So it’s Sunday evening, I’m with the family, settling into a booth at our favorite diner.
The wife’s ordered the onion rings – she loves the onion rings! – and I’m trying to get "Journey" off the jukebox (who listens to "Journey" anymore, anyway?) and I look up and isn’t that Martin Kramer at the counter? No wait, isn’t that him going to the restroom, toting the "Wit and Wisdom of Jeane Kirkpatick"? What about that guy outside, pulling up in the Prius with the "Osama bin Laden hates my car" bumper sticker?
Okay, it’s not that dramatic, it was Sunday morning, I was checking my email before going off to hike in the Shenandoah (blessedly immune to Blackberry reception), and Martin, my Facebook Friend, had notified me that I should "give it up" because "you lose."
Not my typical Facebook message, but "friendly" I guess in the sense that WWF types go out for a beer after trash talking each other in the ring. But I was off to the Shenandoah, and then, returning, I was recovering from the Shenandoah, plus we’re having website transition issues.
A couple of things:
1) It’s still not clear to me what the significance is of Khalidi’s PLO past and how it refracts on his friendship with Barack Obama when Israel and the United States are dealing with the current leader of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, who was making decisions at a time Khalidi was something between a hack and a flack. McCain, notably, believes Abbas is now seeking a "peaceful settlement with the government of Israel." (Martin, I should note, appears to be irked more by Khalidi’s apparent attempt to bury his past than its current significance, which is fair enough.)
2) Martin talks about "due diligence," but the point is, proving a negative was always – and must always be – the burden of the accuser. It’s why "Have you stopped beating your wife" has become a cliche as the question not to ask. It’s why I blasted the Democrats for asking Sarah Palin to prove she didn’t campaign for Pat Buchanan.
My original point was that in 1991 Khalidi earned the equivalent of a "Never beat his wife" certificate. Until Martin started digging – doing due diligence - there was a single Tom Friedman citation. (And I like Martin’s rosy idea of media giants racing to acknowledge error, but I worked for one, and it just ain’t so. One of the liberating things about JTA is the freedom to actually admit when you’re wrong.)
3) Why has Mona Khalidi’s acknowledged past with Wafa, the PLO news agency, never been as important as her husband’s? She is as much a friend to Obama.
4) This is less directed at the accusers and more at the reporters stationed in Lebanon in the late 1970s and early 1980s – I’m just curious, now that Khalidi’s employment has been resolved: What was Wafa’s role in the PLO apparatus? Khalidi is referred to as a spokesman for the PLO by virtue of his employment by the agency. Wafa was a mouthpiece, to be sure, but my experience is that news agencies in non-democracies generally parrot party lines, whereas spokesmen help shape it because of their proximity to the leadership. Interestingly, Khalidi’s quoted statements aren’t exactly spokesman-like (but then the PLO never really had its act entirely together): Spokesmen don’t often proffer strategies to the enemy for "splitting us" nor do they suggest that their side kills for "no reason."
5) The longer we live, the more we’re likely to forget and regret. I’ve had a hasbara flacking past and in that capacity I’ve written stuff that had what was, let’s say, a flirtatious relationship with the truth. It’s not flacking for the PLO, though.
But here’s the thing: My point in my Palin-Buchanan post was that more significant than attending a Buchanan (or pro-Buchanan) fundraiser was that Sarah Palin chose thereafter not to contribute to his campaign, and chose not to maintain the relationship. We can’t read her mind, but I would say that it’s not insignificant that she is now an admirer of Israel and an advocate of isolating Iran.
Similarly, I don’t know what drove Khalidi to distance himself from the PLO and even to deny any past association. I think it’s regrettable that he does. But I would say that his subsequent advocacy of a two-state solution and his calling attacks on civilians "war crimes," his denunciations of anti-Semitism – all of these are not insignificant in understanding why he has denied his distant past associations with the PLO.
None of this renders his current arguments infallible or immune from deconstruction* – but it raises the question of what, exactly, is the sin of a friendship with the man.
*Khalidi, for instance, repeatedly invokes the "civilians are killed on both sides" argument. This is what I call the "Law and Order" fallacy (or maybe the "Doesn’t this guy watch ‘Law and Order’? fallacy): If a highly rated TV show can easily communicate to tens of millions of viewers the idea, through its plot twists, that intentional murder is much more serious than, say, manslaughter, why should the same public not be able to distinguish between deliberately blowing to smithereens a bus packed with children and an attempt to assassinate a bomber gone awry? Is such moral clarity truly the fault of media coverage? In his book, "The Iron Cage," Khalidi also chides Israelis for perceiving the seminal Palestinian nationalist, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, strictly through the lens of his eventual alliance with the Nazis. Khalidi has a sure grip on narratives and how they function: How could such an Israeli (and Jewish) perception be humanly otherwise? Finally, at least in 2003, Khalidi also bought into the specious "Invade Iraq to protect Israel" thinking.
Like I said, we’re in web-transition and so some of the links to earlier posts may not work or be available – I will update as this works itself out.