The Arab World Reacts to Rahm Emanuel's Appointment

It was announced this morning that President-Elect Barack Obama had selected Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff. Emanuel, who served as a top adviser to President Bill Clinton and is now a member of the House, is known in the U.S. for his aggressive determination.

His service to the Israel Defense Forces and pro-Israel slant is a point of controversy for many. Some Middle Eastern and North African bloggers, perhaps already wary of Obama, expressed their views on Rahm Emanuel's appointment.

Palestinian Pundit sums up general sentiment with one brief headline:

For all those hoping that perhaps Obama was secretly pro-Palestinian, very bad news…

Democratic congressman Rahm Emanuel has reportedly been approached by US presidential hopeful Barack Obama to be his chief-of-staff.

Body on the Line, a blog written by an American citizen living in Palestine, details Emanuel's history and expresses her opposition to his appointment:

emanuel served under the clinton administration (does this sound like change?). but not only is emanuel a former white house adviser, and a terrorist who served in the itf. he also is the son of a terrorist–by british standards as he served in irgun with menachem begin (recall begin was wanted as a terrorist by the british for bombing the british headquarters of the king david hotel–wanted poster above). or just check out their own crest showing a map in the background that includes all of palestine and jordan.

Elijah Zarwan, also an American but based in Egypt, had this to say about Emanuel's new position:

I have no doubt Emanuel is an intelligent and competent man, however many passports he holds. I assume he has the respect of at least the Clinton people Obama will choose to staff the White House. And Emanuel’s father’s mistakes may not reflect his own beliefs.

Regardless, the appointment of the son of an Irgun militant to such an important office will confirm many Arabs’ worst suspicions about the United States before the ink has dried on the headlines announcing Obama’s historic victory.

Raed Jarrar, writing for In the Middle, hopes that those who support Obama will take time to ask the tough questions:

I know that the confetti has not settled down yet, but I think it's time already to ask the Obama-Biden campaign some questions about their foreign policy plans, especially regarding the U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and regarding ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Egyptian Zeinobia shares her predictions for the rest of Obama's cabinet, and says this about Emanuel:

Rahm Emanuel, the Israeli origin and the son of a Zionist Israeli terrorist group is widely going to be the chief of Staff at the White House, a blow to all those who put hopes on Obama but that man was always since the rally It is not the first time for Emanuel to work in the White House because he used to be there in the Clinton's cabinet.
Strangely no one brought his father connection with the Irgun ,the infamous group that did the terrible Massacre of Deir Yassin Negatively in the rally!!

Finally, Lebanese Chess takes a deeper look at other issues going on between the U.S. and Israel, in particular Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's recent warning to Obama regarding dialogue with Iran. Of Livni's comments, the blogger said:

With still over two months until Obama is sworn in, Israel has moved quick to influence Obama's policy vis-a-vis Israel's interests in the region. It marks the beginning of the Israeli-AIPAC battle to ensure Obama toes their line.

The Israelis have set the stage for a key struggle between AIPAC and an Obama administration over Iran. If Obama continues to surround himself by staunch pro-Israelis in his administration, AIPAC and Israel won't have much difficulty twisting the president-elect to conform to Israel's goal of regional domination.


  • I am surprised at yr choice of posts to highlight, especially the second. If raum is a terrorist then I am too under that blogger’s opinion. It is this narrow mindedness that scares me (on both sides of the conflict)

  • K.C. Wilson

    Overall the media seemed to act responsibly. While around mid-point in the Democratic primary there appeared to be some favoratism for Obama over Clinton, some of that can be attributed to the Clinton campaign going negative under Mark Penn’s direction.
    Once the election became between Obama and McCain the media seemed to forget its role as a teller of “truths” and slide willingly into the yellow journalism genre.
    The bias tended more in favor of McCain than Obama, with every rumor and association of Obama becoming a major story, while things like McCain’s infidelity, Keating Five and the pro-McCain leaks at the time that favored McCain, his switch to support torture, his renounciation of citizenship support for immigrants, all flew under the radar. While McCain embraced two evangalists far more volatile than the Rev. Wright, little was made of that.
    Again, overall, the media did a fair job of providing election entertainment for the populace, but a poor job of reporting in a thorough, documented, not sensationalistic manner.
    I give them a C-.

