Do you remember the controversy surrounding Obama and Rashid Khalidi? The Los Angeles Times still refuses to release the video of Obama speaking at a 2003 going-away party honoring Khalidi, at which virulent anti-Semitism was expressed by other speakers. Well, it should come as no surprise that today, in the aftermath of John Kerry's speech earlier this week attacking Israeli settlements on the West Bank, Khalidi is being given space on The New York Times op-ed page to vent his spleen at Israel. Described by the Times as "a professor of Arab studies at Columbia who was an adviser to the Palestinian delegation during peace negotiations from 1991 to 1993" (no mention, of course, by the Times of the relationship between Obama and Khalidi or the video stashed away in a Los Angeles Times safe), Khalidi bashes Israel in his Times guest op-ed entitled "John Kerry and Israel: Too Little and Too Late":
"During Mr. Obama’s eight years in office, the illegal Israeli settler population has swelled by 100,000, to well over 600,000. Simultaneously, for eight years Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has directed a barrage of calculated slights, insults and acts of disrespect at the president of the United States. The Obama administration has finally reacted with Mr. Kerry’s speech and by allowing Resolution 2334, which condemns Israeli settlement expansion, to pass in the United Nations Security Council. By doing so, the United States simply acted in accordance with international law and the global consensus of nearly 50 years.
Meanwhile, a third generation of Palestinian children is growing up under a brutal occupation and Gaza has been under siege for a decade. Palestinians are obliged to seek the permission of the Israeli military for the most basic of needs, such as medical treatment, or to travel abroad or even just to Jerusalem."
Fascinating. Khalidi would have us believe that there are no hospitals in the West Bank or Gaza. In fact, there are some 60 hospitals and medical centers in the West Bank and Gaza, and although I am not claiming that Palestinian medical facilities are on a par with Israeli facilities, it is worth noting that average life expectancy in the West Bank is 75.91, compared with 75.69 in Hungary, 75.41 in China, 75.05 in Saudi Arabia, 74.57 in Turkey, 74.35 in Jordan, 73.70 in Egypt, and 71.15 in Iran.
Khalidi describes Israel's "occupation" of the West Bank as "brutal"? Consider what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now in his twelfth year of his four-year term in office, declared to Jackson Diehl in 2009 (my emphasis in red):
"'I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements,' he said. 'Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.'"
This statement was made after Abbas refused Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's 2008 peace offer, providing the Palestinians with an independent state along the 1967 lines together with agreed upon land swaps and Palestinian control of east Jerusalem.
As for Khalidi's claim that "During Mr. Obama’s eight years in office, the illegal Israeli settler population has swelled by 100,000, to well over 600,000." An answer to this rubbish is to be found in an editorial in today's Washington Post entitled "On Israel, we’re right back where Obama started," which informs us (my emphasis in red):
"THE OBAMA administration is ending eight years of failed Middle East diplomacy exactly where it began in 2009 — with an exaggerated and misguided focus on Israeli settlement construction. As he railed at the continuing growth of West Bank Jewish housing on Wednesday with a prolixity that Fidel Castro would have admired, Secretary of State John F. Kerry sounded a lot like President Obama during the early months of his first term, when he insisted that the Israeli government freeze all construction as a starting point for negotiations on a Palestinian state.
. . . .
Mr. Kerry’s speech was, above all, a vivid demonstration of the administration’s inability to learn from its mistakes or adjust the ideological tenets that Mr. Obama brought to office.
. . . .
In fact, the two-state solution remains entirely viable, as even the settlement statistics cited by Mr. Kerry demonstrate. The administration asserts that the Jewish population in the West Bank has increased by 100,000 since 2009 — but by Mr. Kerry’s account, 80 percent of that growth was in areas Israel would likely annex in any settlement. In eight years, 20,000 people have been added to communities in territory likely to become part of Palestine — an area where 2.75 million Arabs now live. That growth of about 3 percent per annum, the product of a restraint for which Mr. Netanyahu received no White House credit, means that the Jewish population outside Israel’s West Bank fence may have decreased as a percentage of the overall population even as Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have made it the focal point of U.S. policy."
Perhaps the WaPo editorial should have also observed what was acknowledged by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat: Israeli settlements have been built on only some 1.1% of the West Bank (see: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/erekat-olmert-offered-palestinians-territorial-equivalent-of-west-bank-1.393484).
Bottom line: Khalidi's Israel bashing op-ed amounts to just one more effort by The New York Times to discredit Israel during the waning days of the Obama administration. Despicable.
[I sent this blog item to Andrew Rosenthal, former editorial page editor of The New York Times:
I thought you might be interested.
I'm not sure why. But thanks.Why am I not surprised?]