Friday, November 14th, 2008
James Besser in Washington
When Rep. Rahm Emanuel was named chief of staff to President elect Barack Obama, some predicted the volatile, outspoken lawmaker, former Bill Clinton aide and dead fish message sender would get himself in trouble with some kind of outrageous outburst.
Turns out it was his dad, a former Israel who once served in the Irgun, although for decades he has served more mundanely as a Chicago pediatrician. Speaking to an Israeli newspaper, Benjamin Emanuel was asked if his son’s appointment would be good for Israel.
“Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” the elder Emanuel said. “Why wouldn’t he? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to be mopping floors at the White House.”
That elicited complaints from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which labeled Emanuel’s comments an “unacceptable smear.”
Said ADC president Mary Rose Oakar, a former member of the U.S. House: “One can readily imagine the justifiable outcry if someone made a similar remark about African-Americans, Jews, or Hispanics, concerning cleaning the floors of the White House.”
Rahm Emanuel, now representing an administration that is trying to stitch together a big-tent coalition and that hopes to restore America’s reputation around the world, was quick to respond.
In a call to Oakar, Emanuel said “From the fullness of my heart, I personally apologize on behalf of my family and me. These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family.”
The flap received extensive coverage in the Arab press, where it was seen as proof the incoming administration will be as pro-Israel as the current one.
While the ADC was offended, Jewish anti-discrimination groups were silent on the elder Emanuel’s outburst.