Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, is no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to Jews and Israel.
Khalidi, an American citizen, has been described as the spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization in Beirut at a time when the PLO was emblazing headlines with its acts of terrorism and wanton killing of American citizens. For his part, Khalidi denies he had an official position with the organization, claiming he was merely living in Beirut during the 1976-1982 civil war and was sought out by the media as an informed observer. Any official role, he insisted, was erroneously misattributed to him by the media. But Khalidi did not attempt to correct the record.
Whatever his role, Khalidi is no shrinking violet when it comes to supporting the anti-Israel cause. He has been criticized for downplaying terrorism and asserting that anti-Semitism in the Arab world would disappear when the Arab/Israeli conflict does—as if there never was anti-Semitism in the Arab world prior to the existence of a Jewish state.
His scholarship has been controversial. An heir to Edward Said’s paradigm that denounced “Orientalism”—defined as studying the Arab world through the prism of Western imperialism—Khalidi is viewed as an important scholar.
Said’s critics, however, claim that his view of history is nothing more than a flawed, politically-correct version of the West that draws attention to its defects while creating a false Arab world whose peacefulness is a product of a vivid fiction. From this perspective, Said’s disciple, Khalidi, is simply another typical leftist academic obsessing about the evils of the West and being disproportionately rewarded for what is commonplace in academia.