Focusing on the Obama-Khalidi ties

Barack Obama's long time friendship with ex-PLO mouthpiece Rashid Khalidi is finally hitting the media and causing some people to ask questions.

Obama and Khalidi go back to their days at the University of Chicago where Obama was, by his own admission, a frequent dinner guest of Khalidi. As a member of the board at the Woods Foundation, Obama also steered about $70,000 to the Arab American Action Network - an anti Israeli organization run by Khalidi's wife Mona.

Now, of course, it turns out that the Los Angeles Times has a video of Obama at Khalidi's going away party before he left U of C after he accepted the position of Edward Said Chair of Middle East Studies at Columbia University. The video  could be very damaging - is probably very damaging - to Obama. The Los Angeles Times story on the friendship between the two men mentioned there were some anti-Israeli speeches and a pro-Palestinian terrorist poem read at the party. From the LA Times article:

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.

And yet the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor's going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say.

Their belief is not drawn from Obama's speeches or campaign literature, but from comments that some say Obama made in private and from his association with the Palestinian American community in his hometown of Chicago, including his presence at events where anger at Israeli and U.S. Middle East policy was freely expressed.

At Khalidi's 2003 farewell party, for example, a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, "then you will never see a day of peace."

One speaker likened "Zionist settlers on the West Bank" to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been "blinded by ideology."

Obama adopted a different tone in his comments and called for finding common ground. But his presence at such events, as he worked to build a political base in Chicago, has led some Palestinian leaders to believe that he might deal differently with the Middle East than either of his opponents for the White House.

Khalidi apologists point out that he was never "an official spokesman" for the PLO - which is probably true in that he never received recompense that we know of. But at the Madrid conference, where he was an advisor to the Palestinian delegation, he was the media's favorite Palestinian apologist and has often been cited in the Middle East press as a Palestinian "source." There is little doubt that he knows the minds of the leadership and can be counted on to spin an anti-Israeli line when the occasion calls for it.

Obama has successfully hidden this relationship until recently. Martin Kramer:

"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.

Sounds like "just some guy in the neighborhood," doesn't it? In fact, Khalidi lived in the same Hyde Park neighborhood as Obama and Bill Ayers. There has been speculation that another reason Obama doesn't want that LA Times tape out in public view is that Bill Ayers - a good friend of Khalidi also - is seen on the tape with Obama.

There will be a protest today in front of the LA Times building in Los Angeles demanding that they release the Khalidi tape. As with entreaties from the McCain campaign, the Times will most likely ignore those pleas.

But someday, that tape is going to see the light of day. And if it turns out that there was anything on that tape that might have turned the tide against Obama these last days before the election, there will be a reckoning and backlash the likes of which has never been seen in the history of newspapers.

Hat Tips: Ed Lasky and Rich Baehr

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