Rashid Khalidi, the former PLO spokesman-turned Columbia University professor, is convinced that Israel has constructed a “matrix of control” in the Middle East. Khalidi once cited books and articles to back up his skewed views of Middle East history. Now he cites obscure Internet claims of an “occupation settlement industrial complex.”
On April 1, Khalidi gave a one-hour phone briefing to Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace) – a leftist organization based in Chicago. While occasionally sounding balanced and insightful, he launched into short rants throughout the call.
Notably, about eight minutes in, he began to froth about a “network of interests which is bound up with the maintenance of this matrix of control. The occupation settlement industrial complex – a network of companies that an Israeli Web site called ‘whoprofits’ put together.” Based on this site, which published a disclaimer about the “accuracy, completeness, usefulness of any information and/or documents disclosed,” along with input from radical leftists like Jeff Halper and Palestinian apologists like Amira Haas, Khalidi claimed there are “hundreds of companies, hi-tech companies, that keep the databases on which Israel manages… the four million Palestinians… The telephone databases to the security companies that manage the checkpoints to the companies that build the roads… the settler-only roads.” And so on and so forth.
This assertion is outrageous on several levels. The Palestinians constitute a never-ending financial and political burden for the Jewish state. From within the Palestinian population also comes a constant terrorist threat which requires millions of dollars in training and resources each year to counter. To imply that Israel prospers from this albatross is preposterous.
Khalidi must also be called out for attempting to further the canard of “settler-only roads.” Media analyst Tamar Sternthal pointed out in 2003 that such roads do not exist. “There are no roads in the West Bank or Gaza which are open only to settler traffic.” Khalidi, who claims to be an expert on the Palestinians, should know better.
He should also know better than to assert, as he did, that the United States is responsible for the Palestinian civil war between Hamas and Fatah. Khalidi called the internecine conflict “a function of external powers like the United States… doing all they can to split the Palestinians in service of their own narrow objectives.”
To his credit, Khalidi also includes Iran among those “external powers.” But his swipe at Washington is far off the mark. The Obama administration desperately seeks to reconcile these two factions in its effort to establish an interlocutor for future Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
KHALIDI THEN launched into a harangue about the influence of a right-wing Jewish lobby, echoing the dangerous sentiments of the discredited book The Israel Lobby by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer: “If you look at where AIPAC, say, stands, or at where the Conference of Presidents stands, or at where the American Jewish Committee stands, or at where the ADL stands, I mean, they’re sort of to the right of Genghis Khan. They’re somewhere between Likud and… I don’t know… Avigdor Lieberman.”
Khalidi again misses by a wide margin. These organizations are almost monolithically liberal and Democratic in outlook, and warmly embrace the notion of a negotiated two-state solution. Yet, Khalidi asserted, based on nothing he could possibly cite as proof, that “most of the people who head these organizations voted for [Arizona Sen. John] McCain.” He concluded his thoughts about the Jewish lobby in this way: “The leadership – which is to the right of McCain – represent, you know, a bunch of people who are in another universe.”
In his smear of these groups, Khalidi was preaching to the choir. Brit Tzedek stands at the fringe of the Jewish political spectrum, and ultimately yearns to gain influence through the demise of AIPAC and its other competitors.
Khalidi also preached to his obsequious audience that the Palestinian violence against Israel is not anti-Semitic. Rather, he asserts that the fears of Palestinian anti-Semitic violence held by Israelis and world Jewry stem from a persecution complex.
The former spokesman for the PLO, an organization responsible for killing hundreds of Jews, claims that the Jews of Israel “read into their present everything that they’ve experienced in their past, so that the Palestinians and the Arabs are just the latest version of the Cossacks, the Nazis, the Inquisition, the this, the that…. one has nothing to do with the other.”
“Palestinian resistance to Israel has nothing to do with European anti-Semitism,” he insisted.
Yet it is widely known that the mainstream Palestinian press engages in Holocaust denial and blood libel. For years, Palestinian school textbooks have been teaching children anti-Semitic ideas. And if that weren’t enough, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is consistently a best-selling book in the West Bank and Gaza.
Khalidi even contradicted himself on this topic, admitting earlier in the call that Hamas was vehemently anti-Semitic. Indeed, the Hamas charter states that, “Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people.”
The conference call, in the end, confirmed that Khalidi’s scholarship continues to slip from research into naked advocacy. In this case, advocacy has slipped further into paranoia.
The appeal of Khalidi’s radical scholarship, particularly among Jews, is inexplicable. Yet he continues his disinformation campaign among students and activists alike, demonstrating the continued need for reform in Middle Eastern studies today.
The writer, a former US Treasury intelligence analyst, is deputy executive director of the Jewish Policy Center and author of Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (Palgrave Macmillan 2008). JPC intern Samara Greenberg contributed to this article.