WHAT'S THE POINT?

I can't really tell what exactly is supposed to be frightening about Rashid Khalidi or his relationship with Barack Obama, but it's very clear the McCain campaign is doing a successful job of keeping his name in the news. From what I can tell, Khalidi is a Palestinian academic who has been critical of Israel and has done work trying to promote democracy in the West Bank, and was trustworthy enough for McCain to have given Khalidi's group nearly a half a million dollars in grants while McCain chaired the International Republican Institute.

So I basically have two observations: the bony finger of right wing McCarthyism now extends itself to Israel, so that any and all criticism of Israeli policy is suspect and potentially anti-American. Not only that, but anyone who knows or is friends with a Palestinian, or a critic of Israel, is potentially disloyal to Israel and therefore the United States. In fact, if you are Palestinian, I would suggest that you stay away from other Palestinians so no one thinks that you're doing something suspicious. Don't bunch up in a group or anything. The second is that McCain knows that there is nothing particularly dangerous about this guy, that being a Palestinian critic of Israeli policy is about as dog-bites-man as it gets, and that Khalidi was never in fact, a "spokesman" for the PLO as I erroneously blogged yesterday.

But with the Republican Party releasing web ads and sending out mailers with Obama's face superimposed over maps of the Middle East, I suppose that getting the media to repeat Obama's name alongside Khalidi's every five minutes reflects a perverse kind of message discipline. It was less than two weeks ago that Colin Powell was asking "is there something wrong with being a Muslim in America?"

Clearly, the McCain campaign hopes you think so.

--A. Serwer

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