Sunday, June 08, 2008

Obama and Khalidi--What We Know So Far

Last month, while speaking at a synagogue in Florida, Barack Obama responded to a question about his connection with Rashid Khalidi:
You mentioned Rashid Khalidi, who is a professor at Columbia. I do know him because he talked at the University of Chicago and he is Palestinian, and I do know him and I have had conversations.

He is not one of my advisers, he is not one of my foreign policy people, his kids went to the lab school where my kids go as well.

He is a respected scholar although he vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israel policy.
So according to Obama:

o Obama knows Rashid Khalidi because Khalidi spoke at the University of Chicago
o Khalidi "vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israeli policy".

Let's take these one at a time.

Obama's clear implication is that his relationship with Khalidi is casual at best.

This is not true.

The LA Times reports that the Obama-Khalidi friendship is much more than casual:
It was a celebration of Palestinian culture -- a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics. Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York.

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."

Today, five years later, Obama is a U.S. senator from Illinois who expresses a firmly pro-Israel view of Middle East politics, pleasing many of the Jewish leaders and advocates for Israel whom he is courting in his presidential campaign. The dinner conversations he had envisioned with his Palestinian American friend have ended. He and Khalidi have seen each other only fleetingly in recent years.
Now, Obama can be friends with whomever he likes--including with people whose views are diametrically opposed to mine. However, the question put to him was a valid one and Obama should have answered honestly--that he and Khalidi were good friends, just as he has some friends who are Jewish, and that he has not spoken to Khalidi much since then. Instead, Obama was dishonest.

Could it be that Obama was trying to hide his financial ties with Khalidi?--funds that Obama sent his way, and vice-versa, as Mona Charen notes:
When Obama served as a director of the Woods Fund in 2001 and 2002, the foundation donated $75,000 to the AAAN [Arab American Action Network, founded by Khalidi], for projects like an “oral history” project on the “Nakbah,” which translates as “catastrophe,” and is the name Palestinians use for the birth of Israel. Khalidi held a fundraiser for Obama when the latter ran for Congress in 2000...
Just as a side note, Obama's connection to the Woods Fund reveals a tie with a member of a terrorist group:
Obama served on the Wood's Fund board alongside William C. Ayers, a member of the Weathermen terrorist group which sought to overthrow of the U.S. government and took responsibility for bombing the U.S. Capitol in 1971.

Ayers, who still serves on the Woods Fund board, contributed $200 to Obama's senatorial campaign fund and has served on panels with Obama at numerous public speaking engagements. Ayers admitted to involvement in the bombings of U.S. governmental buildings in the 1970s. He is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago
Perhaps Obama hid the extent of his connection with Khalidi because he did not want to jeopardize his relationship with the Jewish community--not only in terms of the Jewish vote, but also money. The New York Times reports that:
As Mr. Obama moved closer to running, he paid a visit to James S. Crown and his father, Lester, billionaire investors who presided over a sprawling Chicago business dynasty and prominent leaders in the Jewish community.

As the meeting ended, the younger Mr. Crown said, his father — who is “fairly hawkish” about Israel’s security — was noncommittal about Mr. Obama. But, James Crown said, “I pulled him down to my office, and I said, ‘Hey, look, I think you should run, and I want you to win.’ ”

In courting families like the Crowns, Mr. Obama was gaining entree into the upper echelon of the city’s corporate boardrooms, a ripe source of campaign money. But he was also seeking to broaden his appeal to Jewish voters, and he was wading more deeply into one of the touchiest issues in American politics: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
And as he waded in, has Obama tossed aside his past ties to the Palestinian Arab community to keep his campaign afloat? We hear all about Obama speaking to Jewish communites and organizations--where are his appearances before the Muslim communities and organizations. Wouldn't you like to know how Obama would present his stand to them? Wouldn't they? Or are they already convinced by Obama's past actions of where his allegiances really are?

For instance, Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, recalls:
"I remember personally introducing [Obama] onstage in 1999, when we had a major community fundraiser for the community center in Deheisha refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. And that's just one example of how Barack Obama used to be very comfortable speaking up for and being associated with Palestinian rights and opposing the Israeli occupation," Abunimah said.
On the second point, that Obama claims Khalidi "vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israeli policy"--just how did Khalidi go about expressing that disagreement?

By joining a terrorist group--the PLO. Charen writes:
He [Obama] was quite friendly with Rashid Khalidi, a former director of the official press agency for the Palestine Liberation Organization (and now a professor at Columbia).
Khalidi has denied the connection, but Aaron Klein of World Net Daily has reported:
AAAN co-founder Rashid Khalidi was reportedly a director of the official PLO press agency WAFA in Beirut from 1976 to 1982, while the PLO committed scores of anti-Western attacks and was labeled by the U.S. as a terror group. Khalidi's wife, AAAN President Mona Khalidi, was reportedly WAFA's English translator during that period.

Rashid Khalidi at times has denied working directly for the PLO but Palestinian diplomatic sources in Ramallah told WND he indeed worked on behalf of WAFA. Khalidi also advised the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Conference in 1991.
Apparently Obama's two friends--Ayers and Khalidi--have terrorism in common.

The video below ties all these points together--including how Obama's reference to the Israeli-Palestinian issue as a 'sore' seems to parallel Khalidi's use of the phrase in an opinion piece he wrote 5 days earlier.

In any case, Obama without being elected may already be having an influence on Israeli policy:
The Israeli government estimates Sen. Barack Obama will win the presidential elections and is rushing to finalize a deal with the Palestinians and possibly Syria before President Bush leaves office, two top Israeli diplomats told WND.

The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel is seeking to create "defensible borders" within months, fearing if territorial negotiations were held during an Obama administration, Israel would be pressured into more dangerous concessions.
Here is the video:

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Crossposted on Soccer Dad and Israpundit

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