When it comes to Rashid Khalidi, some things never change.
Years ago, under Yasir Arafat’s violent leadership, Khalidi was a spokesman for the PLO, an organization dedicated to delegitimizing and destroying Israel. More recently, while a professor at Columbia University, he was responsible for propagating a fabricated quote purportedly showing that Israelis seek to psychologically crush the Palestinian people. (The Israeli official Khalidi repeatedly misquoted actually said Palestinians terrorism wouldn’t crush the Israeli spirit. Khalidi’s falsehood was eventually corrected by the New York Times.) And just as he did in the 1970s, when his job was to propagandize against Israel, and in the early 2000s, when he flatly lied about the Israeli official, Khalidi sharply distorts understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict in an Aug. 31, 2011 Chicago Tribune Op-Ed.
The Op-Ed, of course, serves as an attack on Israel. In Khalidi’s telling, it is the exclusive fault of Israel and its supporters that “peace and security for all in the region is still so elusive.” But it is also a political smear targeting Chicago congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. for daring to visit Israel and the West Bank (along with 80 other members of Congress).
The article, which accuses Jackson of double standards, itself resorts to unabashed hypocrisy. After slamming the congressman for calling on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, Khalidi writes:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated insistence that Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state is entirely at odds with the principles of the modern-day United States and a throwback to an era in which the U.S. was considered a white state. Recognition of Israel as the Jewish state formally reduces Israel’s 1.4 million Palestinian citizens to second-class citizenship.
Forget, for a moment, that national self-determination is hardly at odds with American principles. The charge of “double standards” would be better directed at Khalidi himself. Even while he denies the Jewish people’s right to a state, he calls for statehood and self-determination for the Palestinian people. And even though he opposes recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, he supports a Palestinian state whose draft constitution repeatedly describes Palestine as Arab and Islamic.
Khalidi’s hypocrisy turns to trickery when he laments,
Rep. Jackson … urged Palestinian leaders to recognize Israel “as the homeland of the Jewish people.” Absent in his statement was any demand for Israeli recognition of the rights of Palestinians in what they also regard as their homeland.
Of course, the representative did not have to demand Israeli recognition of Palestinian rights, since Israel has repeatedly recognized such rights. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted just a few months ago at a speech before a joint session of Congress,
Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state. …
The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state.
It is the Palestinian leadership that refuses to reciprocate and compromise, stubbornly announcing at every opportunity that it does not accept the principle of two states for two peoples. Khalidi not only obscures this reality, but disingenuously implies the opposite is true.
Nor does Khalidi shy away from more straightforward falsehoods.
* He calls Israeli administration of the West Bank an “illegal” occupation. But Israel legally captured the West Bank in a war of defense, a point acknowledged by Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, past President of the International Court of Justice. And as former US Undersecretary of State for political affairs Eugene Rostow noted, United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which he helped draft, “calls on the parties to make peace and allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until ‘a just and lasting peace in the Middle East’ is achieved'” (The New Republic, “Resolved: are the settlements legal? Israeli West Bank policies,” Oct. 21, 1991).
* He slurs Israel’s security barrier as an “apartheid wall,” though most of the barrier is not a wall but a fence. And, of course, the claim that the barrier has anything to do with “apartheid” is absurd. The barrier, which was built at a time when West Bank Palestinian terrorists infiltrated Israeli cities to brutally murder civilian men, women and children in an incessant suicide bombing campaign, does not separate Arab citizens of Israel from Jewish citizens of Israel. It prevents non-citizens from entering Israel without proper security precautions.
* He says that the barrier “snakes through Palestinian territory, grabbing land meant for a future Palestinian state.” But as all the drafters of Resolution 242 made clear, the land under the fence is not “Palestinian territory”; rather, it is disputed land to which Israel, too, has a claim, and whose status must be determined through negotiations.
* Khalidi draws attention in his Op-Ed to the civil rights movement, saying, “It’s as if Jackson thinks that none of the goals and principles of the civil rights or anti-apartheid movements should apply to Israel,” and mentions civil rights leader Martin Luther King by name to support his argument.
In reality, Martin Luther King made the very point Khalidi is so adamantly opposed to. “Peace for Israel means security,” he wrote, “and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity.” He continued,
I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.
Perhaps, then, the actual reason “peace and security for all in the region is still so elusive” is that Khalidi, and the Palestinian leaders he speaks for, refuse to heed King’s message.