Roger L. Simon

Palin, the Flotilla, and the L.A. Times Khalidi/Obama Tape

Over fourteen months ago, I wrote the following on Pajamas Media:

Given the extraordinary sudden turnabout in US policy toward Israel under the Obama Administration, I have become obsessed by the repressed 2003 videotape of Rashid Khalidi and Barack Obama. That tape — or so we are told — is ensconced in a safe at the Los Angeles Times building. In the current situation, its release by the paper is more important and newsworthy than ever.

The Khalidi tape could be of tremendous significance in revealing the provenance of Obama’s views on the Middle East and the degree to which the public was misled on those views during the presidential campaign….

Rashid Khalidi — a Palestinian-American historian known for his strong pro-Palestinian opinions — is currently the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia and director of that university’s Middle East Institute. After Khalidi received this Columbia appointment in 2003, a farewell dinner party was held in his honor in Chicago. A videotape was made of that party where many good things were said about the Palestinian cause and many bad things about Israel. Then Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama was in attendance, as were, some say, William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.


Since then my obsession with this hidden tape has, if anything, grown, inspired by Obama’s continuing ambivalence, veering toward contempt, for the state of Israel. Others have recently chimed in on the subject, like Jim Hoft noticing a certain irony in LAT’s behavior spurred by recent events (“L.A. Times Won’t Release Obama-Khalidi Tape But Posts 24,000 Sarah Palin Emails“). And then Stanley Kurtz amplified Hoft with “Release the Redacted Transcript!” Making note that the Times claims to have promised not to release the video itself, Kurtz wrote: “I doubt the L.A. Times will ever release the actual video tape, but I do think there’s a scenario in which a transcript might be produced.”

Perhaps because I live in L.A. and know the LAT well, have written for it on occasion, I am far less optimistic than Stanley that such a revelation would occur. Though better written than the lefty blog, the L.A. Times is barely three degrees to the right of the Daily Kos and many times more stodgy. The Times admits mistakes less often than Markos Moulitsas. And I suspect their editorial board would rather see the return of the McNamara Brothers, who dynamited the Times building in 1910, than do anything that might possibly harm the reelection of Barack Obama.


This is true even though the L.A. Times seems to have had little problem with Wikileaks or in disseminating their leaked information. It’s not just the Palin emails. Blabbing is fine as long as it’s on the proper side.

Meanwhile, Peter Wallsten, the man who received the clandestine tape from a mysterious donor and wrote the original attenuated LAT article on the Khalidi party (“Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Obama“), has moved on from the Los Angeles Times to the Wall Street Journal and, now, the Washington Post and he isn’t talking. (At least to me. I called him some time back, but the moment I broached the subject he essentially hung up.) These days he’s cheerleading for Obama at the WaPo with “daring” articles like “White House seeks to connect with young voters” with smiling photos of you-know-who.

No, in all probability, the only way we will ever see the tape or read even a redacted version of the transcript is courtesy of one of the better second story men on the West Coast or a retired KGB agent. (The Mossad need not apply. They will be blamed anyway.)

This is a shame because events are conspiring to make the production of this tape increasingly important, if only to clear the air. Among the soi-disant activists backing the second flotilla currently revving up to bring supposedly needed supplies to allegedly impoverished Gaza is one Rashid Khalidi. He has been raising money in support of one of the vessels with a familiar name:


This year’s American vessel, named The Audacity of Hope after US President Barack Obama’s best-selling book, is being organized by an American group called “US Boat to Gaza.”

Obama links to the Audacity do not end there, however. Prof. Rashid Khalidi, director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and a friend from Obama’s time in Chicago, is among the supporters of an appeal launched by the group last week.

“We must raise at least $370,000 in the next month,” a statement on US Boat to Gaza’s Web site read indicating it doesn’t have the money needed to sail yet.

So far, thanks to Shurat HaDin and others, this flotilla has not launched.

While the release of the Khalidi tape by the Los Angeles Times might not insure the flotilla’s demise, it might go a long way toward that. More importantly, that release could clarify a lot of things about Obama’s attitude toward Israel and ultimately his Middle East policy. The longer the LAT hides it, the more suspicious it seems.

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