JERUSALEM – Did Sen. Barack Obama misrepresent his relationship with a pro-Palestinian activist and harsh critic of Israel who has been described as a friend of the senator?
During a campaign stop yesterday at a Boca Raton, Fla., synagogue, Obama was asked about his association with Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, who has made repeated statements supportive of Palestinian terrorism.
Obama replied: "You mentioned Rashid Khalidi, who's a professor at Columbia. I do know him, because I taught 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's 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's policy."
Continued Obama: "To pluck out one person who I know and who I've had a conversation with who has very different views than 900 of my friends and then to suggest that somehow that shows that maybe I'm not sufficiently pro-Israel, I think, is a very problematic stand to take," he said. "So we gotta be careful about guilt by association."
But Obama's relationship with Khalidi goes beyond conversation.
Khalidi's ties to Obama were first exposed by WND in February in a widely cited article.
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 Obamas 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.
As WND reported, an anti-Israel Arab group run by Khalidi's wife, Mona, received crucial funding from a Chicago nonprofit, the Woods Fund, for which Obama served as a board member.
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.
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.
When Khalidi departed the University of Chicago in 2003, Obama delivered an in-person testimonial at a farewell ceremony reminiscing about conversations over meals prepared by Mona Khalidi.
According to a Los Angeles Times account, Obama said his talks with the Khalidis served as "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."
Khalidi's farewell dinner was replete with anti-Israel speakers.
One, a young Palestinian American, recited a poem in Obama's presence that accused the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticized U.S. support of Israel, the Times reported.
Another speaker, who reportedly talked while Obama was present, compared "Zionist settlers on the West Bank" to Osama bin Laden.
Israel a 'constant sore'
Just last week, WND noted Obama termed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a "constant sore" in an interview just five days after Khalidi wrote an opinion piece in the Nation magazine in which he called the "Palestinian question" a "running sore."
In his piece, "Palestine: Liberation Deferred," Khalidi suggests Israel carried out "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians; writes Western powers backed Israel's establishment due to guilt of the Holocaust; laments the Palestinian Authority's stated acceptance of a Palestinian state "only" in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern sections of Jerusalem; and argues Israel should be dissolved and instead a bi-national, cantonal system should be set up in which Jews and Arabs reside
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 a 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 terrorist group
'Sympathy for the Palestinian cause'
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.