In "Will Khalidi Displace Ayers as McCain's Favorite Prof?," Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed tries to turn the conclusion of a 2004 Campus Watch article on its head in order to exonerate Rashid Khalidi from charges that he was a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization when he lived in Beirut during the late 1970s and early 1980s—years in which the PLO was on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations.
Jaschik's source for these evidentiary acrobatics? Khalidi's denial of the charges as quoted by the very same authors whose article Jaschik cites—an article, by the way, that demonstrates that during his time in Beirut, Khalidi was identified by Tom Friedman of the New York Times as a PLO spokesman and that his own language from the period reinforces Friedman's claim.
The article in question, "Arafat Minion as Professor," by Asaf Romirowsky and Jonathan Calt Harris, appeared in the Washington Times on July 9, 2004. Ignoring the authors' evidence completely, Jaschik claims that :
Via e-mail, Khaladi said Wednesday night that he was ‘not speaking to the media at this time, and certainly not until this nonsense has passed.' He has long been criticized by some pro-Israel groups, such as Campus Watch. But an article on that group's Web site notes that Khalidi has repeatedly disputed the claim that he worked for the PLO [emphasis added]. The article quotes him as writing of the period when he is alleged to have worked for the PLO: ‘I was teaching full time as an Assistant Professor in the Political Studies and Public Administration Dept. at the American University of Beirut, published two books and several articles, and also was a research fellow at the independent Institute for Palestine Studies.... I often spoke to journalists in Beirut, who usually cited me without attribution as a well-informed Palestinian source. If some misidentified me at the time, I am not aware of it.'
Are we to believe that a denial from Khalidi, which the authors included so that their readers would know Khalidi's position on the matter, is sufficient to undermine their own thesis? That solving the matter over Khalidi's past relations with the PLO can be accomplished by simply asking Khalidi himself and then taking him at his word? Why should willful credulity substitute for the examination of evidence unearthed through research?
Jaschik's piece suffers from other sins of omission, the most notable of which is its one-sided use of sources. In addition to Khalidi, who declined to comment, Jaschik solicited reactions from Carey Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, and Zachary Lockman of NYU, a member of the Academic Freedom Committee of Middle East Studies Association. Both delivered reliably alarmist statements warning of the dangers to academic freedom posed by outside critics of the academy. Given that Campus Watch is the only group mentioned that has been critical of Khalidi's scholarship, the article implies that CW poses a threat to academic freedom—a tired claim that rests on the intellectually and legally unsupportable premise that academe is off-limits to off-campus critics. A more balanced article would have solicited comment from CW.
Finally, Campus Watch is mischaracterized as a "pro-Israel" organization in spite of my prior requests to Jaschik, which he had heretofore honored, not to characterize CW in that way. CW objects to the politicization of Middle East studies without regard to the religion, ethnicity, or nationality of those it critiques.