The Racism of McCain… and Obama… and the Media

The underlying assumption in the argument that association with Rashid Khalidi or his views on the Israel-Palestinian conflict is worthy of criticism is itself, by its own standard, inherently racist.

Earlier this week, John McCain once again attacked his presidential campaign opponent Barack Obama on the basis of his association with another individual. In this case the individual was Rashid Khalidi. Mr. Khalidi’s sin? He’s a Palestinian who has been critical of Israel. Obama’s sin? Speaking at a dinner five years ago held in honor of Mr. Khalidi.

Other speakers at the dinner were critical of Israel, accusing the state of committing terrorism against the Palestinian people, leading McCain to compare the dinner gathering to “a Neo-Nazi outfit”, and thus implying that criticism of Israel’s crimes is equivalent with racism.

The Los Angeles Times reported last April on the Obama’s presence at the dinner, noting 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.” Another speaker noted that “Zionist settlers on the West Bank” shared one thing with Osama bin Laden; they were both “blinded by ideology.”

Obama, who has vigorously portrayed himself as a staunch supporter of Israel, said at the dinner that his talks with Mr. Khalidi and his wife Mona had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases” and expressed hope 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.”

Mr. Khalidi is a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University in New York.

The McCain campaign last Tuesday criticized the L.A. Times for withholding a videotape of the dinner. A campaign spokesman said, “A major news organization is intentionally suppressing information that could provide a clearer link between Barack Obama and Rashid Khalidi.”

The L.A. Times explained that it “did not publish the videotape because it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it.”

McCain himself lashed out at the L.A. Times for choosing to not release the videotape, accusing the paper of bias and comparing the dinner to a “neo-Nazi outfit”.

“I’m not in the business of talking about media bias,” McCain said, “but what if there was a tape with John McCain with a neo-Nazi outfit being held by some media outlet? I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different.”

McCain’s choice for vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, also criticized Obama’s attendance at the dinner. “Among other things, Israel was described there as the perpetrator of terrorism rather than the victim,” she said. “What we don’t know is how Barack Obama responded to these slurs on a country that he professes to support.”

She also accused the L.A. Times of bias. “It must be nice for a candidate to have major news organizations looking after his best interests like that,” she said. “We have a newspaper willing to throw aside even the public’s right to know in order to protect a candidate that its own editorial board has endorsed.”

The Obama campaign responded by emphasizing that Obama “has been clear and consistent on his support for Israel, and has been clear that Rashid Khalidi is not an adviser to him or his campaign and that he does not share Khalidi’s views.” They also observed that McCain is the chairman of the International Republican Institute, which gave $448,000 to the Center for Palestine Research and Studies. Khalidi was a founder of that organization.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt returned the criticism, saying, “Instead of giving lectures on media bias, John McCain should answer why, under his own chairmanship, the International Republican Institute repeatedly funded an organization Khalidi founded.” The McCain campaign responded by noting that “it is obvious that Khalidi and Obama are close friends, whereas McCain and Khalidi have never even met.”

What’s remarkable about the whole affair is the deeply embedded racism it reveals in both candidates’ campaigns and in the media.

Take the McCain campaign position that any association with Mr. Khalidi is somehow sinful, and criticism of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people abhorrent. This is a deeply anti-Semitic position–for Arabs are Semitic peoples, too–in that the underlying assumption is that Palestinian terrorism against Israelis is rightly condemned, but even the suggestion of Israeli terrorism against Palestinians regarded as a “slur” against Israel.

Or take the Obama campaign’s response, and how quickly they were to disavow Khalidi, essentially confirming that the McCain camp would be right to consider it worthy of criticism were Obama to share his views and even criticizing McCain in turn for chairing a group that gave money to Khalidi’s organization. The Obama camp’s response, in other words, served only to reinforce the underlying assumption of the McCain campaign.

Khalidi himself has observed the trend for criticism of Israel to be equated with anti-Semitism. In an article he wrote in The Nation magazine last May, he said, “It is considered by some to be a slur on Israel and Zionism, and indeed tantamount to anti-Semitism, to suggest that these events sixty years ago [leading to the creation of the state of Israel] should be the subject of anything but unmitigated joy.”

