Earlier this month, hosting Benjamin Netanyahu — the Israeli prime minister he had humiliated back in March — President Obama was at pains to prove he is not hostile to the Jewish state. In fact, he took umbrage at a reporter's suggestion that his administration is not committed to what he called the "special bond," America's relationship with Israel.
Well, here's his chance to prove that he was serious, that he wasn't engaged in Alinskyite misdirection.
Obama's close friend, the rabidly anti-Israel professor Rashid Khalidi, is back in the news. The former PLO spokesman has signed an appeal for funds to outfit a ship that would join yet another attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. In the last such attempt several weeks back — a contingent of Islamists and radical leftists, perversely identifying themselves as the "peace flotilla" and armed for hand-to-hand combat — carried out a premeditated attack on the Israeli defense force that denied them passage.
Evacuated by Israel in 2005, the Gaza Strip is controlled by Hamas, the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is pledged, by charter, to the violent destruction of Israel. The jihadist organization has been formally designated as an international terrorist under U.S. law since the mid-nineties. Several people have been convicted and imprisoned for coming to its aid, because providing material support to terrorist organizations is a serious crime.
Hamas remains at war with Israel and has continued firing rockets at Israeli civilians. The blockade is thus a legitimate national-defense measure. Still, Israel does not bar humanitarian assistance, which is permitted entry into Gaza after inspection. The blockade prevents material aid to Hamas. It is necessary because Hamas will not renounce terrorism and is incorrigible in its refusal to accept Israel's right to exist.
In this regard, Hamas merely echoes Khalidi, a consummate propagandist who frames Israel as an illegitimate, racist, apartheid state. Khalidi has long contended that Israel's blockade of Gaza is illegal. He has a right to be wrong about that, of course. But the Columbia academic has no right to violate American law in the service of his political agenda.
With his insider's understanding of Obama's views, Khalidi is betting that he will be immune from any legal consequences for his actions. Indeed, if that weren't clear enough already, Khalidi and other architects of the Gaza gambit plan to call their vessel The Audacity of Hope. That is the title of Barack Obama's second autobiographical book — a title inspired by Obama's former pastor of 20 years, the radical black-liberation theologian Jeremiah Wright (whose vitriol, like Khalidi's, is copiously spewed at Israel).
Khalidi is not alone in his optimism. In addition to his wife, Mona (who is the president of the Arab American Action Network, which Khalidi cofounded), others who've signed the statement urging financial contributions to the Gaza voyage include Medea Benjamin (the founder of Code Pink), Angela Davis (the communist professor and former Black Panther Party member), Michael Ratner (head of the leftist Center for Constitutional Rights, which has coordinated representation for jihadists held at Guantanamo Bay and thus worked in league with many lawyers now serving in the Obama Justice Department), Abdeen Jabara (who, along with Lynne Stewart, represented the "Blind Sheikh," Omar Abdel Rahman, leader of the terror cell that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993), and many other luminaries representative of the leftist-Islamist connection about which I write in The Grand Jihad.
There is no question that these radicals are conspiring to furnish a ship for the purpose of challenging Israel's blockade. The statement they have issued is clear: "In the aftermath of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla," they write, there has been "increased world-wide scrutiny of Israel's blockade of Gaza." Gaza, they insist, "is still under siege," reduced to an "open-air prison under a U.S.-backed Israeli blockade." Because of this,
We are planning to launch a U.S. boat to Gaza, joining a flotilla of ships from Europe, Canada, India, South Africa and parts of the Middle East due to set sail in September/October of this year. . . . Citizens around the world have responded to the plight of the Palestinian people and are taking action to help break the blockade[.] . . . We in the United States must do our part.
It is an imperative of American law to prevent individual citizens from imperiling the rest of us, and from souring our foreign relations, by conducting their own foreign policy — particularly when it subverts actual U.S. policy or provokes friendly nations. Consequently, the brazen declaration by Khalidi & Co. ought to put several provisions of the federal penal code into play.
For example, Section 962 makes it a crime to furnish or fit out a vessel in the service of any foreign entity "to cruise, or commit hostilities" against a nation with which the U.S. is at peace. Israel is an American ally and the planned voyage is intended for the benefit of Hamas-controlled Gaza. Challenging a blockade — regardless of whether one thinks the blockade complies with the shifting sands of international law — is a hostile act. The boat needn't embark in order for Khalidi to violate the law; it is a crime to conspire or attempt such a voyage. That is, the law is being violated now.
So, very likely, is the Logan Act, Section 953 of the penal code. This prohibits American citizens (Khalidi was born in New York City) from carrying on "any correspondence or intercourse" with any foreign government with the intent to influence the "measures or conduct of any foreign government" regarding "disputes or controversies with the United States," or to "defeat the measures of the United States."
It would require Justice Department investigation to determine exactly what communications Khalidi and his friends have had with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Yet, given Khalidi's history of close relations with Yasser Arafat and his successors, as well as the clamor by Islamists and leftists to include Hamas in what Turkey eerily calls the "final solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there has undoubtedly been significant contact between Palestinian officials and Audacity of Hope planners. Beyond that, it could not be plainer that the planners are seeking to influence the behavior of both Israel and Hamas. Moreover, it cannot be gainsaid that the United States is enmeshed in the controversy over the blockade; indeed, Khalidi and his confederates expressly allege that the blockade is "U.S.-backed." And wholly apart from the blockade, the planned stunt will strengthen the hand of Hamas and make Israel's defense more uncertain. Since it is American policy to weaken Hamas and protect Israel, the flotilla aims to defeat measures of the United States.
Finally, the Gaza voyage would manifestly benefit Hamas. Its specific purpose is to eradicate a national-defense measure by which Israel secures itself from the terrorist organization's attacks. It would make supplying Hamas with money, weaponry, and other assets far easier. The Islamists and leftists behind the flotilla know this only too well — they refuse to acknowledge that Palestinian brutality against Israel (particularly, against the Israeli government) is "terrorism," portraying it instead as legitimate "resistance" against an illegitimate occupying power. For them, facilitating this sort of aid would be a welcome result.
But our law does not permit it. Section 2339B makes providing material support to a terrorist organization a felony punishable by up to 15 years' imprisonment. The organizers may claim that they are not planning to supply Hamas directly with any prohibited assets, but our law also forbids conspiring in, or aiding and abetting, the material-support activities of others. The organizers know that if they succeed in breaking the blockade, others will be able to supply Hamas freely. That is the purpose of the exercise. In fact, the statement signed by Khalidi & Co. says the point of defeating the blockade is to enable the flow of goods in and out of Gaza. An agreement the purpose of which is to abet the importation of goods that would then necessarily be placed at the service of Hamas is a conspiracy to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization.
So, was President Obama being sincere when he claimed, with Prime Minister Netanyahu by his side, to be "unwavering" in our commitment to Israel and its security? A concrete demonstration that this claim was a product of good faith rather than hot air would be, very simply, to enforce the law.
Rashid Khalidi and his cohorts have been very forthright. They want the world to know that they are conspiring, right now, to furnish a ship that will challenge Israel's naval forces, to conduct their own foreign policy to the detriment of our ally, and to provide material support to the Hamas terrorist organization. What are the president and his Justice Department planning to do about that?
— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.