The invaluable Andrew McCarthy takes note of a connection between Barack Obama and Edward Said, an apologist for terrorism, who played a key role in changing the field of Middle East Studies towards an anti-Western and anti-Israel bias.
Said, a writer and professor at Columbia University, trained many of the Middle East professors who now broadcast his message to thousands of students across America and the world. Said hated Israel so much that he was seen throwing rocks from Lebanon at Israeli soldiers across the border.
His role in distorting the field of Middle Eastern studies has prompted a counter-movement led, among others, by the esteemed Bernard Lewis of Princeton University.
Obama was a student at Columbia from 1981 to 1983. He refuses to discuss those years; it is known only that he studied for at least some time under Edward Said, the late PLO apologist.
Not only has Barack Obama refused to discuss those years-as he refuses to discuss much of his past, he will not release his transcripts from Columbia or his thesis that he wrote before he graduated (claiming he "lost" the thesis). Would a transcript reveal more about his education under Edward Said?
How long-lasting and durable were these ties between Barack Obama and Edward Said? There is a photo of the Saids and Obama having dinner together in 1998 at an Arab community event in Chicago at which Said gave the keynote speech.
Not so ironically, Obama also enjoyed close relations with Rashid Khalidi when Khalidi was a professor at the University of Chicago. In 2003, Khalidi became the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University and he now also serves as the director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. Barack Obama was on the small board of the Woods Fund (along with Bill Ayers) when that fund (originally chartered to help the poor) gave two grants to the Arab American Action Network totaling $110,000 in the years 2001 and 2002. This group was headed by Khalidi's wife and engaged in a series of anti-Israel actions.
The closeness of the ties between Obama and Khalidi has been outlined in a Los Angeles Times article ("Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Barack Obama").The article began with a description of a going away party held for the Khalidis before their move to New York:
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.
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."
His statements have been so inflammatory that New York's School Chancellor ended Khailid's participation in a program to help train city's schoolteachers. Khalidi is also a fierce critic of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy-a leading think-tank in Washington, describing it thusly in an interview with Al Jazeera a few years ago:
By God, I say that the participation of the sons or daughters of the Arabs in the plans and affairs of this institute is a huge error, this Israeli institute in Washington, an institute founded by AIPAC, the Zionist lobby, and that hosts tens of Israelis every year. The presence of an Arab or two each year can't disguise the nature of this institute as the most important center of Zionist interests in Washington for at least a decade. I very much regret the participation of Arab officials and non-officials and academics in the activities of this institute, because in fact if you look at the output of this institute, it's directed against the Palestinians, against the Arabs, and against the Muslims in general. Its products describe the Palestinians as terrorists, and in fact its basic function is to spread lies and falsehoods about the Arab world, of course under an academic, scholarly veneer. Basically, this is the most important Zionist propaganda tool in the United States.
Edward Said died in 2003. His spirit lives on in Rashid Khalidi who continues to spread the venom that Said injected into the field of Middle Eastern Studies.
Should Barack Obama become President, will his friend Rashid Khalidi be in line for another move-this time from New York City to Foggy Bottom?