Obama and Khalidi: Is there an issue or is it just politics

October 29, 2008

The blogs have put a lot of time into the matter of the Los Angeles Times’ alleged suppression of a video recording of Obama toasting Rashid Khalidi in a way that is purportedly anti Israel.  The view in the pro-McCain blogs, and from the McCain campaign seems to be that showing such a video to the mass market would demonstrate Obama’s unfitness to be President.  For purposes of this post, I am going to assume such a recording exists and that Obama did in fact make anti Israel remarks in the context of a Muslim American event.  For purposes of full disclosure, I was not pro-Obama during the primary campaign and did not decide against McCain until the nomination of Sarah Palin.  Also, I am jewish and some might view that as relevant to my views on Israel.

By way of background. Rashid Khalidi is an American, a native of the U.S., a scholar, no “a respected scholar”, and his stature is such that one might very well use the word ‘elite’ to describe his place in American academia.  During the last quarter of the 20th Century, prior to the “Intifada” insurrection that started in October of 1999, and gave birth to the “suicide bomber”  therer was relative calm in the occupied West Bank despite the ever increasing level of the use of military force by Israel in support of  settlement construction in areas to which Israel has not the slightest legal claim but rather took on the basis of pure power over the local Palestinians.  While pro-Israeli writers might very well claim that Israel’s claim to the West Bank has some legitimacy based on its security needs, that claim is analogous to the “Bush Doctrine” supporting the invasion of Iraq, i.e. that a nation can invade and occupy another nation if it perceives the invasion/occupation to be in its national security interest.  The problem with the Bush Doctrine is that, while it might justify the invasion of Iraq, it also justifies the Russian incursion into Georgia, and a host of other actions by various nations that th US doesn’t support.

Back to Khalidi, many people around the world condemned Israel’s actions in the West Bank as state sponsored terrorism, essentially what Khalidi has asserted.  When one reviews the facts on the ground, such a conclusion, while politically incorrect, is actually quite justified.  Even if one reaches a different conclusion, it is not clearly unreasonable to describe Israel’s actions as terrorism.  So now the issue is, how do we as a people who claim to believe in free speech deal with a respected scholar who adopts the position that back in the latter part of the 20th Century, Israel was engaged in a form of terrorism?

For further context, lets review the policies and politics of US attitudes to Israel.  As a practical matter, no politician can take a clear anti-Israel stance.  Both Bush, a “conservative” Republican and Clinton a “liberal” Democrat have worked very hard on the creation of a ‘two state solution’ under which there would be two independent sovereign nations, Israel and Palestine, and one of the main sticking points has been Israel’s refusal to give up the illegal settlements in the West Bank.  Both Bush and Clinton have pressured Israel to withdraw and there has in fact been significant withdrawal from some settlements by Israel. Both Bush and Clinton have made statements to the effect that Israel’s use of force in the West Bank was counter productive and that Israel needs to discontinue the construction of new settlements and dismantle at least some existing settlements.  In simple terms, it has always been the official position of this country that Israel has been wrongly using force to estbalish its political objectives.  “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

So now we come to the possibility that, years ago, a black politician, holding a state office from the south side of Chicago, toasted a scholar who had been critical of Israeli policies towards Palestinians, to curry favor with the attendees.  Granted this scholar did not use the politically correct vocabulary employed by presidents of both parties, but the substance of his criticisms is essentially the same as those of both our last two presidents. Lets make an assumption that the scholar being toasted in the video is not Rashid Khalidi but an American of european descent, with a name not associated with the middle east, say Professor Joel Benin, who has taken positions on issues which could be viewed as pro-Arab.  Lets also assume that the clergy in the room are not Reverend Jeremiah Wright and MInister Loius Farrakhan, but Reverend Pat Robertson and  Reverend John Hagee.   Does anyone believe that there would be any effort by the McCain campaign to find and exhibit that video?  But look at the the statement by the McCain spokesperson that “a major news organization is intentionally suppressing information that could provide a clearer link between Barack Obama and Rashid Khalidi”.  It just doesn’t make sense. Why do we need to establish a “clearer link” between Obama and a respected scholar? Is the scholar suspected of wrong doing that is somehow connected to his relationship with Obama that could rationally spill over to Obama’s qualification to be President.  Is it merely because the scholar, in positions not inconsistent with the policies of presidents of both parites, has criticized Isreal (albeit in a politically incorrect fashion).  Of course not.  There’s no ‘red meat’ in Obama talking to clergy and toasting a man who is viewed as taking pro Arab positions.  The value in the alleged video isn’t the philosophy of the people present, its the color of their skin, the ethnicity of their names, that they are non-christian, that they are muslims and the resulting ability to imply a link to support for al Qaeda and terrorism and to perpetuate the myth that Obama is, in reality, muslim.

No one of intelligence can seriously believe that a random comment at a south-side Chicago partisan political party could be meaningful evidence that any potential president of the US could ever take any action contrary to the interests of Israel. As discussed above, the pro-Israel sentiment in this country is so far beyond question that no politician could get elected dog catcher after taking an anti Israel position. So the need to establish the link between Obama and Khalidi is pure Rove politics. Pure fodder for more mud slinging.

I understand that PUMA’s, Blue Dog Democrats and Reagan Democrats want McCain to win. While I admit to be favoring Obama, I cannot for the life of me understand anyone would want the democratic process to turn on the perpetuation of a lie. That’s what dictators do. Thats what Rove did to defeat McCain in 2000. That’s what military rulers do to justify a coup. That’s a classic case of the ends justify the means.

I have no illusions that Obama is “the One”. He is presumably a typical politician with a giant ego who believes he alone can save the world (as does McCain). But whether you want a black man or a white woman (or a white man or black woman) to be president, whether you honestly believe in trickle down or just don’t want to pay more taxes, whether you believe Obama is less experienced at or capable of handling terrorist challenges than Bush was or McCain would be, regardless of why or even how much you prefer McCain over Obama, hopefully the democratic process of the electorate making a choice based on reality is more precious than any one election.

While I’m not suggesting that polls reflecting a close election (like in 2000) are gospel, polls suggesting a 7, 8 or even a double digit lead cannot be ignored. If, in the context of the polls remaining at current levels and absent some ‘game changing’ even, McCain were to win, the only rational explanation would be to believe that Robert F Kennedy Jr’s article “Block the Vote” in Rolling Stone was prescient and that we would be having a second Florida 2000 but on steroids. I must tell you how scarey that is, not just the possibility of civil disobedience that could ensue, but what it would say about the democratic process in this country. Basically one would have to conclude that the spoils go not to the winner but to the candidate that is better at voter suppression. Woebetide us if that is the case.

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One Response to “Obama and Khalidi: Is there an issue or is it just politics”

  1. cousinavi said

    This is what neocon political philosophy consists of and aims for – total bipolarization. Right vs. Wrong, Good vs. Evil, Us vs. Them.
    In order to support Israel, you must not consort with Palestinians. Palestinians are bad. Israel is good.
    Anyone who ever met with, praised, supported or assisted any Palestinian is an enemy of Israel.
    It will take a long time to bury these fuckers. We’ve only lifted a few shovels out of the grave.
    This is why I gotta refuse to leave Palin alone. She is the shrill barking point on the front of ginning up exactly the sort of ignorant, thoughtless, shameful responses that would immediately count that toast to Rashid Khalidi as evidence of anything other than precisely the sort of president of the United States and the whole world desperately NEED.

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