To Palestinians, these events are called al-Nakba–the expulsion. “Palestinians presumably do not have the right to recall, much less mourn, their national disaster if this would rain on the parade of celebrating Zionists everywhere,” Khalidi wrote. “The fact that the 1948 war that created Israel also created the largest refugee problem in the Middle East (until the US occupation of Iraq turned 4 million people into refugees) must therefore be swept under the rug. Also disregarded is the obvious fact that it would have been impossible to create a Jewish state in a land nearly two-thirds of whose population was Arab without some form of ethnic cleansing.”

This truth, of course, was well recognized by the early Zionist leaders.

Explaining the origin of the state Sarah Palin describes as the “victim” rather than the “perpetrator”, former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, explains how Israel was born in 1948 with “the often violent expulsion of 700,000 Arabs as Jewish soldiers conquered villages and towns throughout Palestine.” Ben-Ami notes that “the Zionists committed more massacres than the Arabs, deliberately killed far more civilians and prisoners of war, and committed more acts of rape.” This policy of terrorizing the Arab population of Palestine for the purpose of ethnic-cleansing “helped demarcate the boundaries of the new state”.

Ben-Ami quotes then Israeli leader David Ben-Gurion as saying, “The Arabs of the Land of Israel have only one function left to them — to run away.” Ben-Ami adds, “And they did; panic-stricken, they fled in the face of massacres in Ein Zeitun and Eilabun, just as they had done in the wake of an earlier massacre in Deir Yassin. Operational orders, such as the instruction from Moshe Carmel, the Israeli commander of the northern front, ‘to attack in order to conquer, to kill among the men, to destroy and burn the villages,’ were carved into the collective memory of the Palestinians, spawning hatred and resentment for generations.”

The ethnic-cleansing of Palestine by the Jews “was in no small measure driven by a desire for land among Israeli settlers”, Ben-Ami observes, noting in addition that “The hunger for land persists to this day”.

Indeed. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the Jewish settlements in those territories are illegal, a violation of international law, and contrary to international treaties to which Israel is a party, including the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Charter.

The “hunger for land” that “persists to this day” is also still accompanied by the policy of terrorizing the Palestinian people.

According to the organization Remember These Children, 1,050 Palestinian children have been killed since September 2000 compared with 123 Israeli children.

Catherine Cook of the Middle East Research and Information Project has noted, “The majority of these children were killed and injured while going about normal daily activities, such as going to school, playing, shopping, or simply being in their homes. Sixty-four percent of children killed during the first six months of 2003 died as a result of Israeli air and ground attacks, or from indiscriminate fire from Israeli soldiers.”

That trend continues. This year, 4 Israeli children were killed at by a Palestinian gunman in a single incident in Jerusalem. In this same period of time, 72 Palestinian children have been killed, most by attacks from the Israeli Defense Force within the Palestinian territories.

According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, since September 2000 4,871 Palestinians have been killed compared with 1,061 Israelis. According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, 32,744 Palestinians and 8,341 Israelis have been injured over the same time period.

U.S. financial support for Israel is upwards of $3 billion annually. In addition, the U.S. provides military and diplomatic support for Israel, including the use of its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to protect Israel against resolutions seeking to condemn it for its crimes against the Palestinian people and its other neighbors.

During the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, for instance, the U.S. vetoed a measure calling for a cease-fire, insisting that Israel be given more time to finish its destruction of southern Lebanon and further terrorize its people. Commenting on the Israeli actions, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted, “The tactic of pressuring civilians has been tried before, and more than once. The Lebanese, for example, are very familiar with the Israeli tactic of destroying power stations and infrastructure. Entire villages in south Lebanon have been terrorized, with the inhabitants fleeing in their thousands for Beirut.”

The World Health Organization observed that Israeli’s air strikes against Lebanon had “caused widespread destruction of the country’s public infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and road networks preventing the humanitarian community from accessing vulnerable populations and civilians fleeing war-affected areas.” Israeli military operations “caused enormous damage to residential areas and key civilian infrastructure such as power plants, seaports, and fuel depots. Hundreds of bridges and virtually all road networks have been systematically destroyed leaving entire communities in the South inaccessible.

