Roger L. Simon

Twitter Campaign: LAT — Release the Khalidi Tape Now

Once again — and not surprisingly — the Middle East has taken center stage in an American presidential campaign. Antediluvian riots have broken out across the Islamic world allegedly in response to an extraordinarily amateurish and virtually unwatchable video about Mohammed.

It turned out — again not surprisingly — that there was more to it than that and that planned terror attacks had occurred resulting in the murders of American personnel.

To the permanent discredit of our government, our State Department, and our secretary of State, they at first attempted to hide behind the video, blaming the inconsequential work for the near-global insanity and continually apologizing for it. They paid no more than the slightest lip service to what should be the very keystone of a democratic society — freedom of speech. (They also left unexplained the woeful lack of security for our diplomats in such volatile regions.)

What accounted for this desecration of our Bill of Rights by our own government? Mere cowardice or was there more? Does some ideological predisposition exist at the top of our executive branch that makes it easier to accede to the reactionary wishes of religio-fascist cultures where separation of church and state is anathema and the oppression of women endemic?

For some years, I and others have sought the answer to this riddle through the release of a tape held in the vault of the Los Angeles Times. This tape, known as the Khalidi Tape, records a going-away party held in Chicago in 2003. Here’s what I wrote back in April 2010:

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.

That tape, as Leon DeWinter reminded us, was given at some point by an unknown person to Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times. Wallsten then reported on some of its contents in a brief LAT article of April 10, 2008 titled “Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Obama.”

Perhaps because it was so attenuated, that article engendered a cry for the release of the full tape. What really happened at the party? What was said? How did Obama react? People wanted to know more details of the Middle East views of the presidential candidate. But the LAT was effectively mum and sequestered the tape in its safe.

Given what has been occurring recently (the nuclear threat of Iran, Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu, that violent rioting throughout the Middle East, etc.), the public’s right to know on this matter should only have increased.

This is why, over this past weekend, I launched a Twitter campaign as follows:

Please join me in this endeavor. A fair number of people already have.

I realize that others have offered money for a copy of the tape. While I respect their intentions if not their methods, I believe making the Khalidi Tape available to the public before the election is the civic responsibility of the Los Angeles Times itself. They and similar publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post frequently print as “facts” information leaked by various anonymous sources in the government and elsewhere. In this case, there is an actual videotape to rely on. It is not hearsay. To deny the public access at the very least to a transcription, let alone the actual tape, is unconscionable (and the recent defense of their inaction published by the paper comically tendentious, self-serving, and remarkably unsophisticated).

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage assembled from multiple images.)