Thursday, November 6th, 2008
Ali Abunimah, editor of Electronic Intifada, is quite upset that Obama is pallin’ around with Rahm Israel Emanuel, the son of a so-called “terrorist” with Menachem Begin’s Irgun, back in the 1940s. Emanuel, of course, was Obama’s first appointment, as chief of staff.
From “Hussein” being the middle name we wondered about, Rahm’s middle name — Israel — now has every Haman in the Arab world wondering how the son of an Irgun guy is Obama’s new Mordechai.
Abunimah, you should know, was one of the “terrorists” that Obama used to pal around with in Chicago, while Obama was still in the Illinois legislature and in the pews of Jeremiah Wright. Abunimah, along with Bill Ayers, was at that party for Rashid Khalidi that the Los Angeles Times wrote about back in April and that McCain-Palin became so outraged about, six months later, in the last days of the campaign when there was no longer time to have a reasonable discussion about it.
Some wise guys think Abunimah was the source of the controversial video of the get-together, the video that the McCain campaign asked for in its final days although the existence of the video was known to anyone who cared since April; known to everyone but the crackerjack McCain staff.
Back in 2007, Abunimah wrote about Obama in Electronic Intifada: “I met him about half a dozen times, often at Palestinian and Arab-American community events in Chicago including a May 1998 community fundraiser at which Edward Said was the keynote speaker.” In and around 2000, “Obama was forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Their last meeting was in the winter of 2004. It was a time when Obama, writes Abunimah, “was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies.” Polls showed Obama trailing. “As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, ‘Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.’ He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, ‘Keep up the good work!’”
(Obama strategist David Axelrod — who, by the way, is said to have signed Rahm Emanuel’s ketubah — denied Abunimah’s account of the conversation.)
For more than two years, Jews (including me) wondered which was the real Obama, the one supporting Israel when speaking to AIPAC, or the one apologizing to Abunimah? According to the L.A. Times story, “the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor’s going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say.”
I’ll admit, he had me wondering.
But now, as Lesley Gore sings, it’s Judy’s turn to cry. Abinumah’s turn, anyway. Abunimah, writing in Electronic Intifadah (Nov. 5) headlined: “Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner for top post.” Abunimah tells his readers: Emanuel’s father, Benjamin, a pediatrician, “helped smuggle weapons to the Irgun,” when the Irgun “carried out numerous terrorist attacks on Palestinian civilians including the bombing of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel in 1946.”
I should interject, the bombing of the King David still delights me and would have delighted me even more had I been alive to enjoy it. If that makes Dr. Emanuel and Prime Minister Begin “terrorists,” well, as leftists like to say — and as someone who voted for Obama I must be a leftist — one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
Once again, Mr. Abunimah: “Emanuel continued his father’s tradition of active support for Israel; during the 1991 Gulf War he volunteered to help maintain Israeli army vehicles near the Lebanon border when southern Lebanon was still occupied by Israeli forces.”
Additionally, “In Congress, Emanuel has been a consistent and vocal pro-Israel hardliner, sometimes more so than President Bush. In June 2003, for example, he signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of Israel…. In July 2006, Emanuel was one of several members who called for the cancellation of a speech to Congress by visiting Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki because al-Maliki had criticized Israel’s bombing of Lebanon. Emanuel called the Lebanese and Palestinian governments ‘totalitarian entities with militias and terrorists acting as democracies’ in a speech supporting a House resolution backing Israel’s bombing of both countries that caused thousands of civilian victims.
”Emanuel has sometimes posed as a defender of Palestinian lives, though never from the constant Israeli violence that is responsible for the vast majority of deaths and injuries…. Emanuel has never said anything in support of millions of Palestinian children whose education has been disrupted by Israeli occupation, closures and blockades. Emanuel has also used his position to explicitly push Israel’s interests in normalizing relations with Arab states and isolating Hamas.”
Over the course of the campaign, concludes Abunimah, “Obama publicly distanced himself from friends and advisers suspected or accused of having ‘pro-Palestinian’ sympathies. There are no early indications of a more balanced course.”
Hail to the chief.