Rashid Khalidi's Appointment at Columbia University
MSNBC: Scarborough Country
Translations of this item:
SCARBOROUGH: And tonight, we're spotlighting Columbia University, where the Middle East Studies Department has been criticized for hiring outspoken opponents of American and Israeli policy. Now, some Israeli supporters are concerned that Columbia has just appointed Rashid Khalidi, a fervent opponent of Israel, to the anonymously endowed Edward Said Chair.
With me now, Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi, and Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum. Professor, let me begin with you and just ask you to defend yourself against these charges that you are anti-American or that you are anti-Israeli.
And the kind of people who would call critics of this or that policy unpatriotic or un-American, I think, are doing the United States and the people of the United States a terrible disservice.
SCARBOROUGH: Fair enough, Professor.
KHALIDI: So I don't think I really need to defend myself at all.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, well, let me bring up a quote or two and have you respond to these quotes and whether you think they are being misinterpreted. This is what you said in a speech in June: "Israel has killed three times as many innocent civilians as have Palestinians, for all the media hysteria about suicide bombers. Killing civilians is a war crime, whoever does it, although resistance to Israeli occupation is legitimate in international law." [DP addition: this quote derives in part from Adam Daifallah, "Said Chair At Columbia Also Backed By Saudis: Hauser Helped Fund Professor of Hate," The New York Sun, July 23, 2003]
Now, Professor, it sounds like you are saying there very much that suicide bombings, like the tragic one last week that killed quite a few young children, are legitimate in international law. Do you agree or disagree with that?
KHALIDI: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
SCARBOROUGH: You do not believe that?
KHALIDI: Absolutely. That is not what I said and that's not even what the New York Post, which is notorious for making mistakes on things like this, said. What I said and what I believe is that killing civilians, in any manner, form, or shape, is a war crime, is a violation of international law. The massacre of innocent children by suicide bombers is, in my view, a war crime. And that is what I said in the speech that was taken out of context in that New York Post article.
SCARBOROUGH: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
KHALIDI: What I went on to say is that, in international law, in a situation where you have military occupation, resistance against that occupation is, under international law, considered legitimate. That is a far cry from suicide bombs or attacks on civilians, which are, as far as I'm concerned and as far as international law is concerned, war crimes.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Daniel Pipes, the professor sounds very reasonable. But there's been a big stir that he and other Columbia professors actually believe that suicide bombings are legitimate political expressions. Has the professor gotten a bad rap or do you really believe that he is anti-Israeli?
DANIEL PIPES, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: Well, the question isn't whether he's pro-Israeli or anti, Joe. The question is, what is he justifying? And he did justify violence against those in occupation.
So my question for Mr. Khalidi is, are Israelis living within the Green Line occupiers or are they legitimate citizens of a state whose existence you accept?
KHALIDI: I don't really think I have to answer questions from the like of Daniel Pipes. But what I would say is that any Israeli living within Israel, the legitimate borders of the state of Israel, yet to be defined, because there has not yet been a treaty defining them—but everybody accepts that Israel is a state, has legitimacy within certain frontiers yet to be defined, presumably the Green Line—those people obviously should be immune from attack. There is no question that civilians inside Israel, civilians anywhere in the world should not be attacked.
And I don't quite understand why the likes of Mr. Pipes is being put on television to question me. I would ask Mr. Pipes, how does he feel about the killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli occupation forces? What does he feel about the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation that has gone on for several decades?
SCARBOROUGH: Mr. Pipes, Mr. Pipes, obviously, you are an outspoken critic of Hamas and the Palestinians. Answer that question.
PIPES: Well, I regret every time any Palestinian is killed who is innocent. That goes without question. But I have a second question for Mr. Khalidi. And I know he doesn't want to take it, but I will ask it anyway. How about the children and innocents who are living outside of the Green Line? Is it OK to murder them or is …
KHALIDI: I would argue that the killing of civilians anywhere, under any circumstances, is a war crime.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second right there. I think that answers the question.
