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Rashid Khalidi.

October 30, 2008

Josh Marshall at TPM makes a valid point.

I’ll admit being ignorant as to Rashid Khalidi was when the McCain/Palin campaign decided to drag him into the national limelight.  But based on everything I’ve read, turns out he’s not the “radical” they’ve made him out to be.  He looks to be an intelligent, articulate academic who’s a respected voice on international relations in the Middle East.

Per his Wiki page:

Khalidi’s research covers primarily the history of the modern Middle East. He focuses on the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, with an eye to the emergence of various national identities and the role played by external powers in their development. He also researches the impact of the press on forming new senses of community, the role of education in the construction of political identity, and in the way narratives have developed over the past centuries in the region. Michael C. Hudson, director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown, describes Khalidi as “preeminent in his field.” He served as President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America in 1994. Khalidi is currently editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies.

Much of Khalidi’s scholarly work in the 1990s focused on the historical construction of nationalism in the Arab world. Drawing on the work of theorists Benedict Anderson who described nations as “imagined communities”, he does not posit primordial national identities, but clearly argues that these nations have legitimacy and rights. In Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (1997), he places the emergence of Palestinian national identity in the context of Ottoman and British colonialism as well as the early Zionist effort in the Levant. This book won the Middle East Studies Association’s Albert Hourani Prize as best book of 1997. His dating of Palestinian national emergence to the early 20th century and his tracing of its contours provide a rejoinder to Israeli nationalist claims that Palestinians either do not exist, or had no collective claims prior to the 1948 creation of Israel. Nevertheless, Khalidi is also careful to focus on the late development, failings and internal divisions within the various elements of the Palestinian nationalist movement as well.

In Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East (2004), Khalidi takes readers on a historical tour of Western intervention in the Middle East, and argues that these interventions continue to have a colonialist nature that is both morally unacceptable and likely to backfire.

Oh, and by the way, he’s not a “PLO spokesman” at all.

Khalidi has been accused of having ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), based on his work for Wafa in the late 1980s, and later serving as an adviser to the Palestinian delegation during the Madrid Conference of 1991. Khalidi denied the allegation that he served as a PLO spokesman. Khalidi explained that he often spoke to journalists in Beirut, and was usually cited, without attribution, as a well-informed Palestinian source. He also said that he was unaware of any misidentification as a PLO spokesman. Palestinian sources, speaking to The Jerusalem Post, also denied that Khalidi was a PLO spokesman.

Sound like a crazed anti-Semite to you?  Some unhinged radical of questionable character?  Me neither.

So why is this scholar being booed at campaign rallies throughout the “real America?”  It sounds like John McCain and Sarah Palin are essentially playing the Fear Card… again.  And in all actuality, it’s the Fear Card with a dash of the Anti-Intellectual Card thrown in for good measure.

It boils down to this:  Rashid Khalidi has an Arab name.  He’s of Palestinian descent.  He sounds scary.  And though it’s true that he’s been critical of Israel, he’s speaking from a Palestinian historical perspective.  He’s an American citizen who has done extensive studies on the Middle East.  He is such a respected authority that John McCain’s own International Republican Institute donated nearly $500K to Khalidi’s Center for Palestine’s Research and Studies in 1998 to help them continue their research.

And now his name is being dragged through the mud, simply to achieve a political end.  It’s irresponsible at best, and if the McCain/Palin team had any sense of decency they would apologize to Khalidi, put an end to their latest meme, and talk about their solutions to the real problems facing America today.

Unless they don’t have any real solutions, that is.

Which, based on what I’ve seen these past few weeks, wouldn’t be too far of a stretch.

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