Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American academic, is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. He is also a well-known propagandist, a PLO associate under Yasir Arafat, and a frequent guest on NPR programs. CAMERA has, in the past, criticized the academic’s free use of fabricated quotes and other falsehoods to make his points.
Several weeks ago, Khalidi broadcast yet more false information and hate rehtoric on a WBEZ-produced global affairs program – Worldview, hosted by Jerome McDonnell and available as a podcast on NPR’s website. In the past, that radio show was criticized for providing anti-Israel guests with an unfettered platform from which to promote their biased agenda and bigotry. But on this particular segment, entitled “Scholars On Israel And The United Nations” (January 17, 2017), Khalidi’s views were countered by those of Eugene Kontorovich, law professor at Northwestern University and expert on international law and the Israel-Arab conflict.
Still, Khalidi managed to stir up controversy by scurrilously suggesting American political supporters of Israel were an “unsavory” lot, akin to vermin. He said:
…The Israeli right wing and its enablers, the unsavory characters in American politics who have enabled and supported it, are about to move us far, far further down this road than any other administration has ever gone… [Worldview with Jerome McDonnell, Jan. 18, 2017, 5:18]
…There are a group of people, a lot of them in Israel and some of them in the United States, who live in a world of their own…And unfortunately, these people infest the Trump transition team, these people are going to infest our government as of January 20. And they are hand in glove with a similar group of people in the Israeli government and Israeli political life who think that whatever they think can be imposed on reality. [Worldview with Jerome McDonnell, Jan. 18, 2017, 7:09]
Khalidi also defended the tactic of boycott (as used by BDS campaign against Israel) as “a cherished American tradition,”a “time-honored, internationally recognized technique” and a “peaceful means of free speech.” He condemned the efforts to pass anti-BDS legislation as “nauseating in and of itself,” and claimed such legislation is probably illegal.
The professor was given free reign to served up a hefty dose of misinformation about the Arab-Israeli conflict in the first half of the show, without any challenge by the host. And although Mr. Kontorovich did manage to refute several of Khalidi’s distortions when he was given the microphone in the latter half of the show, the host’s questions seemed to indicate that he had accepted many of Khalidi’s assertions as fact.
Khalidi’s arguments, based on false premises and historical revisionism, provides insight into the line of reasoning used often by Palestinian advocates. For example, in response to the host’s question about what “bad thing” happens if the U.S. embassy moves to Jerusalem, Khalidi railed:
This is not even an issue related to 1967 and the occupation of east Jerusalem. It’s an issue going back to the establishment of Israel. Israel was established by an international consensus which said three things: First, that there should be a Jewish state. Second, that there should be an Arab state, and third, that Jerusalem should have a separate status. And so by moving its embassy to Jerusalem, the United States is violating the birth certificate of Israel, which is General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947.
Israel’s legitimacy is entirely based on an international decision that there should be a Jewish state, but that decision also called for an Arab state and that decision also called for a separate status for Jerusalem. So if the United States puts the stakes through the heart of a two-state solution, if it says there is not going to be an Arab state and it says Jerusalem is entirely Israel’s, which I expect is coming, that this administration is going to say, it’s putting the boot into Israel itself, into the legitimacy, the document which is the birth certificate of the State of Israel.
The only thing that gives [the Jewish state] legitimacy is that Partition Resolution (UNGA 181). Now that has been re-endorsed since, but you’re going back to the very beginning. You’re not just going back to ‘67. You’re going back before 1948 to the international consensus on the creation of Israel, one condition of which was that Jerusalem is not for the Jewish State and for Israel to play with as it chooses. [Worldview with Jerome McDonnell, Jan. 18, 2017, 5:43]
These claims are absurd, contradictory and deceitful.
The suggestion that the 1947 partition plan (UN General Assembly Resolution 181) is Israel’s “birth certificate” and the single document that confers legitimacy on its statehood is patently false. The political and legal basis of the modern Jewish state is not the UNGA resolution, but a series of political and legal agreements drawn up in the post-World War I years between 1919 and 1923.
A Mandates System was established in Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and was contained in the Treaty of Versailles and other peace treaties made with the Central Powers. The Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers officially recognized Palestine as a mandated state for the Jewish people at the 1920 San Remo Conference. And the San Remo Resolution of April 25, 1920 served as the basis for the future administration of Palestine which would henceforth be recognized as the Jewish National Home, as envisioned by the Balfour Declaration. The resulting 1922 Palestine Mandate, which incorporated the resolution into its preamble, confirmed Jewish historical and national rights and converted the Balfour Declaration from a statement of British foreign policy to binding international law.
The General Assembly partition resolution, some 25 years later, was a non-binding recommendation to partition Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states and temporarily internationalize Jerusalem for a period of 10 years, after which its status would be determined by a referendum. Its applicability rested upon the resolution’s acceptance by both parties. But the Arabs rejected this resolution in its entirety and nullified it with their belligerent actions following Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 as the British Mandate expired. By rejecting Resolution 181 and forcefully attempting to annihilate the nascent Jewish state, the Arabs aborted the resolution and all of its recommendations.
Professor Kontorovich similarly refuted Khalidi’s claim:
I would contest the very premises of Professor Khalidi’s statements: Israel’s birth certificate is not a General Assembly resolution, for a lot of reasons. The General Assembly resolution he mentions from 1947 didn’t create the State of Israel. It called for a totally different system to come into being, which was never realized. And what created the State of Israel was Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948, followed by its successful War of Independence against multiple invading Arab countries… [Worldview with Jerome McDonnell, Jan. 18, 2017, 21:35]
Kontorovich also voiced his view that it is an “inherently anti-Semitic notion to think that the Jewish state for its existence requires a birth certificate whereas Canada or Niger does not require a birth certificate,” while pointing to the huge difference between the1922 League of Nations Mandate establishing a national homeland for the Jewish people, which was a legally binding international document and the only one that can be construed as the legal “birth certificate”of the modern Jewish state, unlike the non-binding1947 UNGA resolution.
By stating, therefore, that the move of an embassy to Jerusalem would negate the legitimacy of the Jewish state, Khalidi is not only wrong because the resolution is not what confers legitimacy upon Israel, but because of the false implication that this resolution determines the current status of Jerusalem, making any move of an embassy anywhere within Jerusalem a violation. Khalidi’s glib dishonesty is evidenced by this sudden citing of the resolution’s recommendation on Jerusalem, when in the past he argued the opposite on NPR, namely, that “Jerusalem is and has to be seen as the capital of Palestine, of a Palestinian-Arab state.” (All Things Considered, July 16, 2000).
Khalidi’s selective citing and contradictory argumentation attests to his experience as a propagandist who banks upon the gullibility of his audience and the unwillingness of his interviewers to challenge his statements.
It is time that those journalists who call upon Khalidi to provide insight into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict realize that by allowing a notorious propagandist to peddle falsehoods without objection, or to present them as one side’s perspective that can be balanced by another viewpoint, they are deceiving their audience and abandoning journalistic ethical standards.