Rashid Khalidi, Obama’s Palestinian pal


Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor at Columbia University, is much in the news these days, for his connection with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. The Los Angeles Times did some digging around the story last spring, and most of the facts are there. I don’t know anything about the connection that I haven’t read elsewhere, so I have nothing original to say about it.

But this seems like an opportune moment to flag my own writings on Khalidi, going back a number of years.

• “Dr. Rashid and Mr. Khalidi.” On how Khalidi has varied his pitch according to audience—and, when interviewed on Al Jazeera, turns into a firebrand.

• “The Day the Rabbi Rescued Rashid.” Khalidi has always taken care to cultivate a few Jewish supporters, and the late Arthur Hertzberg was one of them. Shows how they haven’t a clue about what he really believes—and says.

• “Rashid Khalidi: Gaza blame-thrower.” Hamas took over Gaza, so who’s fault is that? Guess.

• “Unreal Rashid.” Dissects Khalidi’s 2005 interview with the Radical History Journal. “They are political,” he says of the right, “and we’re not political”—he tells his fellow radical historians.

• “Radical Rashid.” Khalidi finds the University of Chicago Law School faculty “extremely conservative”—even though the ratio of Democrats to Republicans there is 7 to 1.

• “Philistine at Columbia.” Considers a speech in which Khalidi indicted America’s universities—including disciplines he knows nothing about, such as medicine and agriculture—for failing to “challenge the reigning orthodoxies in their fields.”

• “The rise and fall of the third-rate.” Khalidi complains about “Uncle Toms” in Middle Eastern studies.

• And also download my book Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America (2001), for my even earlier treatment of Khalidi.

As I said, I have no inside information on the Obama-Khalidi connection. But I did note this statement by Obama, when pressed on Khalidi:

I do know him [Khalidi] because I taught at the University of Chicago [where Khalidi taught prior to his Columbia appointment—MK]. And he is Palestinian. And I do know him and I have had conversations. He is not one of my advisors; 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.

To which I would ask the candidate in response: What aspect of his “scholarship” do you respect?

Update: See my two new posts on Khalidi:

• “Khalidi and Obama: Kindred Spirits.” Considers what sort of insight we might gain from the videotape of Obama praising Khalidi.

• “Khalidi of the PLO.” Was Khalidi a PLO spokesman back in 1982? He’s obscured the answer.