In an article appearing in the Winter 2008 issue of the Jewish Policy Center magazine inFocus, I take a look at the radical past and propagandistic career of Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi. Other examples of Middle East studies academics with radical assocations or sympathies come into play, as well as Campus Watch's role in shedding light on these important issues. Here are the opening paragraphs:
For a brief time during the 2008 presidential campaign, Columbia University's Edward Said professor of Arab studies Rashid Khalidi was the most famous Middle East studies academic in the country. Khalidi's relationship with now president-elect Barack Obama brought him national attention and unprecedented media scrutiny. At the heart of the controversy was Khalidi's role as a spokesman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) when he lived in Beirut in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During those years, the PLO was listed by the State Department as a designated foreign terrorist organization.
But this was not the first time that Khalidi's PLO past had come back to haunt him. In 2004, Campus Watch (campus-watch.org), a project of the Middle East Forum, broke the story with a Washington Times article by Asaf Romirowsky and Jonathan Calt Harris titled, "Arafat Minion as Professor." Among other indicators, the authors pointed to a June 9, 1982, Thomas L. Friedman column in the New York Times describing Khalidi as "a director of the Palestinian press agency." Adding further confirmation, Middle East studies historian Martin Kramer, who has written extensively about Khalidi, recently augmented the compendium of attributions linking him to the PLO.
Propaganda As Scholarship
One need only examine Khalidi's history of anti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric to perceive his ideological underpinnings, something that Campus Watch has been doing since its inception in 2002. Given its mission statement of "reviewing and critiquing Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them," Campus Watch has consistently pointed to Khalidi as an example of the politicization and apologia that has compromised the field. As far back as 1986, Daniel Pipes, who would go on to found both the Middle East Forum and Campus Watch, reviewed Khalidi's book, Under Siege: P.L.O. Decisionmaking During the 1982 War, and noted its transparent partisanship. As he put it, "Under Siege is propaganda parading as scholarship."