Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rashid Khalidi

The latest nonsense about Barack Obama pallin' around with Rashid Khalidi, a renowned scholar, is hardly worth mentioning at this point in the final days of the McCain-Palin mudfest. Yet, it is disturbing insofar as it aims to prove it simply doesn't pay to go to top-notch universities, serve on their faculties, live in big cities, or get to know a diverse group of people.

Scott Horton has written extensively about this in "The New McCarthyism" in Harper's Magazine. Focusing on the role that the National Review has played (and lamenting the loss of the magazine that, in former times, "was home base for a certain rigorous, philosophically based conservatism that valued the classics"), Horton writes:
In the current issue of National Review, Andrew McCarthy continues his campaign to link the Democratic nominee to various and sundry Hyde Park radicals. This time it is “PLO advisor turned University of Chicago professor Rashid Khalidi,” who now heads the Middle Eastern Studies Department at Columbia University. Khalidi, we learn, makes a habit of justifying and supporting the work of terrorists and is “a former mouthpiece for master terrorist Yasser Arafat.” And then we learn that this same Khalidi knows Obama and that his children even babysat for Obama’s kids!

This doesn’t sound much like the Rashid Khalidi I know. I’ve followed his career for many years, read his articles and books, listened to his presentations, and engaged him in discussions of politics, the arts, and history. In fact, as McCarthy’s piece ran, I was midway through an advance copy of Khalidi’s new book Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East. (I’ll be reviewing it next month–stay tuned.) Rashid Khalidi is an American academic of extraordinary ability and sharp insights. He is also deeply committed to stemming violence in the Middle East, promoting a culture that embraces human rights as a fundamental notion, and building democratic societies. In a sense, Khalidi’s formula for solving the Middle East crisis has not been radically different from George W. Bush’s: both believe in American values and approaches. However, whereas Bush believes these values can be introduced in the wake of bombs and at the barrel of a gun, Khalidi disagrees. He sees education and civic activism as the path to success, and he argues that pervasive military interventionism has historically undermined the Middle East and will continue to do so. Khalidi has also been one of the most articulate critics of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority—calling them repeatedly on their anti-democratic tendencies and their betrayals of their own principles. Khalidi is also a Palestinian American. There is no doubt in my mind that it is solely that last fact that informs McCarthy’s ignorant and malicious rants.
Read the rest here.

What I also liked was this bit at the end:
I have a suggestion for Andy McCarthy and his Hyde Park project. If he really digs down deep enough, he will come up with a Hyde Park figure who stood in constant close contact with Barack Obama and who, unlike Ayers and Khalidi, really did influence Obama’s thinking about law, government, and policy. He is to my way of thinking a genuine radical. His name is Richard Posner, and he appears to be the most frequently and positively cited judge and legal academic in… National Review.
Referring to Judge Richard A. Posner, Circuit Judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, renowned scholar, economist, and legal philosopher, founder of the Law and Economics movement in legal studies during his days as law professor at the U. of Chicago, and still an active member of the Hyde Park (U. of Chicago) intellectual community.

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