Khalidi has long cited the late Edward Said as his major academic influence. Following the latter’s death in 2003, Khalidi penned an obituary that valorized Said for “giving a voice to the voiceless” via his “eloquent espousal of the cause of Palestine.” In this context, Khalidi likened Said to another of his idols, Noam Chomsky:
“Like Noam Chomsky and very few others, he [Said] managed not only to reshape his own field of scholarly endeavor, but to transcend it, influencing other fields and disciplines, and going well beyond the narrow boundaries of the American academy to become a true public intellectual, and a passionate voice for humanistic values and justice in an imperfect world.”
As with Said before him, Khalidi’s involvement with the Palestinian cause goes beyond mere support. News reports -- including a 1982 dispatch from Thomas Friedman of the New York Times -- suggest that he once served as Director of the Palestinian press agency, Wikalat al-Anba al-Filastinija. Khalidi’s wife, Mona, was reportedly the agency’s main English-language editor between 1976 and 1982. Khalidi so strongly identified with the aims of the PLO, which was designated as a terrorist group by the State Department during Khalidi’s affiliation with it in the 1980s, that he repeatedly referred to himself as “we” when expounding on the PLO’s agenda. Additional evidence of Khalidi’s intimacy with the PLO can be seen in his involvement with the organization’s so-called “guidance committee” in the early 1990s.
Khalidi’s 1986 book, Under Siege: P.L.O. Decision-Making During the 1982 War, was dedicated to Yasser Arafat. Opening with a glowing tribute to anti-Israel fighters (“to those who gave their lives during the summer of 1982 … in defense of the cause of Palestine and the independence of Lebanon”), the book offered an airbrushed account of PLO-instigated violence against Israelis and Lebanese. By contrast, Syria’s brutal occupation of Lebanon elicited no criticism from the author.
In 1995 Khalidi and his wife founded the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), noted for its view that Israel’s creation in 1948 was a “catastrophe” for Arab people.
In 1998 Khalidi published Palestinian Identity, a book in which he details what he believes are the major trials and indignities endured by Palestinians:
“The quintessential Palestinian experience, which illustrates some of the most basic issues raised by Palestinian identity, takes place at a border, an airport, a checkpoint…. For it is at these borders and barriers that six million Palestinians are singled out for ‘special treatment,’ and [are] forcefully reminded of their identity … [E]very Palestinian is exposed to the possibility of harassment, exclusion, and sometimes worse, simply because of his or her identity.”
Other books penned by Khalidi include: The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (2007); Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and Americ’s Perilous Path in the Middle East (2004); and The Origins of Arab Nationalism (1993).
Characterizing Israel as a “racist” state that is “basically an apartheid system in creation,” Khalidi claims that the Israeli army is in possession of “awful weapons of mass destruction (many supplied by the U.S.) that it has used in cities, villages and refugee camps.”
Khalidi formerly expressed some tepid support for the notion of an Israeli state alongside a Palestinian one. In more recent years, however, he has taken to dismissing such a solution as hopelessly unrealizable. At a February 2005 conference at Columbia, titled “One State or Two? Alternative Proposals for the Middle East,” Khalidi agreed with his Columbia colleague, Joseph Massad, in declaring that the two-state solution was an impractical “utopian vision.” Khalidi further assailed Israel’s very legitimacy, proclaiming it to be “a state that exists today at the expense of the Palestinians,” an existence that “fails to meet the most important requirement: justice.”
The February 2005 conference was not the first time that Khalidi had dismissed the possibility of a two-state solution. In March 2004, when Israeli forces assassinated Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Khalidi told Newsweek: “I really think that the killing of this individual may well be the last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.”
Khalidi deceptively styles himself as a “severe critic of Hamas.” But mere days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, he rebuked the news media for what he termed their exaggerated “hysteria about suicide bombers.”
During a June 2002 speech before a conference of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Khalidi offered a justification for the murder of armed Israelis:
“Killing civilians is a war crime. It’s a violation of international law. They are not soldiers. They’re civilians, they’re unarmed. The ones who are armed, the ones who are soldiers, the ones who are in occupation, that’s different. That’s resistance.”
Scholarly institutions that do not promote anti-Israel propaganda have incurred Khalidi’s wrath. Appearing on Al-Jazeera TV in 2004, Khalidi took aim at the prominent Middle Eastern Studies think-tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). That the non-partisan center is headed by Dennis Ross (a respected diplomat and a former Middle East envoy in the Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush administrations), and that it regularly hosts speakers from the Middle East who are critical of Israel, did not prevent Khalidi from execrating WINEP as “the most important Zionist propaganda tool in the United States.”
Khalidi strongly opposed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. In an illuminating polemic which he penned for the January 2003 issue of the far-left journal In These Times, Khalidi, even as he conceded that “international terrorism has been sponsored by Iraq,” dismissed the notion that such an invasion could have any legitimate justification. Instead, he put forward a farrago of theories that he described as the “real reasons” for the impending war:
“First, it will be fought because of an aggressive, ideological vision of America's place in the world, propagated by the neo-conservatives who dominate the commanding heights of the American bureaucracy. Their vision proposes unfettered world hegemony for the United States, to be consecrated by the demonstration of U.S. power crushing a weak Iraq.
“Second, this war will be fought because of an obsession with control of the strategic resources (read: oil) and geography offered by the Middle East, with the view of neutralizing potential challengers to American hegemony in the 21st century [meaning primarily China].”
Obama is not the only political figure whom Khalidi has supported. In 2003, for instance, the professor contributed $1,000 to Democrat Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s congressional campaign.
Among the donors to Khalidi’s endowed chair at Columbia are: (a) the United Arab Emirates; (b) the Hauser Foundation, a New York charity headed by Rita Hauser, a controversial philanthropist whose onetime law firm -- Stroock, Stroock & Lavan -- was registered with the Department of Justice as an agent for the Palestinian Authority until 2001; and (c) the Olayan Charitable Trust, a New York-based charity with ties to the Olayan America Corporation, an arm of the Saudi organization the Olayan Group.