The Arab World Reacts to Rahm Emanuel's Appointment

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November 7, 2008 @ 18:56 UTC

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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.

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    1. gilad Says:

      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)

    2. K.C. Wilson Says:

      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-.

    3. Jillian York Says:

      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.


    4. gilad Says:

      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.

    5. Jillian York Says:


      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.


    6. gilad Says:

      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.

    7. ‘What is he, an Arab?’ Rahm Emanuel’s terrorist father continues his racist charm « Israel’s 60th Birthday Says:

      […] The Arab World Reacts to Rahm Emanuel’s Appointment […]

    8. Rahm Round-Up « Israel’s 60th Birthday Says:

      […] The Arab World Reacts to Rahm Emanuel’s Appointment […]

    9. What if you were Obama? What cabinet would you build? « Professor, What If…? Says:

      […] list, most of the news about the cabinet so far is worrying. Sexist Larry Summers??? Anti-Palestine Rahm Emanuel?? Anti-education Arnold Schwarzenegger? […]

    10. Manus Says:

      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.

    11. Michael HALPERN Says:


      Rahm Emanuel is the wrong man, with the wrong connections, for the vital position of US White House Chief of Staff: a serious error that will bring further damage to the incoming administration unless he is replaced now. I can only trust that President-elect Obama will not make other errors of judgement as potentially damaging as this one.

      MICHAEL HALPERN [email protected]

      Stanmore, LONDON HA7 3QR +44 7764604922

    12. Manus Says:


      I think the message is loud and clear now. The Obama administration is already looking like a Minyan. I do not think it was an error of judgement at all. These Democrats “Straussian” Bush-lite disciples do strike the fear in my heart. There is nothing new about this administration at all. The rhetoric of “Change” is starting to look slowly but surely like old politics to me.

    13. Manus Says:

      …….And the Obama administration can make comments on any subject, including his future ‘mutt’, apart from the carnage happening in Gaza. If, the Illuminati clique in Washington at the moment seems to think that the Gazeans deserve to die, the future does not baud well too. Obama’s unconditional support for Israel’s policy of “self defense,” preemptive attacks, and repressive occupations is not one iota different from that of George W. Bush, an internationally recognized war criminal.

    14. JS Says:

      In my concerted opinion the assertion that Emanuel’s father leaves him a legacy of ‘terror’ is bogus to say the least. It would be like saying ‘since Arnold (the governator) had a dad who was a Nazi then Arnold is a Nazi himself. We know this to be false, right?

      By the way, it is the Arabs that have a disproportionate amount of power in the halls of most nations, not necessarily with physical presence, but with the crush of oil as boots pressed against our necks. Despostic leaders of oil and gas rich nations (many in OPEC, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, etc… use this as leverage to attempt to bring the many countries that depend on energy to their knees… economically speaking.

      Hamas is a terrorist organization. They hide in Gaza among the masses and govern in a ruthless manner. They are Iranian/Syrian puppets as are Hezbolah and do not deserve the ear of the world. They are intent on the destruction of Israel, continued to fire missiles into Israel for over 8 years, would not heed warnings to stop, so Israel had every right to defend their citizens and their soil… period.

      Israel incarcerates Hamas and Hezbolah terrorist criminals. Hamas and Hezbolah more frequently murder their Israeli captives. They are murderers and terrorists. Why should anyone heed their word. It is twisted with the ridiculousness of slanted Iranian and Arab-world right-wing rhetoric. Let’s face it… the Arab world has yet to emerge from a culture of death and an unwarranted feeling of entitlement.

      There are 1.2 billion muslims in the world and there are 12 million Jews in the world. Who actually exerts the most influence? As anti-Israel as the world has become they still cannot stand the Muslim mentality that there is no G-d but Allah… that he is the one true
      G-d… and that all who are not of the faith are infidels. Who is intractable? Who is the problem? If the majority of the muslim world would get their heads into the 21st century, and ditch their ridiculous belief that they are the true believers, we just might make some headway in getting along.

    15. Manus Says:

      Here we go again with “The politics of Anti-Semitism” and bogus historical revisionism Neo-Zionists resort to every time they commit war crimes. This is again the rhetoric of the Neo-Zionist and again another display of the art of Demagoguery. As an Atheist and a Humanist my political convictions are totally perceived through a different lens. However, I am extremely familiar with the Neo-Zionist mantra to realise their Biblical Utopia that classical Judaism has always used to justify Israeli policies that are as racist, as totalitarian and as xenophobic, as the worst excesses of Anti-Semitism. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in Jewish attitudes to the non-Jewish peoples of Israel and the Middle East.

      These so called “refugee camps” are indeed nothing of the sort, as there is no “refuge” in Gaza and do not tally with the UN definition of “refugee camps”.

      What we have here is the Internment, the imprisonment and confinement of large groups of people, without trial. This is confinement within the limits of a country or place. We call this in English “CONCENTRATION CAMPS”. This is sadly Semitism on a level with Anti-Semitism.
      As far as the United State of Israel is concerned,the answer is simple:
      “As far as the financial subsidising of Israel’s military and expansionist undertakings and an unwavering diplomatic and military cover, the US position is sadly irremediable. Unfortunately, the Americans tax payer money will only stop flowing to Israel when the Americans gain their independence from the pro-Israel lobbies and think tanks that have made kibbutzniks of most members of the executive and legislative branches of the government and literally own all mediums of media.”

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