And, professor, you said the New York Post misquoted you. I want to read you another quote and see if this is also a misquote, because I think you have answered your charges thus far very eloquently. There was, of course, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who you supposedly called "a fanatic, extreme right-wing Zionist." You said that Israel is a "racist" state with an "apartheid system" and that America has been "brainwashed" by Israel. Now, did you say those things, yes or no? And if you did say them, do you believe that American politicians have been brainwashed by Israel?
KHALIDI: I have to tell you, Joe, I don't recognize any one of those quotes.
KHALIDI: I do think—let me answer your question. I do think that we are in the unfortunate situation of having an administration in which, instead of people who have real expertise about the Middle East being called upon, people in the Central Intelligence Agency, people in the Defense Intelligence Agency, people in the State Department, we have a bunch of ideologues, a bunch of people who follow one narrow political philosophy and who, generally speaking, couldn't find their way from the airport to the Hilton without a minder in most Middle East capitals, in the office of the secretary of defense, in the vice president's office, leading us around by the nose.
Now, some of these people are extreme American nationalists. Some of these people are virulent supporters of Israel. And some of these people are supporters of other philosophies.
KHALIDI: I think that they are leading us down the garden path. And I think that their policy on the Palestine-Israel question and their policy on Iraq is mistaken. And we can see the fruits of it before our eyes.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, I am glad you said that, Professor, because I've got to tell you, one of the things that frustrates me so much is, I hear people saying how right-wing, how fanatical, high Zionist this administration is. But if that's the case, then forget just this administration. Why have Bill Clinton and George Bush so aggressively tried to create a Palestinian state, have set up—I mean, George Bush was attacked by his own right-wing when he tried to set up his road map for peace. And it seems like, every time we start taking those first steps toward Palestinian statehood, Hamas detonates another bomb and blows the peace process up. What's happening there?
KHALIDI: I think what's happening there is, MSNBC and ABC and all the rest of you are not doing a very good job of covering what goes on. Hamas and the Israeli army are engaged in a very deadly dance. The fact that Hamas is attacking Israelis—which, in my view, is reprehensible—I am a much more severe critic of Hamas than Mr. Pipes is—is not the whole issue. It is part of the issue. They are working to derail efforts that would take them away from the center of politics, but so is the Israeli army.
You guys never quoted the Israeli minister of defense, when he said: We have to show the Palestinians. We have to make them understand that they are a defeated people. You never quote Israeli journalists who talk about how the policy of assassination is provoking these hideous suicide bombings. I think that you all are not doing a very good job of covering the Middle East, frankly. You repeat the same little bits again and again, the same little bits of conventional wisdom. You have the likes of Mr. Pipes on. But you don't really show exactly who, not just Hamas, but also, for example, the Israeli army or the settlers, are working against this road map and working against a settlement.
SCARBOROUGH: We are running out of time.
PIPES: Quickly, can I add something?
SCARBOROUGH: I've got to have a quick response from you, Mr. Pipes. Then we've got to go.
PIPES: Mr. Khalidi denied calling Paul Wolfowitz "a fanatical, extreme, right-wing Zionist."
PIPES: Let me give the reference for it, Mr. Khalidi. It was an article called "Bush Winds Back U.S. Policy," Australian Financial Review, February 8, 2001. Your viewers can go see it. Mr. Khalidi is, as usual, not quite fully telling the truth.
[Time was lacking to give the reference for the quotes about Israel being a "racist" state with an "apartheid system" and that America has been "brainwashed" by Israel. These come from Jordan Elgrably, "Crisis of Our Times: Nationalism, Identity and the Future of Israel/Palestine, an Interview with Rashid Khalidi" Oct. 2000. May 7, 2008 update: The full interview is no longer available on the internet; an abridgment can be found at www.sonic.net/~doretk/Issues/01-03-SPR/thecrisis.html]
SCARBOROUGH: All right, gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us. I appreciate both of you being on.
And I have got to say, we tell it like it is. We bring you the truth. We don't tell you just one side of the story. All I know is this. I had a lot of conservatives attack me when I said George Bush should use the victory in Iraq to force a road map to peace in Israel. He did that. He took a lot of heat for it. And Hamas started blowing up little children when it looked like that road map might actually succeed.
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