The McCain campaign's unfounded accusation against Professor Rashid Khalidi brings to mind one of history's equally groundless accusations, those brought against Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer in the French army.
Dreyfus was falsely accused of espionage against the French state in 1894. A year later he was exiled to Devil's Island. The trial was a scam; from the judges to the army's officers, all knew the trial as well as the accusations were unfounded.
The French judges in 1894 knew Dreyfus to be innocent - much as Sen. John McCain's campaign managers today know that Khalidi is equally innocent - but they wanted to avoid an embarrassing back-peddling situation and falsely sentenced Dreyfus to exile.
The McCain campaign claims that the Democratic Party's presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama was associated with Khalidi and from such a ripe imagination, it is very simple to make that quantum leap into a world of lies.
In defense of Capt. Dreyfus, French novelist Emile Zola wrote "J'Accuse", considered the greatest newspaper article ever. One of Zola's most memorable lines in the 4,000-word article was, "la verite est en marche et rien ne l'arretera" (truth is on the march and nothing can stop it).
Indeed, the only reason for the smear campaign against Khalidi is to frighten the Jewish vote into voting for McCain.
As M.J. Rosenberg pointed out, Khalidi "has consistently supported Palestinian recognition of Israel, has opposed terrorism, and promoted Washington's efforts to produce an Israeli-Palestinian agreement."
Khalidi is accused of having had connections to the PLO, "the organization Israel negotiates with [Benjamin Netanyahu negotiated and shook hands with PLO leader Yasser Arafat, for heaven's sake] and recognizes as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," said Rosenberg.
Does McCain really believe what he is preaching? Unlikely. As with the judges in the Dreyfus case, unlikely. And neither do his campaign managers truly believe these preposterous accusations, much as the French army officers knew they were withholding the truth.
And as the court in Paris in 1894 was playing to anti-Jewish sentiments, so too is the McCain campaign banking on scaring the anti-Arab sentiments, particularly among the Jewish American vote.
Trailing badly in the polls the McCain campaign hopes instead to frighten them away from Obama with false accusations. Associating Obama with a supposed terrorist will win them the votes of people who remain confused and unclear about where the truth lays. Remember McCain's reply to the woman who asked if Obama was an Arab? "No, he's a decent man," was McCain's reply. Does that mean an Arab cannot be a decent man?
This is a cheap shot from the McCain campaign. Come Tuesday night the campaign will be over. But the lies and the harm caused by those false accusations is something McCain will have to live with for the rest of his life. As Zola wrote more than 100 years ago, truth is on the march and nothing can stop it.