While the Israeli siege of Gaza and illegal occupation and settlement of the West Bank continue, and while the Palestinian people continue to be terrorized under Israeli policies, the two leading candidates for the presidency bicker over who is more worthy of condemnation for their association with Rashid Khalidi.

The media, for its part, has failed to challenge even one iota of the fundamental racism inherent in the assumption that its a sin to associate with a Palestinian who is critical of Israel, and the deep anti-Semitism–against Arabs–inherent in the axiom that it is a “slur” to consider Israel anything other than the “victim” in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

John McCain, in attempting to portray Obama as somehow racist against Jews by comparing the dinner honoring Mr. Khalidi to a “Neo-Nazi outfit”, revealed his own deep racism and contempt for the Palestinian people.

But let the final word be for Barack Obama. If he were a man worthy of the presidency, far from issuing denials and disavowals, his campaign would rather embrace Mr. Khalidi and his views. Obama, unlike his opponent, is willing at least to acknowledge his “own blind spots” and his “own biases.” That’s a start. But it doesn’t go nearly far enough for a man seeking to lead the nation whose support for Israel is the single most important mechanism in denying the Palestinian people their equal rights and preventing a viable, sustainable peace in the Middle East from becoming obtainable.

Jeremy R. Hammond is the editor of Foreign Policy Journal, a website providing news, analysis, and opinion from outside the standard framework provided by government officials and the corporate media. He was among the recipients of the 2010 Project Censored Awards for outstanding investigative journalism and is the author of The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination. You can contact him at: Read other articles by Jeremy, or visit Jeremy's website.

19 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ms. DeJesus said on November 3rd, 2008 at 10:16am #

    This is a very insightful article and interesting as well. I too am surprised that these 2 candidates would go back and forth on who did the most to support the Palestinians and Mr. Khalidi, etc.

    Reading about incidinces such as these stirs up so much anger inside me. It just shows that the Palestinian genocide (and others such as the plight in the Congo) will continue to be unacknowledged by the media and the U.S. as long as U.S. or Israeli interests are at stake.

  2. Deadbeat said on November 3rd, 2008 at 2:27pm #

    This article illustrates once again the extent of the power that Zionism has on the U.S. political economy. Any criticism of Israel or exposure of Zionism’s influence won’t get you elected. In fact such a politician will even face criticism from the Left. Until the Left challenges and confronts Zionism, U.S. politicians won’t either thereby the Left has contributed to the heightening of the acceptance of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism in the U.S.

  3. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 3rd, 2008 at 3:39pm #

    or, it cld mean that both mccain and obama know that also amero-arabs vote.
    even a few thousands votes this or that way can elect a prez. it just may be personal and not much, if at all, ab us stance towards israel.
    remember, governance w. its longstanding policies remain unchanged for decades/centuries, but govts come and go. thnx

  4. Bob said on November 3rd, 2008 at 3:41pm #

    The amount of antisemitism masquerading as anti-Israel/ pro Palestinian sentiments is amazing!

    Do you believe we are all stupid?

    Mr. Khalidi, was a spokesman for the PLO, and continues to be an apologist for terrorism against the Jewish people, and any one else who stands with Israel and against the Arab Muslims.

    There is not a dimes worth of difference between the people at that the Khalidi event and the Nazi intelligentsia of the 30’s and 40’s. They would in my opinion “hold the coats” of those willing to perpetrate another Holocaust!

    Barack Obama is a closeted Anti-Semite, and his association with prominent Anti-Semites should be brought into the open.

    If you are a leftist or an anti-Semite, by all means you should vote for Barack Obama, if not realize a vote for Obama is a vote for Antisemitism, and in favor of tyrants!

