Rashid Khalidi

JERUSALEM – Sen. John McCain chaired an organization that granted substantial funding to a Palestinian research group co-chaired by Mideast professor Rashid Khalidi, a harsh critic of Israel and apologist for Palestinian terror.

The report – first carried by the Huffington Post website – comes amid harsh criticism from McCain’s campaign of Sen. Barack Obama for his personal and financial ties to Khalidi.

The website documented how in the 1990s, while he served as chairman of the International Republican Institute (IRI), McCain distributed several documented grants, including one worth about half a million dollars, to the Center for Palestine Research and Studies, or CPRS, a West Bank organization associated with Khalidi.

Unreported by the Huffington Post is that the CPRS, with which Khalidi was for a time moderately involved, is pro-Western and can be characterized as pro-Israel.

Its work has been condemned by the Palestinian leadership and by local terror groups as “Zionist propaganda.”

In contrast, the Khalidi organization Obama helped fund as a board member for a nonprofit, alongside domestic terrorist William Ayers, has taken a flagrantly anti-Israel line. Khalidi’s Arab American Action Network has hosted scores of Israel-bashing events, including at least one reportedly attended by Obama.

A 1998 tax filing published by the Huffington Post found the McCain-led IRI group granted $448,873 to the CPRS. Also in 1993, seven months after McCain became IRI’s chairman, his group funded several extensive CPRS studies, including over 30 public opinion polls and a study of “sociopolitical attitudes.”

The CPRS, which bills itself as an independent Palestinian think tank, was founded in 1993 by seven Palestinian activists, including Khalidi and Khalil Shakaki, who for a time was a visiting professor at several U.S. universities. Khalidi several years later terminated his involvement with the organization while Shakaki became CPRS chairman.

The group has conducted scores of polls that drew the ire of the Palestinian leadership, including in 1993 when it was tasked by McCain’s group. One 1993 poll reviewed by WND showed most Palestinians were not fully confident in the fairness of elections that then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat had pledged to hold.

Another 1993 survey found most Palestinians wanted independent Arafat opposition groups to have more ability to freely express themselves. A number of other polls showed the Palestinians were unhappy with their leaders.

A particularly dramatic recent poll that contradicted years of Palestinian claims showed the vast majority of Arabs living in so-called refugee camps would accept compensation instead of “returning” to Israel.

This issue is particularly visceral since the Khalidi organization funded by Obama’s nonprofit took the opposition position.

While Obama served on the Woods Fund with Ayers, 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 group co-sponsored 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.
According to the widely discredited Nakba narrative, Jews in 1948 forcibly expelled hundreds of thousands – some Palestinians claim over 1 million – Arabs from their homes and then took over the territory.

Historically, about 600,000 Arabs fled Israel after surrounding Arab countries warned they would destroy the Jewish state in 1948. Some Arabs also were driven out by Jewish forces while they were trying to push back invading Arab armies. At the same time, over 800,000 Jews were expelled or left Arab countries under threat after Israel was founded.
The theme of AAAN’s Nakba art exhibit, held at DePaul University in 2005, was “the compelling and continuing tragedy of Palestinian life … under [Israeli] occupation … home demolition … statelessness … bereavement … martyrdom, and … the heroic struggle for life, for safety, and for freedom.”

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?”

That posting was recently removed. The AAAN website currently states the entire site is under construction.

The AAAN reportedly sponsored a farewell dinner for Khalidi in 2003, when he was leaving his post at the University of Chicago for a new teaching position at Columbia University. Obama attended the event and reportedly offered a glowing testimonial for Khalidi amid multiple anti-Israel speeches.

An article last April in the Los Angeles Times documents 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.”

In the piece, the L.A. Times reported it obtained a copy a videotape of the dinner, but it has refused to release the video, stating it was obtained by a source who asked that it not be made public.

McCain’s campaign had accused the Times of intentionally suppressing the video.

“A major news organization is intentionally suppressing information that could provide a clearer link between Barack Obama and Rashid Khalidi,” said McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb.

Obama and Khalidi closely tied

Khalidi is a harsh critic of Israel. He has made statements supportive of Palestinian terror and reportedly has worked on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization while it was involved in anti-Western terrorism and was labeled by the State Department as a terror group.

During documented speeches and public events, Khalidi has called Israel an “apartheid system in creation” and a destructive “racist” state. He has multiple times expressed support for Palestinian terror, calling suicide bombings a response to “Israeli aggression.”

He dedicated his 1986 book, “Under Siege,” to “those who gave their lives … in defense of the cause of Palestine and independence of Lebanon.” Critics assailed the book as excusing Palestinian terrorism.

While McCain’s known association with Khalidi apparently is limited to helping fund the CPRC, Obama has close ties to the professor.

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.

Speaking 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 supports 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.”

In 2001 and 2002 the Woods Fund provided the grants to Khalidi’s wife’s anti-Israel group.

Obama borrowed phrase from Khalidi?

In May, WND noted Obama termed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a “constant sore” in an interview just five days after Khalidi wrote an opinion piece in the Nation magazine in which he called the “Palestinian question” a “running sore.”

In his piece, “Palestine: Liberation Deferred,” Khalidi suggests Israel carried out “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians; writes Western powers backed Israel’s establishment due to guilt of the Holocaust; laments the Palestinian Authority’s stated acceptance of a Palestinian state “only” in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern sections of Jerusalem; and argues Israel should be dissolved and instead a bi-national, cantonal system should be set up in which Jews and Arabs reside.

To interview Aaron Klein, contact M. Sliwa Public Relations by e-mail, or call 973-272-2861 or 212-202-4453.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.