October 29th, 2008
06:50 PM ET
5 years ago

Fact check: Is Columbia professor Khalidi a 'political ally' of Barack Obama?

Get the facts about Gov. Palin's statements Wednesday.
Get the facts about Gov. Palin's statements Wednesday.

The Statement: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, speaking on Oct. 29 in Bowling Green, Ohio, said Barack Obama "spent a lot of time with" Rashid Khalidi. "Rashid Khalidi, he, in addition to being a political ally of Barack Obama, he's a former spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization," she said.

Get the facts!

The Facts: Rashid Khalidi is Arab studies professor at Columbia University in New York.

His university profile says he specializes "in the history of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt; the growth of nation-state; nationalism in the Arab World; problems of modern Middle East historiography" and is an expert on Palestinian issues.

He has authored scholarly works on Palestinian issues, has been an activist for Palestinian causes, and has been a critic of U.S. foreign policy toward Israel.

In a 2004 Washington Times story, he denied ever being a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Sen. Obama, on his Web site, described Khalidi as "a former neighbor and university colleague." But their relationship has sparked questions about Obama's stance on Israel and what Obama calls "ugly insinuations." Obama has said he has been a "clear and consistent" supporter of Israel and doesn't share Khalidi's views.

ABC News on May 22 aired comments Obama made at a Boca Raton, Florida, synagogue, where Obama faced questions from Jewish voters and addressed the issue. He said he knew Khalidi and had conversations with him in Chicago, where both men taught at the University of Chicago. And, he said, their children went to the same school.

"He is not one of my advisers; he's not one of my foreign policy people," Obama said. "He is a respected scholar, although he vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israel's policy."

"To pluck out one person who I know and who I've had a conversation with who has very different views than 900 of my friends and then to suggest that somehow that shows that maybe I'm not sufficiently pro-Israel, I think, is a very problematic stand to take," Obama said. "So we gotta be careful about guilt by association."

An April 10 Los Angeles Times story that explored the Khalidi-Obama relationship said Khalidi and his wife lived near the Obamas in Chicago and "the families became friends and dinner companions."

"In 2000, the Khalidis held a fund-raiser for Obama's unsuccessful congressional bid. The next year, a social service group whose board was headed by Mona Khalidi (Khalidi's wife), received a $40,000 grant from a local charity, the Woods Fund of Chicago, when Obama served on the fund's board of directors. 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," the Times reported.

When asked about these details, the Obama campaign pointed to the May 22 comments aired by ABC News. Khalidi, asked by CNN to respond to Palin's assertions, declined to comment.

In a New York Daily News story published March 6, 2007, Khalidi said he hosted the fund-raiser because he had been friends with Obama in Chicago. "He never came to us and said he would do anything in terms of Palestinians," Khalidi is quoted as saying.

The Los Angeles Times report said, "though Khalidi has seen little of Sen. Obama in recent years, Michelle Obama attended a party several months ago celebrating the marriage of the Khalidis' daughter."

The Verdict: Misleading. While Khalidi eight years ago hosted a political fund-raiser for Obama, the two men strongly disagree over the Israeli-Palestinian issue and there's no evidence of a continuing political relationship.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • Sarah Palin
soundoff (No Responses)

Comments are closed.