  • Gilad – I’m kind of surprised that you would say that…you live in the U.S. too, so you know that almost NOTHING of Emanuel’s background is being discussed here, aside for perhaps his foibles with Freddy Mac or his bizarre joking death threats during Clinton-era meetings.

    So, regardless of my own personal opinion (which falls somewhere between blogger #2 and yours I’m sure), I am trying to highlight the variety of opinions out there on Emanuel – should I censor hers, despite the fact that she’s the only blogger talking about certain aspects of Emanuel’s past and family?

    I don’t think that’s quite fair. For the record, however, I will say that I too would agree that the Irgun was a terrorist group based on their actions, number of civilians killed and the fact that the UK classifies them as such to this day; that doesn’t say anything about Rahm, however, just his father. And if we were to judge, say, Obama by his father, then he’d be a deadbeat dad, right? In other words, I’ll wait and see what Rahm Emanuel does before I charge him for his father’s crimes.


  • Jillian – I disagree with you that nothing of Emauel’s background is being discussed on US news. I see many articles pro and against. What I strongly oppose are baseless sayings like #2. While I can understand how the Irgun is called a terrorist organization, I will not accept Emanuel crowned as a terrorist for volunteering in Israel during the gulf war in 1991 when scud missiles fell on Tel-Aviv. Context is what’s lacking, and by framing it the way that blogger did, especially with you highlighting, a larger audience of readers is deceived.

    I am talking about resposibility on VWV/GVO to sift through and decide which voice to highlight. It is not censoring, but diminishing extreme voices, which in my opinion, should not be highlighted. It is something I deal with every time I come to write an article. I do my best not to make these voices visible because I think they are either too extreme or misleading b/c they lack context.

    As for my opinion on Raum… I might just have to write a post. Yours certainly drives me to want to write what I see.

  • Gilad,

    I don’t believe Rahm Emanuel himself to be a terrorist, but I do take issue with the fact that he served in another country’s military when his services would have benefited his own country. Terrorist? No. Poor judgement? Certainly.

    I think all voices – extreme or otherwise – should be highlighted. I trust the Voices without Votes reader to be discerning.

    Please do write on the subject – and if it’s in your blog, send it over and I will ensure it gets highlighted here as well.


  • I strongly oppose both of your arguments. I see great integrity in a person who volunteers to help out when his parent’s country is being attacked. This is something I truly respect of him. Most American Jews just donate money and stay in their cushy safe homes. I admire him for being a man of action. Had he gone to volunteer during Israel’s attack on Lebanon I’d certainly take issue.
    But tell me, why would he volunteer for America’s army when it is most probably going against his beliefs?
    re: highlighting extreme voices, we’ll talk face-2-face. That is a much more complex argument, that we should, perhaps, have as a community.

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  • Manus

    America has to be at least seen to an honest broker and a fair mediator to resolve the Arabo-Israeli conflict.
    Unfortunately, the inclusion of what is at least perceived by the majority of the Arab and European public opinion of a fervent Zionist that has inherited from his immediate family a martial legacy, is not going to help the US image at all.

    A core belief in the Arab world exists that most American administrations are disproportionately over represented by a minority that has extreme leverage within the corridors of the American establishment, is only reinforced so far by the selections Mr. Obama has made so far. The problem America has always tried to deal with the under-representation of certain groups in public life, however the debate has never shifted to deal with over-representation and in some sectors a total monopoly by certain groups. This type of decisions will slowly erode Mr Obama’s authority in the world as in the Middle East people are already talking about the Neo-libs and to be honest there are no differences in substance between them ideologically ( I mean the Neo-cons) . Their will be a readjustment and a change of the rhetoric, but the ideology driving both camps will be perceived as identical.

    Imagine Rahm was the son of an ex arab terrorist who fought for argument sake on the Sinai war as a soldier on the Egyptian side?!!

    I am really worried that the US will let another opportunity go by and not capitalise on this atmosphere of hope and good will that both friends and foes so far has shown and to have it replaced with cynicism and disappointment. Obama’s election has shown that he American democracy works, appointing Rahm Emmanuel will only change that perception and show that American democracy is no more than an Oligarchy that elects puppets to hide behind them and the rest is business as usual.

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