Prof warns pro-Israel people will 'infest' Trump admin

A Columbia University professor notorious for promoting anti-Israel boycotts was forced to walk back comments warning that Israel supporters will “infest” the United States government after Donald Trump’s inauguration.

“There are a group of people, a lot of them in Israel and some of them in the United States, who live in a world of their own,” Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, declared in an interview with Chicago radio station WBEZ last week. “And unfortunately, these people infest the Trump transition team, these people are going to infest our government as of January 20. And they are hand in glove with a similar group of people in the Israeli government and Israeli political life who think that whatever they think can be imposed on reality.”

Khalidi asserted that the individuals to whom he was referring “think that whatever they want, and whatever cockamamie schemes they can cook up, can be substituted for reality,” elaborating that “they have a vision whereby the occupied territories aren’t occupied; they have a vision whereby there is no such thing as the Palestinians; they have a vision whereby international law doesn’t exist; they have a vision whereby the United States can unilaterally cancel a decision in the United Nations.”

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Khalidi quickly walked back his comments after facing accusations of being anti-Semitic, claiming that he was merely referring to individuals of any religious persuasion who support the Israeli government.

“I recognize that it was infelicitous phrasing,” he told The Forward. “I was of course referring to those figures in and around the new administration and the Netanyahu government, irrespective of their religion, who promote a pro-occupation and pro-settlement political agenda.”

Khalidi is well known for his anti-Israeli activities, such as organizing a group of 40 Columbia professors to petition the university to break from Israel as part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Khalidi also served as a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s, before the PLO was classified as a terrorist organization in 1987.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a University of California faculty member and director of the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit that combats campus anti-Semitism, told Campus Reform that she found Khalidi’s comments appalling, and a clear example of anti-Semitism.

“Khalidi’s comments are classic anti-Semitism cloaked in anti-Israel speech. He is playing on the classic anti-Semitic trope of Jews conspiring to control government, from the anti-Semitic ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’” Rossman-Benjamin said. “Frighteningly, classic anti-Semitism woven into anti-Israel rhetoric is a common occurrence on campus from students and professors.”

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“Obviously Khalidi is free to say whatever he wants on the radio or in the classroom,” she conceded, “but it must be called out for what it is: blatant and reprehensible bigotry.”

Campus Reform reached out to Professor Khalidi for comment or clarification, but was directed back to his statement to The Forward.

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