Middle East Institute (MEI) Senior Fellow Khaled Elgindy is among the most esteemed advocates of the Palestinian cause in American policymaking and academic circles. Yet behind the veneer of mainstream respectability of this prominent figure in the Democratic Party’s increasingly leftist base lies slick yet shocking apologetics for Palestinian radicalism.
During the Democratic Party 2020 presidential election primaries, the anti-Israel 972 Magazine noted Elgindy’s role in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. He was among her “larger, informal network of foreign policy advisers that include several bonafide experts on Israel-Palestine based at prominent think tanks.” He fits the bill with a resume that includes a Georgetown University professorship, a Brookings Institution fellowship, and an advisory position at the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA).
Like the Soviet Union’s spokesman Vladimir Posner in the 1980s, Elgindy commonly appears in media outlets such as PBS as a suave talking head, yet observers should beware his rhetorical slights of hand. Recently in the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, for example, he wrote that the “2018 Taylor Force Act prohibits U.S. assistance to the PA until the PLO stops making payments to the families of Palestinians killed or imprisoned by Israel.” He thereby left uneducated readers ignorant that these “Palestinians killed or imprisoned by Israel” are not innocents, but rather murderous terrorists promoted by the PA’s outrageous “pay to slay” program.
Rather than offering any nuanced analysis of Israel’s century-long conflicts with its Arab neighbors, Elgindy’s simply retails unmoderated Palestinian boilerplate. This became abundantly clear during his June 18, 2019, appearance at Washington, DC’s Arab American Institute (AAI), where he had had his first job. He presented there his first book, Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump.
Elgindy, for instance, promoted the standard Palestinian talking point of a “right of return” for Palestinian “refugees” from Israel’s 1948 independence war. Yet, to his chagrin, officials in President Donald Trump’s administration have recognized that the internationally unique definition of these “refugees” includes their descendants. Therefore, perhaps 700,000 Arabs who lost their homes in what became Israel in 1948 have proliferated across the decades to some 5.6 million “refugees.”
Palestinian activists themselves have admitted that these “refugees” could demographically destroy Israel’s Jewish state with any “return.” Precisely this threat concerns the recent book, The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace by former Knesset member Einat Wilf and journalist Adi Schwartz. The main institution waging this war is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), an organization dominated by Israel’s enemies like Hamas. The United Nations created this distinct entity for Palestinian refugees in 1949, separate from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which cares for all other refugees globally.
Yet Elgindy at AAI decried that the Trump administration has taken long overdue steps to end UNRWA’s absurdities, such as ending American UNRWA aid and seeking permanent homes for its wards outside of Israel. Trump promotes “misinformation about UNRWA” and is “trying re-define the status of Palestinian refugees; to define them out of existence essentially,” he stated. This corresponded to an “alternate set of facts,” a “mythology that has been created by folks like Daniel Pipes,” the Middle East Forum’s president and creator of the Israel Victory Project, for which this author has written.
Elgindy resisted the “standard talking point” that refugee status for Palestinians should not pass down the generations. He noted that refugees from places such as Afghanistan or Kosovo also have possessed what is known as “derivative refugee status.” However this is not a blanket, transgenerational policy as with UNWRA, but rather a case specific matter of family unity.
The Palestinian “refugee” question has particular relevance for Elgindy given his relationship with the radical Rutgers University law professor Noura Erakat. He had earlier on May 21, 2019, engaged in a joint book presentation at MEI with her, where she presented her book Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine. As she later elaborated at a subsequent book talk, she claimed that a massive Palestinian “refugee” influx into Israel, which she has defamed as a “white supremacist project,” would help “Israel become part of the Middle East.”
At MEI Elgindy had gushed that Erakat “is almost reading verbatim from my book,” and he did not revise his praise for her radicalism at AAI. Queried by this author in an audience question, he responded to audience applause that he has “enormous respect for Noura. I think she is a brilliant lawyer.” When later the AAI moderator Omar Baddar asked Elgindy to name an “Arab-American hero,” Elgindy mentioned the “incredibly brave” Palestinian-American Erakat.
This author had also asked about Erakat’s praise at MEI for the atrocious 1975 United Nations General Assembly “Zionism is racism” resolution, ultimately rescinded in 1991. While Elgindy stated that he did not want to speak on Erakat’s behalf, Baddar sought to split the difference and avoid any appearance of bigotry while justifying the resolution nonetheless. He namely invoked the slander that Israel’s 1948 creation resulted from a crime against humanity of deliberate ethnic cleansing of Israel’s Arab population, and not self-defense against a genocidal Arab attempt to destroy Israel.
Baddar thus conceded that “certainly Zionism as a concept does not have to be racist, the idea of Jews deserving a homeland.” “But the implementation of that, in reality,” meant that “one group of people was displaced out of their homes in order to make room for another group of people to take over those homes. If that is not racist, then racism has no meaning.” Without dissent from Elgindy, audience applause followed again.
Apparently the company Elgindy keeps would agree, according to his answer to Baddar’s standard question to AAI guest speakers about how they would donate $10 million. Along with AAI as a recipient, Elgindy mentioned the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), where Baddar and Erakat later tried to fantasize away her cousin’s June 23 attempted vehicular attack at an Israeli checkpoint near Jerusalem. Elgindy also mentioned the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), an organization in the forefront of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. (USCPR’s director, Yousef Munayyer, has infamously refused to denounce Hamas as a terrorist group.) “But I Erakat also,” Elgindy added.
This advocacy for numerous groups and individuals who have unceasingly sought Israel’s elimination through various means invalidates Elgindy’s complaint about an unfulfilled Palestinian state. He dismissed American and Israeli proposals for Israel to receive sovereignty over large areas of the disputed territories in the modern West Bank, Israel’s historic heartland of Judea and Samaria. This is a “pretty radical agenda of one Israeli state including ‘Judea and Samaria’” from the “far, far, far, far right,” he argued, yet logically Israel should never cede such strategic territory to Israel’s unrelenting enemies such as Erakat.
Elgindy’s strident views belie his aura as an eminence grise analyst of the Palestinian cause. Rather than any unique insight into how Arabs might develop lives in peace with a secure Jewish state of Israel, he simply abets longtime staples of Palestinian propaganda. Such unoriginal, false narratives can only condemn Palestinians themselves to more conflict and mislead American policymakers, especially in Elgindy’s Democratic Party.