Washington Babylon — November 2, 2008, 4:06 pm

Former International Republican Institute President: McCain Supported Grants to Khalidi’s Group

One of the lowest moments of this entire campaign has been the McCain campaign’s repulsive smear job of Rashid Khalidi. The best remark about the whole episode came from Khalidi himself, who when asked for comment by the Washington Post, replied, “I will stick to my policy of letting this idiot wind blow over.”

As I’m sure most readers know by now, Khalidi is the Palestinian American scholar and director of Columbia University’s Middle East Institute who Senator McCain recently compared to a “neo-Nazi.” McCain’s camp has also claimed that Khalidi was a spokesman for former PLO leader Yasir Arafat, though there is no evidence this is true. As my colleague Scott Horton noted:

The McCain–Khalidi connections are more substantial than the phony Obama–Khalidi connections…The Republican party’s congressionally funded international-networking organization, the International Republican Institute–long and ably chaired by John McCain and headed by McCain’s close friend, the capable Lorne Craner–has taken an interest in West Bank matters. IRI funded an ambitious project, called the Palestine Center, that Khalidi helped to support. Khalidi served on the Center’s board of directors. The goal of that project, shared by Khalidi and McCain, was the promotion of civic consciousness and engagement and the development of democratic values in the West Bank.

Consider here, too, the recollections of R. Bruce McColm, who was the president of the International Republican Institute (IRI) — appointed to his post with strong support from John McCain — when it first granted money to Khalidi’s group. In an email today, McColm told me:

Rashid Khalidi was well known for his criticism of Yasir Arafat. He never was a spokesman for the PLO and was a professor at the Institute for Palestine Studies and a professor at American University in Beirut. He was the founder of the Center for Palestine Research and Studies. I was President of IRI during 1993 through 1995. The Clinton Administration wanted the various NED-related institutes to begin working on the West Bank. All our proposals had to be approved at board meetings with John McCain in attendance and in agreement. John did think highly of these grants. IRI didn’t really want to work on the West Bank in any activities of political development. Two pro-Israel board members—Dr. Jeane Kirkpatrick and then-Senator Connie Mack of Florida—were skeptical of such an enterprise. IRI decided to fund the Center for Palestine Research and Studies because of its academic bent and the fact that it would conduct attitude surveys—polls on socioeconomic attitudes on the West Bank. Press accounts have the first grant being given in 1993—I remember slightly later than that. Whether Khalidi actually did the research I do not know but we were aware of his reputation and his “moderate” stance to the issues. McCain moved the approval of the first grant with the acceptance of Dr. Kirkpatrick and Senator Mack. Over time, the Center conducted over 30 polls for the IRI. My understanding was that grants extended far beyond my tenure to l998. It was always my understanding that Khalidi was directly involved in the research. We were impressed by the initial polls and analysis. So obviously IRI continued to believe in their work after I left. Ironically, it was Khalidi’s academic background and his known coolness to the PLO that attracted our interest. How strange to see the McCain campaign use Khalidi as a “type of terrorist” with whom Obama hangs around.

Update: Martin Kramer writes to say there is evidence that Khalidi was a spokesman for the PLO. Readers can judge for themselves. What’s clear from McColm’s remarks is that in the 1990s the International Republican Institute, not the most radical outfit, was entirely untroubled by Khalidi and had high regard for his work. That Khalidi is being smeared by the McCain camp is beyond dispute.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Weed Whackers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Neoliberal Arts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.”
Artwork by Julie Cockburn

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today