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Rahm Emanuel and the Magical STFU

December 4th, 2008 by Sam

(Yes, I know this is old news. bear with me for a few seconds)

As the AV Club’s token Israeli-American (or Isramerican, if you will), I’m a citizen of two countries I’m proud of for a variety of reasons, and some of those reasons overlap: both countries, in their own way, are cultural melting pots, both have been known to beat some pretty steep odds in their time, and both have at some point laid the smack down on British Imperialism. I also have a few overlapping reasons to be downright embarrassed of my dual citizenship, and somewhere near the top of that list is “Rampant Jingoistic Stupidity”.

If you ever think the GOP goes overboard in their “you’re either for us or against us” schtick, you’re absolutely right, but you haven’t seen the half of it until you’ve read the comments section of any Israeli news site that’s ever reported on President-Elect Obama. Throughout the past year, the comments sections of Hebrew-language news sites like NRG have been chock-full of posts warning that Barack HUSSEIN Obama is a seekrit Muslim who will destroy us all, make Iran nuke Israel, single handedly rape every synagogue that’s ever existed, and sell our Jew Gold to the highest bidder as soon as he’s sworn into office (erm… sorry about that last “Jew Gold” bit, the picture at the top of this post was ganked from, ironically enough, a white supremist website, and it’s gone to my head).

Ahem… Anyway, along with what I’ve read on news sites, members of my own family warned me many a time, by email and phone, that my vote for Obama will only bring about ruin, and “OMG haven’t you read that chain email I sent you two days ago about how he an SS member during WWII, 20 years before he was born”. Mind you, this isn’t the opinion of every Israeli I know, but much like here in the states, the alarmists tend to be remarkably louder than anyone else. To quote Obama himself “I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, then you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel”.

Fast forward to November 6th, when Obama’s first appointee after the election was Rahm Emanuel, or should I say Rahm Israel Emanuel. A bit of background on Emanuel: saying he’s got some ties to Israel is an understatement. His father is Israeli, he’s spent most of his summers in Israel growing up, and during the first Gulf War, he dropped everything to go to Israel and volunteer for the IDF, repairing truck brakes. He’s probably as Israeli as you can get and still be offered a high ranking position in the White House.

Now, this turn of events didn’t really shut up the alarmists, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t make them sound irrelevant. The comments sections immediately filled up with rationalizing posts about how, yes, sure, he’s somewhat Israeli, but Israel has its share of crazy dangerous Liberals too, and it’s not like he’s actually Israeli etc etc.

The week after the news broke on the Emanuel appointment, I was talking to one of my more ZOMGy Israeli relatives. “So, have you heard the news about Emanuel?” I asked. “Yeah,” he sighed, “well… we’ll see if he’ll be good for Israel…” He was obviously not very comforted by the news, but he knew that any blunt criticism he had to offer would just wouldn’t carry much water.

So, while there’s a slew of actual reasons that Emanuel was a good choice for chief of staff. I’m really glad that at the very least it will put a damper on all of that nonsense.


5 Responses to “Rahm Emanuel and the Magical STFU”

  1. Kathleen Winn

    What a shame it is that people are so easily misguided. I say this as a self confessed knee jerk liberal, who knows how quickly she will take the left side of any political or cultural discussion. I’m working on it! In the meantime, I try to at least be aware of my own biases. I subscribe to a magazine that re-prints news articles from all over the world, and publishes an equal number of conservative to liberal viewpoints.

    Unfortunately, I think when prejudice is rooted in religious ideology or identity, there is a whole other dimension to the passion people bring to their biases. It was amazing to me how the fact that Obama’s middle name was Hussein, gave those already inclined to find a way to disparage him, such ammunition. Most of the Jewish people I’ve known, were quite liberal, so it was interesting to read how strong the negative reaction was from your Jewish friends and relatives.

    I live in the Midwest, and have relatives who live in rural areas. The attempt to put the Muslim label on Obama was strong in small towns and communities in this region. However, I believe that in those cases, calling him a Muslim was a way to cover racism. It seems to be more acceptable these days to hate Muslims than black people. I truly think that bigots thought they could get people to mistrust him based on religion, so they wouldn’t have to admit that they’re actually racist. Obama got in a little trouble for characterizing small town Americans as “clinging to God and guns.” I have spent enough time in rural communities to know that he is in fact, right about that, as sad as it is.

    Bigotry is ugly, no matter who is spreading the hate. I hope that his performance as president will put these silly, unfounded charges to rest once and for all.

  2. Sam

    Well, like I said, it’s not a uniform reaction, but also bear in mind that Israeli Jews and American Jews are two completely different groups, with two different sets of concerns. For example, for most Israeli alarmists I’ve dealt with, the Muslim accusation isn’t there to cover racism towards African Americans, but is an issue in and of itself. The cultural/historic baggage is completely different, and while the US has only had full blow Muslimphobia for about 7 years now, Israel has had a history of war with Arab nations for the past 60 years. Again, the alarmists tend to be in the minority, but it’s a pretty vocal and annoying minority, hence my glee at the Emanuel appointment potentially shutting them up.

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