Eric Alterman and Adam Serwer make good points about the McCarthyism at work when a noted Palestinian scholar is smeared as a “neo-Nazi.” (Adam: “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.”) But there’s something else worth adding. In short, the assimilation of Muslims into American society should be properly seen as a national-security issue.
Perhaps the biggest strategic disadvantage Al Qaeda faces in attacking the U.S. “homeland” (how I hate that word) is that the terrorist movement doesn’t, by and large, have any appeal for American Muslims. Al Qaeda gets a more robust hearing in European countries with Muslim diasporas and where Muslims are treated like second-class citizens. That sense of discrimination and alienation is a breeding ground for murderers like Mohammed Siddique Khan, the Leeds-born mastermind of the July 2005 London Underground attacks. The U.S., by contrast, provides the greatest measure of integration and economic opportunity for Muslims of any Western country.
And that’s where Khalidi comes in. He is a distinguished scholar who is not, and has never been, an extremist. His views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as John Judis points out, are fairly congruent with those of the Israeli left. McCain is analogizing him to a “neo-Nazi” because Khalidi is an Arab, and he knows that millions of right-wingers around the country harbor racist beliefs about Arabs. That’s the real meaning of the “Vote McCain, Not Hussein” chants. And America goes there at its own peril: to alienate American Muslims is not only to betray American values, it’s to deprive America of one of its most important national-security protections. And these people have the nerve to say they’ll keep America safe?