Rashid Khalidi

JERUSALEM – Anti-Israel professor Rashid Khalidi, who has been closely tied to Sen. Barack Obama, is currently a top director for an organization that has a long and intertwined history with the Palestine Liberation Organization, including while the PLO was one of the world’s foremost terrorist organizations, WND has learned.

Well-known former PLO leaders still sit on the board of Khalidi’s organization. The former PLO leaders work for the Palestinian government but now identify themselves as members of the Palestinian Authority largely because the PLO has negative connotations.

Much has been made in recent months about the anti-Israel sentiments of Khalidi, currently a professor at Columbia University. During documented speeches and public events, Khalidi has called Israel an “apartheid system in creation” and a destructive “racist” state. In May, he wrote an opinion piece in The Nation magazine in which he argues Western powers backed Israel’s establishment in 1948 due to guilt of the Holocaust and asserts Israel should be dissolved.

Some have also pointed out that in the 1980s, when the PLO was based in Beirut and was carrying out scores of terror attacks and assaults on Lebanese Christians, Khalidi, a local professor, several times used the word “we” when speaking to the media regarding the PLO. He also was quoted in several major newspaper pieces as a professor close to PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

Khalidi has denied serving as a PLO spokesman.

But Khalidi’s relationship with the PLO can be seen in his involvement, closely probed by WND, with the Institute for Palestine Studies, a think tank established in Beirut in 1963 that stresses on its website it is an “independent, non-profit Arab institute unaffiliated with any political organization or government.”

Khalidi started writing articles in the late 1970s for the institute’s Journal of Palestine Studies. He currently serves as the general secretary of the institute and is considered one of its main leaders.

Although it claims to be independent, the institute functioned as the clear intellectual arm of the PLO from its foundation until the early 90s. Many of its board members and featured authors were some of the early pioneers of PLO ideology.

Israeli security officials say the institute was indirectly funded by the PLO through affiliate organizations.

Current and recent board members of Khalidi’s institute are well known PLO leaders. Leila Shahid, an institute trustee, was the official PLO representative to Paris in the 1990s and now works for the PA. Hanan Ashrawi, another current institute trustee, served as the PLO’s minister of higher education and research and was briefly chief of the PLO’s Political Committee before becoming a spokeswoman for Arafat. Her father, Daoud Mikhail, was one of the main founders of the PLO.

Palestinian activist and author Mahmoud Darwish served on the board of Khalidi’s institute until his death earlier this year. He was elected to the PLO’s Executive Committee in 1987 but resigned in 1993 in protest of peace negotiations with Israel.

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

In a June 11, 1979, New York Times report, Khalidi was identified as “a professor of political science who is close to [Arafat’s faction] Fatah,” which was essentially interchangeable with the PLO

A Jan. 6, 1981, Christian Science Monitor piece quoted Khalidi as a professor of political science “with good access to the PLO leadership.” In the article, he apparently referred to the PLO as “we” several times.

In an April 26, 1982, piece by New York Times writer Thomas Friedman, Khalidi was again quoted discussing PLO strategy and referred to his relationship to the terror organization as “we.”

He told the Times: “If we break the cease-fire now it would not only play into Israel’s hands but would also divert world attention away from the popular uprising on the West Bank, which is equally important to the PLO’s long-term objectives.”

In a second Times piece by Friedman, Khalidi was introduced as “a director of the Palestinian press agency, Wafa.” Khalidi’s wife Mona reportedly served as a WAFA director.

WAFA was the official news organization of the PLO.

Speaking to WND, the former primary analyst of Palestinian communications for the NSA explained that WAFA had an active role in terrorist activities and that some WAFA employees were involved in terrorism.

“In addition to being a propaganda medium for the PLO, it also broadcast, at the end of its regular programming, coded messages which were very difficult to make sense and were messages to PLO operatives,” the former NSA analyst said.

“Often the messages could only be understood after some action had taken place,” he said.

Close ties

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.

Amid multiple anti-Israel speeches, Obama offered a glowing testimonial in praise of Khalidi at a 2003 farewell dinner, marking the professor’s departure from his post at the University of Chicago for a new teaching position at Columbia University. Obama spoke about his many talks with Khalidi.

An article in 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.”

While Obama served alongside Weathermen radical William Ayers on the board of Woods Fund, a liberal Chicago nonprofit, 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 AAAN has sponsored several anti-Israel events, such as 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.

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?”

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

Khalidi did not return WND e-mails and phone calls seeking comment for this article.

Speaking in February 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.”

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

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