  5. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 3rd, 2008 at 3:58pm #

    how can one be antisemitic by being anti-ashkenazim, when only few ashkenazim may be semitic.
    in fact, even the 10% of palestinian pop w. judaic faith in 1945 may have not been jewish but descendants of arabs and other semites.
    euroasins w. judaic faith r not semitic let alone jewish.
    so if one is antisemitic one is against all arabs, assyrians, lebanese, and jews.
    so i am very strongly ashkenazic and verrry proud of that. ok, let me reword that: i’m against enorm crimes that ashkenazic people have perped w. help from evil christian empires. thnx

  6. DavidG. said on November 3rd, 2008 at 3:58pm #

    Bob, what are you smoking? Be assured it’s not doing you any good, especially your thinking processes.

    Israel and America are both imperialist rogue nations. Quite frankly, our world would be a far better place if neither of them existed!

  7. Poilu said on November 3rd, 2008 at 6:24pm #

    The amount of antisemitism masquerading as anti-Israel/ pro Palestinian sentiments is amazing! …

    Bob: The only “masquerade” I see is this long-jaded farce of fancifully labeling opposition to the brutality that is Zionism as “anti-semitism”. What a crock!

    And the rest of your scribble above follows suite quite neatly. Obama “anti-semitic”? How completely laughable! It’s obviously YOU who must actually think WE’RE all stupid.

  8. Hue Longer said on November 3rd, 2008 at 6:46pm #

    The exclamations in Bob’s rant are the best part.

    “…They would in my opinion “hold the coats” of those willing to perpetrate another Holocaust”!

    “If you are a leftist or an anti-Semite, by all means you should vote for Barack Obama, if not realize a vote for Obama is a vote for Antisemitism, and in favor of tyrants”!

    Beware of Left wing Nazis and the PLO spy running for President! Awesome funny stuff

  9. Jeremy R. Hammond said on November 3rd, 2008 at 7:28pm #


    Mr. Khalidi was not a “spokesman” for the PLO. Nor is he an “apologist for terrorism”.

  10. Josie Michel-Brüning said on November 4th, 2008 at 6:55am #

    Just one remark because of the term anti-semitism: The Israelis, as well as the Palestinians, have a common ancestor, according to the Talmud, Bible, Quran (Alcoran), who was Abraham, while his ancestor was Sem. Abraham had 2 sons: Ismael and Isaac …
    Therefore, both folks are Semites. That seems to be why anti-semitism is against both of them. (“bozhidar” above said something similar.)
    At both sides there are fanatics and and peaceloving personalities.
    Shouldn’t we wish the next U.S. President would be neutral and prefer negotiating with those peaceloving persons at both sides?

  11. Jeremy R. Hammond said on November 4th, 2008 at 8:43am #

    Josie, yes. I made that point in the article, actually:

    “This is a deeply anti-Semitic position–for Arabs are Semitic peoples, too–in that the underlying assumption is…”

  12. Martha said on November 4th, 2008 at 8:47am #

    A new outlet agrees to keep a source’s name private it does not agree to hide documentation backing their story. The problem is the Los Angeles Times’ problem and it’s a damn shame Hammond’s more interested in carrying water for Barack Obama.
    What the paper has done is appalling.
    Barack Obama and John McCain’s back and forth isn’t the issue. The issue is the paper.
    And Hammond, I’m guessing you’re White. Do me a favor and stop screaming “racism” everytime it helps your candidate, White boy. This African-American is damn tired of it.

  13. Jeremy R. Hammond said on November 4th, 2008 at 9:35am #


    I find it curious that you should conclude that this piece somehow is written in support of Obama since I include him in my criticism of prejudice against Palestinians. I did not vote for Obama. He is not “my candidate”. I don’t understand at all how you arrived at THAT conclusion.

    You’re simply wrong on journalistic ethics with regard to the tape. If the agreement that was made was that the tape itself wouldn’t be made public, then the LA Times would disgrace itself to RELEASE the tape. It’s not as though we were talking about evidence of a crime being committed here, so proper ethics in this regard is not even controversial. It’s perfectly elementary.

    You got one thing right. I’m white. However, I wonder if you wouldn’t yourself regard it racist yourself were I to refer to you as “Black Girl”. Perhaps you’d be fine with that, but I can’t help but sense a double-standard here.

    I call racism as I see it. In this case, it couldn’t be more apparent. Contempt for and prejudice against the Palestinian people is very deeply ingrained. The only ounce of credit I give to Obama is that at least he’s willing to acknowledge his own bias. But as I say in the article, that’s not nearly enough.

