Release the Obama-Khalidi tape!

Barry Rubin recently posted an article on the Obama-Israel relationship here. He makes some good points, but what caught my attention was an offhand remark:

By the way, note that the Los Angeles Times has still not released the video of Obama speaking at a Palestinian meeting. Why not? Surely if his speech was so banal there would be no reason to withhold that evidence. We know about Reverend Wright and a lot more as well. But if the policy in the White House had been different, no one would be dwelling on that now.

What video?

The event in question was a 2003 going-away party for Obama’s friend, Rashid Khalidi. In an April 2008 article, the LA Times described it thus:

CHICAGO — It was a celebration of Palestinian culture — a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics. Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York.

A special tribute came from Khalidi’s friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi’s wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.

His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “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.” …

And yet the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor’s going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say.

Their belief is not drawn from Obama’s speeches or campaign literature, but from comments that some say Obama made in private and from his association with the Palestinian American community in his hometown of Chicago, including his presence at events where anger at Israeli and U.S. Middle East policy was freely expressed.

At Khalidi’s 2003 farewell party, for example, a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, “then you will never see a day of peace.”  …

Among other community events, Obama in 1998 attended a speech by Edward Said, the late Columbia University professor and a leading intellectual in the Palestinian movement. According to a news account of the speech, Said called that day for a nonviolent campaign “against settlements, against Israeli apartheid.”

The use of such language to describe Israel’s policies has drawn vehement objection from Israel’s defenders in the United States. A photo on the pro-Palestinian website the Electronic Intifada [see below -- ed] shows Obama and his wife, Michelle, engaged in conversation at the dinner table with Said, and later listening to Said’s keynote address. Obama had taken an English class from Said as an undergraduate at Columbia University…

At Khalidi’s going-away party in 2003, the scholar lavished praise on Obama, telling the mostly Palestinian American crowd that the state senator deserved their help in winning a U.S. Senate seat. “You will not have a better senator under any circumstances,” Khalidi said.

The event was videotaped, and a copy of the tape was obtained by The Times. (my emphasis)

In October 2008, a mini-media furor erupted. The McCain campaign demanded a copy of the video, but the Times refused, with editor Russ Stanton claiming that “it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it…”

The Times claimed that it had done its duty to inform the public by describing the party in the original article. But while the article transcribes some militant anti-Israel statements made by others, Obama’s remarks as quoted are scrubbed clean of any political content. Only his opinion of Mona Khalidi’s cooking remains.

Can we believe that he made no comments whatever about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his speech? Even the Times doesn’t assert that. Conservative bloggers (see also here) and commentators demanded that the Times at least release a full transcript of Obama’s words at the event, but the Times refused — even though such a transcript would not violate its promise to its source any more than the original article did.

The election is long over, and Bill O’Reilly et al seem to have forgotten about the tape. But the question of Barack Obama’s intentions in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian issue burns even brighter today than it did in 2008. Obama has been called everything from a staunch friend of Israel to an anti-Zionist who has made a secret agreement with the Saudi king to “deliver Israel”.

Obama’s remarks to pro-Israel audiences have been made public. Now it’s time to find out what he says to his Palestinian friends.

It’s time for the LA Times to release a transcript of Barack Obama’s remarks at the 2003 meeting, or adequately document the agreement which prevents it from doing so — if there is one, which I doubt.

Michelle and Barack Obama with Edward Said and his wife Mariam at a 1998 event in Chicago -- from Electronic Intifada.

Michelle and Barack Obama with Edward Said and his wife Mariam at a 1998 event in Chicago -- from Electronic Intifada.

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2 Responses to “Release the Obama-Khalidi tape!”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    Should our goal be to strengthen the definition of Obama as hostile to Israel , or rather to make him more friendly and supportive of our major goals? I think most people supportive of Israel know Obama is not the most friendly President we have ever had ( understatement) but he is the one there now and the one making decisions for the next two and one half years. The hope of some of us is that Obama will make a realistic appraisal of mistaken policies, including the one- sided pressure on Israel and work more closely with Israel toward more common goals. This may be of course an illusory hope and the brief honeymoon with Netanyahu may prove to be deceptive. But I believe he must be judged on present and future actions and not his opinions from the ‘distant’ past.

  2. Robman says:

    Shalom:

    I have posted this before, I’ll post it again in case you missed it the first time (excuse the inevitable typos; I’m just coming off of night shift).

    I was born within two months of Obama. When he was at Columbia, I was at U Michigan Ann Arbor. When he was doing his community organizing gig, I was serving a stint in the U.S. Army…but during two summers as an undergrad, I worked door-to-door for some far liberal left community organizing outfits, so I know very well what is meant by “community organizer’.

    When Obama was at Harvard, I was at U Chicago. There, I met Rashid Khalidi. He was a guest professor for one of my classes. He was a world-class asshole. I had to read one of his putrid books for the class. This is a man who has dedicated the whole of his adult professional life to the demonization and dismantlement of Israel.

