Khalidi and his wife) Several thousand dollars over years. Here’s a Hannity special on Rashi Khalidi

However the left wing media worked to make the Khalidi connection disappear, and they had a smoking gun. While the McCain campaign was demanding the LA Times release a video of the goodbye party for Rashid Khalidi where Senator Obama stated how close they were, The liberal media uncovered that McCain too had a financial connection to Rashid Khalidi and ridiculed the Obama-Khalidi connection out of existence. I give you the ever wonderful Keith Olberman.

Even though several calls for the tape to be released of Obama at the Khalidi goodbye diner were made, and even a substantial reward was offered, the tape was never released. The fact that McCain too financed a Khalidi group forced the McCain campaign to drop the issue.

Rashid Khalidi is anti-Israel. He admits it. He admits how radical he is, then backpedals and claims it’s a misquote. You can see those dinner table chats with Rashid Khalidi coming out in Obama’s foreign policy with Israel. And now Mr. Khalidi has contributed funds to build a ship, which will attempt to illegally break through the Israeli blockade,  named after a book written by Barack Obama.  Mr. Khalidi however denies knowing the name of the ship according to The Washington Post:

The news of Khalidi’s involvement in the boat has already led the National Review to call for a Justice Department probe of the academic for providing material support of a terror group.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment. In response to an e-mail asking whether the appeal is embarrassing to the president, Khalidi said that he was not aware the boat would be named after Obama’s book when he agreed to add his name to the list of sponsors.

“But if the name is a problem for the administration, it can simply insist publicly that Israel lift the siege: end of problem, end of embarrassment,” he wrote, “That of course would require it to respond to the systematic mendacity of those in Congress and elsewhere who support the siege, and indeed whatever else the Israeli government does.”

Khalidi added: “I signed because the siege/blockade of Gaza, which is effectively supported by the United States, is a disgrace. I support the idea because it may cause the media to pay attention to the effective imprisonment and collective punishment of 1.5 million people who by the admission of Israeli officials, are being subjected to this ordeal in order to bring down their government. As the Goldstone Report suggested, this may rise to the level of a war crime, in which our country is complicit. That is truly embarrassing.”

Regardless of whether or not he knew the ships name, he is fully aware of the last flotilla’s actions and is now helping fund a new one. Once again supporting violence without saying he is supporting violence. Yet any ship that approaches Gaza, and refuses to stop and change course, will inevitably be met with violence. Israel is saving Israeli lives by enforcing their legal blockade, and people like Rashid Khalidi force Israel to respond with force in order to keep the peace.

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