Much praise for The Washington Times for publishing Ali Abunimah’s timely Op-Ed column in reference to President-elect Barack Obama‘s ambiguity (“Obama’s ambiguity,” Thursday).
It is a shame that Mr. Obama’s pick for White House chief of staff - Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Democrat - did not make any effort to distance himself from the extremely racist comments on Arabs by his father, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel.
“Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” the elder Mr. Emanuel said, according to the Jerusalem Post. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”
These comments are very offensive to anyone of conscious mind and also should be to Mr. Obama and his gatekeeper, Mr. Emanuel.
Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Georgia Democrat and 2008 Green Party presidential candidate, was run out of Congress in 2002 and again in 2006. In 2002, her father, Billy McKinney, made comments about the role Jewish people played in his daughter’s electoral defeats.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Democrat and soon-to-be White House chief of staff, must be held to the same standard, despite the fact that he has been chosen for an appointed office, not an elected one. Mr. Emanuel must at least assert that he doesn’t share the prejudiced beliefs inherent in the comments made by his father about Arabs and Palestinians, if not apologize for those comments. Also, Mr. Emanuel is in an elected position until he resigns from the House of Representatives.
As chief of staff, Mr. Emanuel must clearly state that the policies related to Israeli-Palestinian peace advanced from his office will not share the sentiments expressed by his father or the beliefs of many in the group known as Irgun - militant to some, terrorist to others.
Ali Abunimah isn’t the only one who is worried by the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as President-elect Barack Obama’s chief of staff. I too would like to see Mr. Emanuel - at the very least - distance himself from his father’s casual, unthinking racism, not to mention his father’s terrorist past.
I am one of a small but growing number of Jews who do not support everything Israel does, no matter how brutal, bloody and illegal, as recent U.S. administrations have done. We are aware that what Israel wants, and what is good for Israel, are not the same thing. (Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acknowledged this, though only when he was about to leave office.)
I don’t really expect a change in U.S. policy toward Israel under Mr. Obama - not in his first administration, at any rate. The Israel lobby would destroy him. However, the appointment of Mr. Emanuel is a very ominous sign indeed.