Barack Obama’s new chief of staff expressed regret over the anti-Semitic attitude assumed by his father in an interview with the Israeli press.
Rahm Emanuel apologized to the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee on Friday asking the group to disregard the remarks made by his father Benjamin, an Israeli doctor, to the Israeli daily Maariv.
“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 committee quoted Emanuel as saying in its statement.
Emanuel added, “It is unacceptable to make remarks such as these against any ethnic or religious group,” the group’s statement read, according to AFP.
In an interview with Ma’ariv Israeli daily earlier this month, Emanuel’s father said he was convinced that his son’s appointment would be good for Israel.
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“Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” he was quoted as saying. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”
The committee’s president Mary Rose Oakar said: “We cannot allow Arabs and Muslims to be portrayed in these unacceptable terms. I welcome Rahm’s apology and his pledge to meet with our community.”
What has compounded the invective of Emanuel’s father is the father’s own past vis-a-vis Palestinians. Emanuel Sr. is a former member of the Zionist terrorist group Irgun led by the late Menachem Begin, who went on to become the sixth Israeli prime minister.
Irgun was instrumental in the forcible displacement and exile of tens of thousands of Palestinians and carried out guerrilla attacks against British troops before the 1948 creation of Israel. The group was responsible for the 1948 massacre of the Palestinian village Deir Yassin that killed some 240 civilians and the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem which was then the British administrative headquarters. Ninety one people died in the blast.
The Ma’ariv article quoted Dr. Emanuel as saying that his son spends most summers visiting in Tel Aviv, and that he speaks Hebrew, but not fluently.
In 1991, Rahm Emanuel did a short stint of volunteer military service in Israel during the first Iraq-US war.