    Khalid went on to raise $70,000 for Obama’s first senate campaign. I don’t think he did this because he thought Obama was a swell guy, or becuase he REALLY wanted to see the U.S. adopt a national healthcare system. He expected something.

    Though I never net Obama personally, I can tell you that I had umpteen colleagues, housemates, etc., who talked and thought like Obama. During that decade, the petrodollar-funded bash Israel propaganda machine – directly involving people like Khalidi, combined with veteran American bashers who needed another ‘anti-colonialist’ target once the Cold War had ended, a new way to defame the West – was gathering a full head of steam.

    During those years and since that time, I can tell you that the views of someone like Helen Thomas (“Why don’t the Jews of Israel just go back to Poland or Germany?”) became the mainstream, majority view among political science and history grad students and professors. This is the venue that produced Obama. As for me, during those years I got in countless fights (fortunately, not physical, but sometimes close) over this issue.

    That would be bad enough. Then add in Rev. Wrong, his ultra-left wing and Moslem roots growing up, etc. Consider the role of one Khalid Al Mansour, a black American Muslim who had served in an advisory capacity to the Saudi throne, who was a mentor to Obama, who probably arranged for the financing for Obama’s degree at Harvard. Then consider his associations with the likes of Bill Ayers, whose wife, Bernadine Dorn, is even now involved in the “flotilla” movement against Israel. Plus the fact that virtually every one of his foreign policy advisors are practically card-carrying members of the “dump Israel” crowd.

    Shalom, along with others, I tried to warn the Jewish community. I will say until my dying day that the single greatest act of mass stupidity I have ever witnessed was the fact of 78% Jewish American support for Obama in ’08.

    Don’t kid yourself, please. Do not delude yourself. I know whereof I speak as well as I know anything else in this world. THERE IS NO CONVINCING THE LIKES OF OBAMA, NOR HIS FELLOW TRAVELERS, OF ANYTHING.

    I wish to G-d I could have an audience with Bibi himself to impart this information, though I trust and hope that he is shrewd and worldly enough himself to have accurately sized up the situation.

    I can tell you what is ‘present and future actions’ are and will be. HE WILL DO HIS DAMNEDEST TO SCREW ISRAEL SIDEWAYS LIKE NO OTHER PRESIDENT IN U.S. HISTORY…HE MAKES EISENHOWER LOOK LIKE SARAH PALIN IN THIS REGARD BY COMPARISON.

    Never mind the “make nice” charade of late. That is just so much transparent bullshit. Note that there have been NO changes in substantive pollicy positions! Separate the platitudes from the policies!

    The de-facto U.S. arms embargo initiated by Obama against Israel is still in effect. The Bush letter on settlement blocs deemed “OK” for Israeli development remains abrogated. The demands are still there for an indefinate and total freeze on all construction east of the Green Line, to include Jerusalem. No pressure is being applied to the PA on any issue of concern to Israel, such as formal recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. None of this has changed, and it will not change.

    The reason for the kissy-face photo ops is that 1) The mid-term elections are around the corner and Obama needs to score some propaganda points with Jewish voters (I hope they aren’t dumb enough to be fooled by this), and 2), at a deeper, long-term level, Caroline Glick has reported recently that Jewish financial support of the Democratic Party is now in free fall (I hope this really is true), and perhaps he is trying to do some damage control here at the behest of panicking party activists at the grassroots level (again, I hope past donors are not dumb enough to fall for this crap).

    Netanyahu, for his part, is playing along because he really has no choice, and besides, he is garnering ‘propaganda chits’ of his own by this so that the contrast will seem all that much more stark and disingenuous on Obama’s part when he turns on Israel again full force after the mid-term elections.

    And you can bet your very last shekel, my friend, that Obama’s fury against Israel will be renewed unabated as soon as the mid-terms are over.

    How to combat this? There are no really good options. Israel is in for two and a half very grim years no matter how you cut it. My best advice is:

    1) Stress the recognition issue full bore, from the rooftops, as loud as possible. Obama & Co. cannot convincingly rebut this, and it can be leveraged to turn public opinion in Israel’s favor, hopefully throwing the ball of ‘who is responsible for the deadlock’ back in the Palis court.

    2) Use covert intelligence assets to find and expose (through venues not directly linked to Israel) Saudi links to Obama & Co.

    3) Engage in offensive PR operations. Hasbara has got to seize the initiative. Up to now, almost all Israeli PR efforts have been defensive/reactive, explaining Israel to the world. We need to move over to the offensive – as PMW does – to expose and highlight the outrageous nature of Israel’s adversaries. Right after the recognition issue, this must be stresed to establish a clear contrast in people’s minds between Israel and her adversaries on a moral political/cultural plane. Every flogging for adultery, every death sentence for “witchcraft”, etc. this sort of thing must be highlighted. The bad guys have spent decades demonizing Israel…TIME TO RETURN THE FAVOR…AND WE DON’T NEED TO MAKE STUFF UP.

    There is nothing to be done about Obama in terms of dialogue. All we can do is try to undercut the credibility of the policy rationale behind what he is doing in the public domain. He and his people must be isolated and revealed for the morally bankrupt Saudi pawn he is.