JERUSALEM – In terming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a "constant sore" last week, did Sen. Barack Obama borrow the phraseology of a pro-Palestinian activist and harsh critic of Israel who has been described as a friend of the senator?
Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi also previously held a fundraiser for Obama. He has made repeated statements supportive of Palestinian terror.
In a much-quoted interview with the Atlantic, Obama was asked last week whether he thinks Israel is a "drag on America's reputation oversees."
Obama replied: "No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy."
He went on to say the "lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable. I am absolutely convinced of that, and some of the tensions that might arise between me and some of the more hawkish elements in the Jewish community in the United States might stem from the fact that I'm not going to blindly adhere to whatever the most hawkish position is just because that's the safest ground politically."
Obama's remarks, slammed by pro-Israel and Republican organizations, came five days after the Nation magazine published an opinion piece by Khalidi, titled "Palestine: Liberation Deferred" in which the Palestinian activist opened by calling the "Palestinian question" a "running sore."
"The 'Palestine Question' has been with us for sixty years. During this time it has become a running sore, its solution appearing ever more distant," wrote Khalidi in the first paragraph of his op-ed.
In his piece, Khalidi goes on to suggest Israel carried out "ethnic cleansing" of Arabs when the Jewish state was established in 1948 and claims Israel was founded due to Western "guilt" following the Holocaust.
"Also disregarded is the obvious fact that it would have been impossible to create a Jewish state in a land nearly two-thirds of whose population was Arab without some form of ethnic cleansing," writes Khalidi.
There was no ethnic cleansing. When Arab countries attacked the Jewish state after its creation in 1948, some 725,000 Arabs living within Israel's borders fled or were flushed out when the Jewish state pushed back attacking Arab armies. Also at that time, about 820,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries or fled following rampant persecution.
Khalidi writes Western powers backed Israel's establishment because the West was "stricken by a (fully justified) sense of guilt for centuries of suffering inflicted on European Jews, culminating in the Holocaust, a West that compounded its sins by helping to inflict further suffering, this time on Palestinians."
Khalidi also laments the Palestinian Authority's stated acceptance of a Palestinian state "only" in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern sections of Jerusalem. He argues Israel should be dissolved and instead a binational, federal or cantonal system should be set up in which Jews and Arabs reside together.
Khalidi is a harsh critic of Israel. During documented speeches and public events, Khalidi has called Israel an "apartheid system in creation" and a destructive "racist" state.
He has multiple times implied support for Palestinian terror, calling suicide bombings response to "Israeli aggression." He dedicated his 1986 book, "Under Siege," to "those who gave their lives ... in defense of the cause of Palestine and independence of Lebanon."
Critics assailed the book as excusing Palestinian terrorism and claim the dedication is in reference to the Palestine Liberation Organization, which at that time committed scores of anti-Western attacks and was labeled by the U.S. as a terror group
Khalidi's ties to Obama were first exposed by WND in February.
According to a professor at the University of Chicago who said he has known Obama for 12 years, the Democratic presidential hopeful befriended Khalidi when the two worked together at the university. The professor spoke on condition of anonymity. Khalidi lectured at the University of Chicago until 2003 while Obama taught law there from 1993 until his election to the Senate in 2004.
Sources at the University told WND that Khalidi and Obama lived in nearby faculty residential zones and that the two families dined together a number of times. The sources said the Obama's even babysat the Khalidi children.
Khalidi in 2000 held what was described as a successful fundraiser for Obama's failed bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, a fact not denied by Khalidi, who spoke to WND in February.
WND broke the story an Arab group run by Khalidi's wife, Mona, received crucial funding from the Woods Fund, a Chicago nonprofit, while Obama served on the board of the Fund.
In 2001, the Woods Fund, which describes itself as a group helping the disadvantaged, provided a $40,000 grant to Khalidi's Arab American Action Network, or AAAN. The Fund provided a second grant to the AAAN for $35,000 in 2002.
Obama was a director of the Woods Fund board from 1999 to Dec. 11, 2002, according to the Fund's website. According to tax filings, Obama received compensation of $6,000 per year for his service in 1999 and 2000.
Obama served on the Woods Fund's 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 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.
The $40,000 grant from Obama's Woods Fund to Khalidi's AAAN constituted about a fifth of the Arab group's reported grants for 2001, according to tax filings obtained by WND. The $35,000 Woods Fund grant in 2002 also constituted about one-fifth of AAAN's reported grants for that year.
The AAAN, headquartered in the heart of Chicago's Palestinian immigrant community, describes itself as working to "empower Chicago-area Arab immigrants and Arab Americans through the combined strategies of community organizing, advocacy, education and social services, leadership development, and forging productive relationships with other communities."
Speakers at AAAN dinners and events routinely have taken an anti-Israel line.
The group co-sponsored a Palestinian art exhibit, titled, "The Subject of Palestine," that featured works related to what some Palestinians call the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" of Israel's founding in 1948.
According to the widely discredited Nakba narrative, Jews in 1948 forcibly expelled hundreds of thousands – some Palestinians claim over one million – Arabs from their homes and then took over the territory.
The theme of AAAN's Nakba art exhibit, held at DePaul University in 2005, was "the compelling and continuing tragedy of Palestinian life ... under [Israeli] occupation ... home demolition ... statelessness ... bereavement ... martyrdom, and ... the heroic struggle for life, for safety, and for freedom."
Another AAAN initiative, titled, "Al Nakba 1948 as experienced by Chicago Palestinians," seeks documents related to the "catastrophe" of Israel's founding.
A post on the AAAN site asked users: "Do you have photos, letters or other memories you could share about Al-Nakba-1948?"
That posting was recently removed. The AAAN website currently states the entire site is under construction.
Speaking in a joint interview with WND and WABC Radio, Khalidi was asked about his 2000 fundraiser for Obama.
"I was just doing my duties as a Chicago resident to help my local politician," Khalidi stated.
Khalidi said he supports Obama for president "because he is the only candidate who has expressed sympathy for the Palestinian cause."
Khalidi also lauded Obama for "saying he supports talks with Iran. If the U.S. can talk with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, there is no reason it can't talk with the Iranians."
Asked about Obama's role funding the AAAN, Khalidi claimed he had "never heard of the Woods Fund until it popped up on a bunch of blogs a few months ago."
He terminated the call when petitioned further about his links with Obama.
Obama's campaign did not immediately reply to telephone and e-mail inquiries asking if his interview with the Atlantic borrowed any phraseology from Khalidi.