JERUSALEM – Even as Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States, anti-Israel professor Rashid Khalidi, whose ties to Obama stirred controversy during the campaign, has stated he could currently communicate with the incoming commander in chief, WND has learned.
Amid concern within the pro-Israel Jewish community, Obama repeatedly had denied he was influenced by Khalidi.
In an interview with the radical Democracy Now! news network last week, Khalidi expressed hope Obama would alter U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, talking to "all sides" of the Israeli-Palestinian arena. He also criticized Israel for killing civilians in the Gaza Strip the past few weeks and for leading what he termed a "propaganda campaign" to de-legitimize the Hamas terrorist organization.
Khalidi was asked whether he could speak now to Obama, and within his reply stated, "I could."
"You knew him? Can you speak to him? Can you talk to him now? Do you have access to President Obama, or President-elect, for the next few days?" Khalidi was asked by interviewer Amy Goodman.
Khalidi replied: "I mean, I was – we were his neighbors. We lived in the same neighborhood. We were colleagues at the University of Chicago. We saw each other quite frequently. I could – I mean, it is not easy to reach a president. The cocoons, the layers, are quite formidable.
He went on to accuse Israel of "mov[ing] over, in effect, the bodies of women and children" during the Jewish state's campaign against Hamas in Gaza.
"They have carried out one of the most brilliant propaganda campaigns I have ever seen, long before this began. The dehumanization of the Palestinians and the demonization of Hamas laid the groundwork for this. They did what I call 'clearing the crime scene before the crime' by removing all witnesses," Khalidi stated.
Speaking about Obama's foreign policy, Khalidi said "there will be a change in policy."
"I mean we're already seeing it insofar as Iraq is concerned. I think we hopefully will see it in other areas. No, there will be a change. The question is how far. And enormous change is needed. I mean, everything we've been doing over not just the past administration – it's easy to criticize George Bush – but what has been done over several administrations has been fundamentally mistaken. And I don't know how radical a turn he is going to be able to make, even if he's willing and desirous of doing so.
"He managed to deliver himself of pronouncements about Mumbai and about the economy," Khalidi continued. "The only thing he said about Gaza was humanitarian, and he's concerned about the casualties. I am more hopeful that once he is president, he will speak very directly to all the parties, not just to Israel, but also to the Egyptians and also to the Palestinian Authority. I hope he will change American policy. I think the important thing is when he's president and when his team is in place, which it is not yet. The people who will actually execute whatever policies are decided at the top have not yet been chosen."
WND also exposed that Khalidi is a top director for an organization that has a long and intertwined history with the Palestine Liberation Organization, including while the PLO was one of the world's foremost terrorist organizations. He has spoken to the media apparently as a PLO representative, but has long denied he worked for the PLO.
At a campaign stop in a Florida synagogue last May, Obama claimed his relationship with Khalidi was limited to "conversations."
"You mentioned Rashid Khalidi, who's a professor at Columbia," Obama said. "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 the Obama-Khalidi relationship goes much deeper.
According to a professor at the University of Chicago who said he has known Obama for 12 years, the Democratic presidential hopeful first 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.
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.
Amid a number of anti-Israel speeches, Obama offered a glowing testimonial in praise of Khalidi at a 2003 farewell dinner, marking the professor's departure from the University of Chicago for a new teaching position at Columbia University. In the remarks, Obama spoke about his many talks with Khalidi.
An article in April in the Los Angeles Times documented how at the Khalidi farewell dinner one 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.
Another speaker, who reportedly talked while Obama was present, compared "Zionist settlers on the West Bank" to Osama bin Laden, the Times reported.
Obama himself 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."
When Obama served alongside Weathermen radical William Ayers on the board of Woods Fund, a liberal Chicago nonprofit, the group in 2001 provided a $40,000 grant to the Arab American Action Network, or AAAN, for which Khalidi's wife, Mona, serves as president. The Fund provided a second grant to the AAAN for $35,000 in 2002.
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."
The AAAN has sponsored several anti-Israel events, such as 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.
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?"
In a possible Obama-Khalidi link, in May WND noted Obama termed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a "constant sore" in an interview just five days after Khalidi wrote an anti-Israel opinion piece in the Nation magazine in which he called the "Palestinian question" a "running sore."
Speaking in February in a joint interview with WND and the John Batchelor radio show, 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 supported 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."
Aaron Klein, WorldNetDaily's Jerusalem bureau chief, is known for his regular interviews with Mideast terror leaders and his popular segments on America's top radio programs. His newly released book is "Schmoozing with Terrorists: From Hollywood to the Holy Land, Jihadists Reveal their Global Plans – to a Jew!"