Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Barack
They consider him receptive despite his clear support of Israel.
By Peter Wallsten, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 10, 2008
CHICAGO -- It was a celebration of Palestinian culture -- a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics.
Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of
Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York.
A special tribute came from Khalidi's friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack
Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi's wife, Mona, and
conversations that had challenged his thinking.
His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been "consistent reminders to me of my own blind
spots and my own biases. . . . It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we
continue that conversation -- a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner
table," but around "this entire world."
Today, five years later, Obama is a U.S. senator from Illinois who expresses a firmly pro-Israel view of
Middle East politics, pleasing many of the Jewish leaders and advocates for Israel whom he is courting in
his presidential campaign. The dinner conversations he had envisioned with his Palestinian American
friend have ended. He and Khalidi have seen each other only fleetingly in recent years.
And yet the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words
like those at the professor's going-away party, have left some
Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more
receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say.