Rashid Khalidi’s Interesting Observation About His Old Friend Obama
By David Stein
When Rashid Khalidi, the Arab Studies professor and anti-Israel author and activist (and former PLO operative), makes an observation about his longtime friend Barack Obama, it’s worth taking seriously. The two men go way back – as personal friends and political allies (Khalidi was a tireless fundraiser for Obama during his Chicago years, and when he ran for president).
Recently, Khalidi contributed an essay to a book that had the misfortune of arriving in stores at almost the exact same time that its subject matter was called into question by the very person whose name appears in the title. “The Goldstone Report” is a collection of essays by various critics of Israel, all in the service of celebrating the controversial report that heavily criticized Israel for conduct during the Gaza conflict several years ago.
As most of my readers know, the man who led the U.N. fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict, retired South African Justice Richard Goldstone, has recently, and very publicly, admitted that there are serious flaws in his report, going so far as to write, “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
This can’t be good news for the publishers of “The Goldstone Report” book. Not that there would be much to recommend about the tome, even if Goldstone had not cast doubt on his report. The collected essays, authored by various Arab activists and far-left Jews, are tiresome retreads of all the usual anti-Israel propaganda. Israel’s a “colonial settler state,” the Palestinians are helpless victims, the Israeli lobby controls the U.S. government and the media, etc., etc., etc.
Nothing that we haven’t seen a hundred times before.
But there was one very small passage in the essay by Khalidi that caught my eye. Some of my readers might recall a controversy from last May, in which Obama used the term “blood and treasure” when answering a reporter’s question about the Middle East:
The truth is, in some of these conflicts the United States can’t impose solutions unless the participants in these conflicts are willing to break out of old patterns of antagonism. I think it was former Secretary of State Jim Baker who said, in the context of Middle East peace, we can’t want it more than they do.
But what we can make sure of is, is that we are constantly present, constantly engaged, and setting out very clearly to both sides our belief that not only is it in the interests of each party to resolve these conflicts but it’s also in the interest of the United States. It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower, and when conflicts break out, one way or another we get pulled into them. And that ends up costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.
To some observers, Obama’s use of the term was a subtle swipe at Israel – a suggestion that U.S. support of Israel was costing the U.S. precious resources and human lives. This brought cheers and boos from the left and the right.
On the left, The New York Times trumpeted:
When Mr. Obama declared that resolving the long-running Middle East dispute was a “vital national security interest of the United States,” he was highlighting a change that has resulted from a lengthy debate among his top officials over how best to balance support for Israel against other American interests.
Mr. Obama said conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure” — drawing an explicit link between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
On the other side of the spectrum, then-Congressman Mark Kirk (R-Ill) had this to say:
Reports in the New York Times this morning are very disturbing that we are distancing ourselves from our best allies in the Middle East. And I think the lessons of the 1930s are you should not show any distance between you and your allies because our enemies will take advantage.
Another Republican congressman, then-Minority Whip Eric Cantor, said:
Palestinian terrorism is still celebrated in the West Bank and Gaza. Despite this reality, since day one the White House has applied a severe double standard that refuses to hold the Palestinians accountable for their many provocations. It makes one wonder where the responsible adults are in the administration?
The “blood and treasure” controversy was soon forgotten, supplanted by debates over Obamacare and the Arizona immigration law.
In his essay in “The Goldstone Report,” Rashid Khalidi, almost in passing, claims to know exactly what Obama meant by “blood and treasure.” According to Khalidi, Obama’s remark was meant to convey “the unspoken sense that it is Israeli intransigence that is costing the United States ‘blood and treasure.’”
That one small part of Khalidi’s essay stuck with me. An important aspect of Obama and Khalidi’s friendship (by their own admission) was their private dialogue regarding the Middle East conflict. Obama has stated that Khalidi has influenced his views on that subject. If anyone knows Obama’s mind on matters regarding Israel, it’s probably Khalidi.
In all the Obama “birth certificate” fuss kicked up by Donald Trump over the past few weeks, lost in the “birther” hubbub was the fact that there exists another “hidden” Obama document (to be precise, a videotape), tucked away in the offices of the L.A. Times. It’s a tape of a 2003 farewell dinner for Khalidi, when he left Chicago to assume his professorship at Columbia. At the dinner, then-State Senator Obama gave a “special tribute” to his good friend, according to the Times’ description of the tape. The Times also quoted a Palestinian speaker at the event who threatened that Israel “will never see a day of peace.”
Reading Khalidi’s essay made me realize that it’s about time the American people are made aware of what Obama said at that event. Khalidi writes that Obama believes our relationship with Israel is costing us “blood and treasure.” We’ll never be able to know the president’s mind as well as his old friend does, but at least we can see what he said that night, at that private gathering to honor a man who hates Israel with every fiber of his being.
One last point: Although most in the conservative media have simply given up trying to pry the video out of The Times’ hands (the last piece I can recall reading was in 2010, at Pajamas Media), we have a new point on which to hammer The Times for its suppression of the tape: The L.A. Times’ enthusiastic support for Wikileaks.
It certainly comes off as hypocritical – defending Wikileaks for releasing stolen, secret documents, while refusing to allow ANY access to a document that could shed a great deal of light on our president’s views on the Middle East.
So, to close this article, I think it’s fitting to quote a July 26, 2010 L.A. Times editorial, “Wikileaks Wasn’t Wrong:”
What motivates WikiLeaks to post classified material is barely even interesting, much less important. Rather, the germane question is whether the United States and its allies are best served by secrecy or debate. And the answer is obvious.
In crafting the 1st Amendment, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote, the founders understood that security was not best protected by secrecy but by scrutiny. “The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people,” Black wrote. “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”
That’s all well and good, unless it’s the press itself that’s covering for the government, and keeping its secrets.