By Glenn Kessler
Rashid Khalidi, a friend of President Obama's active in Palestinian causes, has signed an appeal for funds to send to Gaza an aid ship that would be named after the president's best-selling book, "The Audacity of Hope."
A group calling itself U.S. Boat to Gaza is seeking $370,000 in the next month to send the ship in an effort to thwart the Israeli blockade on the Palestinian enclave controlled by the militant group Hamas.
A number of other prominent individuals are listed as support the appeal, including Angela Y. Davis and Alice Walker.
"We turn to you to help make the U.S. boat, The Audacity of Hope, a reality. We must raise at least $370,000 in the next month," the appeal says. "These funds will be used to purchase a boat large enough for 40-60 people, secure a crew, and cover the licensing and registering of the boat. In addition, the funds will subsidize some other costs of sending a U.S. delegation. … From the deck of The Audacity of Hope, we will be in a powerful and unique position to challenge U.S. foreign policy and affirm the universal obligation to uphold human rights and international law."
The group claims it has already received individual donations for as much as $10,000.
Khalidi, a Columbia University professor, briefly became the subject of controversy during the 2008 presidential campaign when the McCain camp tried to make an issue of what it asserted were Obama's suspect friendships. The news of Khalidi's involvement in the boat has already led the National Review to call for a Justice Department probe of the academic for providing material support of a terror group.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment. In response to an e-mail asking whether the appeal is embarrassing to the president, Khalidi said that he was not aware the boat would be named after Obama's book when he agreed to add his name to the list of sponsors.
"But if the name is a problem for the administration, it can simply insist publicly that Israel lift the siege: end of problem, end of embarrassment," he wrote, "That of course would require it to respond to the systematic mendacity of those in Congress and elsewhere who support the siege, and indeed whatever else the Israeli government does."
Khalidi added: "I signed because the siege/blockade of Gaza, which is effectively supported by the United States, is a disgrace. I support the idea because it may cause the media to pay attention to the effective imprisonment and collective punishment of 1.5 million people who by the admission of Israeli officials, are being subjected to this ordeal in order to bring down their government. As the Goldstone Report suggested, this may rise to the level of a war crime, in which our country is complicit. That is truly embarrassing."