ZOA: Obama Should Urge LA Times To Release Tape Of Address To Khalidi’s Pro-Palestinian Audience
October 31, 2008


The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has written to Senator Barack Obama, urging the Democratic presidential candidate to call upon the Los Angeles Times to release the video or provide a transcript of his remarks at a 2003 Chicago farewell to former PLO spokesman and radical anti-Israel activist, Rashid Khalidi. The video, whose precise contents are therefore still concealed from the public, contains Senator Obama’s own remarks at the event and also those of several other speakers, many of whom made vicious and incendiary anti-Israeli statements.


At the event, the Los Angeles Times reported that “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 … One speaker likened ‘Zionist settlers on the West Bank’ to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been ‘blinded by ideology.'” Senator Obama’s tribute to Khalidi on the night included the following: “[Khalidi and his wife Mona have 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'” (Peter Wallsten, ‘Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Barack Obama,’ Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2008).


Rashid Khalidi served as head of WAFA, the PLO press agency and as PLO spokesman in the early 1980s. Since moving to America and entering the academic world, he has been a virulent critic of Israel, justified Palestinian terrorism as contributing to “political enlightenment” and called Israel “racist.” In the early 1990s, at a Villanova University conference, Khalidi urged the U.S. to treat Israel as “pariah, in the same way it treats Syria.” Khalidi also made statements opposing the Iraq war, in which he claimed that it came about due to machinations of extremist pro-Israel Jewish figures in the Bush Administration. Senator Obama, who has known Khalidi well for nearly two decades, took up this very theme in his own 2002 anti-Iraq war speech, in which he said, “What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz [both Jews] and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne” (‘Against Going to War in Iraq. Remarks by Illinois State Senator Barack Obama,’ October 2, 2002).


In his letter to the Obama campaign headquarters, ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “Throughout this presidential campaign, Senator Obama has made general statements about his support for Israel and the importance of maintaining a strong American-Israeli alliance. Given this, we are puzzled that Senator Obama refuses to urge the Los Angeles Times to release the video tape or provide a transcript of his remarks from the 2003 farewell event for Rashid Khalidi which the Los Angeles Times reported in April.


“Not only is it right in principle that information of this sort about a presidential candidate be in the public domain, but it would be beneficial to Senator Obama’s efforts to reassure Jewish voters of his support for Israel that his remarks on that night were consistent with such support.


“The refusal of the Los Angeles Times to release the video or a transcript of the proceedings that night only compounds doubts about Senator Obama’s professions of support for Israel that have inevitably arisen as a result of his long association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and other figures with documented, virulently hostile attitudes towards Israel, including most of his past and present Middle East advisers; his remarks that Hamas and Hizballah having “legitimate claims”; his attendance of racist Louis Farrakhan’s million-man march; the pictures of his wife Michelle Obama with Farrakhan’s wife, Mother Khadijah Farrakhan; and his appearance with Farrakhan on the cover of an issue of the Wright church magazine.


“Conversely, if Senator Obama’s comments that night are reflective of his friendship and support for Israel, then it would be advantageous to his presidential campaign that these be produced without delay. We urge Senator Obama to call upon the Los Angeles Times to make the video tape or a transcript of the proceedings publicly available.”



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