    It’s odd indeed after I get finished saying Obama is NOT FIT FOR THE PRESIDENCY that you write this comment suggesting I wrote the piece just to defend “my candidate”.

    Perhaps you should actually READ a piece before commenting on it. Just a suggestion.

  14. Andy Best said on November 4th, 2008 at 10:11am #

    Jeremy has gone to great lengths here to include good information and analysis while avoiding prejudice. He clearly wants to highlight and tackle racism and also frames his “pro-Palestinian” observations in equality. That is equal standing for Palestinians and peaceful solutions.

    Comments like Bob’s have no place here.

  15. Martha said on November 4th, 2008 at 10:59am #

    Sorry White boy, play your Hammond elsewhere, ain’t no Billie Holiday on this end and I won’t be silent while my culture’s ripped off.

    You write:
    *Earlier this week, John McCain once again attacked his presidential campaign opponent Barack Obama on the basis of his association with another individual.
    *McCain himself lashed out at the L.A. Times for choosing to not release the videotape, accusing the paper of bias and comparing the dinner to a “neo-Nazi outfit”.

    “Lashed out,” “again,” etc. You stack the deck to one side. Don’t bore me with your nonsense. The issue is LAT has a responsibility to release a tape it reported on. If it was not able to release it, it shouldn’t have reported on it.

    Sources can be protected. Video tapes? Notes? I don’t believe the courts have seen it that way and how nice of you, Hammond, to ignore the fact that I said your failure was in refusing to take on the press aspect.

    LAT wants to cover a videotape (back in April) and wants people to take their word for it. No.

    They should have released the tape or not reported on it.

    Also true is that LAT — at their own site — has offered 4 different reasons for refusing to release the tape.

    Repeating, read your language. You go out of your way to attack one side.

    I’m not buying your nonsense. The issue was the press.

    And you do stack the deck in favor of Barack.

    The only mistake I made was in reading your bad writng.

  16. Max Shields said on November 4th, 2008 at 11:21am #

    What I like about your posts Martha is that you demand truth and honesty regardless of where it takes us. The double-talk of politics as usual (and their patsies) needs to be called out when and where it occurs.

  17. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 4th, 2008 at 4:05pm #

    no, the euro-asian folk and admixture of khazars, slavs, germans w. judaic faith were not semitic prior to ’45 to any significant degree.
    i do not know if ashkenazim have been marrying non-ashekanazic people.
    it seems that they haven’t. they look dwn on all semites including mizrahic jews. thnx

  18. Jeremy R. Hammond said on November 4th, 2008 at 5:56pm #


    Now I’m ripping off your culture? How so?

    Justa few questions, Martha:

    Martha, would you think it would be racist of me to refer to you as “Black Girl”? I asked you once before. Please answer the question.

    Why do you think the LA Times should break its code of ethics and release a tape it reported on and was given only on the condition that it not be released?

    Why do you seem to think (from what I can tell) that Obama did something bad here? Do you agree with the McCain campaign that to associate with a Palestinian who is critical of Israel is worthy of condemntation?

    In other words, are you also prejudiced against the Palestinian people?

  19. Citizen said on November 5th, 2008 at 10:24pm #


    Calling Jeremy “White boy,” and referring to your culture as being “ripped off” has nothing to do with Jeremy’s article. You say you are “damned tired” of people screaming out racism, and yet it sounds like you are trying to pull the race card yourself by stating you’re getting ripped off by white people. Is that reverse racism?

    Should white people get to benefit from black culture just as black people have benefited from white culture? White nerdy guys created Macs, PC’s, and the internet…does that mean you should get to post comments on it, or would you be ripping off the white nerdy culture?

    The racism Jeremy was referring to had nothing to do with black or white. Racism is the hatred of one person against another and can be based on race, descent, national or ethnic origin. In Jeremy’s case, he believes that Rashid Khalidi’s ethnicity has played into the questions surrounding his relations with Obama. Rashid isn’t black. It isn’t always white and black.

    /Martha’s head comes out of sand after reading this, but will never admit to it.