Why Are Palestinians Losing Faith in Obama? Ask Rahm Emanuel

By James M. Wall

I read an online report on Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ)‘s latest issue, and discovered why Palestinians are losing faith in President Obama.Obama

There at the top of a list of the 50 Most Powerful People in Washington, DC, was my old political colleague from Chicago, Rahm Emanuel.

I quickly scrolled the entire list of the MPPs in DC and discovered folks who are close to Obama, or who are engaged in running his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or who are advising the president on how to rescue the economy.

There are even some Republicans, in or out of office, who are dedicated to seeing Obama fail. There is even a media heavyweight, former Bill Clinton White House aide, George Stephanopoulos.

But there is no one who really knows and feels the Palestinian narrative.

And there, right up there at the top of the GQ list was ole Rahm, Chief of Staff to President Obama.  This is a man who knows how to wield power.  Don’t take my word for it, read GQ’s description of why Rahm is the Number One Most Powerful Man in Washington:

More, much more, than just the gatekeeper to the president. In addition to his five years as senior adviser in the Clinton White House, Rahm served six years in the House and, more importantly, engineered the Democratic takeover of Congress in ’06. He knows procedure, he’s ruthlessly pragmatic about what is politically achievable, and he knows how and when to twist arms and call in the many favors he’s owed.

All of which has helped him wrangle fence-sitters when it came to ponying up for the stimulus package, negotiate with the Senate Finance Committee on health care, and keep the liberal and conservative elements of his own party in line. Obstruct the White House and at some point Rahm will come calling.

Says Senator Lindsey Graham, a man not known for agreeing with the administration: “The president is lucky to have him.”

Chris Matthews, MSNBC’s Rush Limbaugh of the Left, dissed the list, while reporting it to his national audience, as “just a fashion magazine”.

That did not bother me. I take GQ as seriously as I take all other voices from the Main Stream Media, all of whom are beholden in advance to someone or something else. Why not fashion?

Besides, Rahm is one of the classiest dressers in DC. Charming as all get out, if you can get by his fondness for salty language.

And now, there is Rahm, sitting down this week to use his political charm and muscle on members of Congress as they fight among themselves to write a final health care bill. Trust me, put your money on Rahm in that dog fight.

I have had my differences with Rahm, from the day he walked in my campaign office in 1983 and announced that he was there to raise money for Congressman Paul Simon’s primary race for the US Senate.

I was managing Simon’s campaign, and told this cocky young man I was not ready to hire a 24 year old kid I did not know. He said, check with Paul. I did, and the future Illinois senator told me, “Don’t worry about it;  his salary is covered.”

Veteran Illinois journalist Robert E. Hartley has just published his latest book, Paul Simon: The Political Journey of An Illinois Original, Southern Illinois Press. I am biased. I have known Bob since he covered politics from his base in Decatur, Illinois.  This is his seventh book.

It is a well documented work (he interviewed me at length).  It is also an example of how the Israel lobby was able to influence one of the most moral men ever to serve in both the US House and Senate.

It was in the Simon campaign that it became obvious to me that Rahm could raise money. He was also a dedicated Zionist whose presence in the campaign delighted the hearts of Simon’s dedicated Zionist supporters.

Rahm’s rolodex (not a watch; if you are under 50, a rolodex is “a rotating file device used to store business contact information”) played no small role in his fund-raising success, a success he repeated in Bill Clinton’s two campaigns, and in subsequent congressional campaigns for the Democratic National Committe.

A few years later, Rahm and I were volunteers in Bill Clinton’s first run for the White House.

Rahm knew I was not a dedicated Zionist, so each day at the staff meeting, he delighted in calling me Yasir, as in Arafat, for readers who may not remember.  For Rahm, linking me to the Palestinian leader was intended as an insult.  This is a man who uses humor as a weapon.

I have followed Rahm’s career since 1983 in both awe and dismay. He’s good, no doubt about it. And now he wields power in the White House.  In an earlier posting, I expressed the hope that Rahm would use his clout to reassure the Palestinian public and talk tough to the Israelis. So far, no such luck.

The Palestinians have the Cairo speech to hold on to, but I have bad news for them.  Bibi is eating Obama’s lunch. No one in that top 50, or the top 500 have any loyalty to the oppressed residents of the West Bank or Gaza. Official Washington has been drinking the AIPAC kool-aid for so long they don’t know what all the fuss is about.

Frankly, I doubt that any of them has ever witnessed the humiliation of a Palestinian at a check point or a witnessed the demolition of a Palestinian home, or walked along the Security Wall, on the Palestinian side. I also doubt if any has read Edward Said or ever heard of Rachel Corrie, whose family’s appeal for justice to the US Congress was ignored.

Have they read the Goldstone Report, a UN commissioned study of  possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza? And yes, I know that the same report found fault with Hamas conduct in that period, which is about the only fact about Goldstone the MSM made sure reached Official Washington and the American public.

Which brings us to the news that Robert Wexler, will resign from his safe Florida Democratic seat in Congress, to become director of the Washington-based Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation (CMEPEC).

What, you may wonder, will this have to do with official Washington’s treatment of the Palestinians.  Not much, but it will play a role. State legislators in Wexler’s south Florida district are scrambling to replace him.  The next Congressman will also be a pro-Israel Democrat, thanks primarily to a heavy Jewish voting population in the district.

But will it be an AIPAC or a J Street winner?

Let me explain:

Wexler was one of Obama’s earliest supporters in Congress. Unlike Rahm, who waited to see who would win the Democratic nomination, Wexler, a self-described  “fire-breathing liberal,” and defender of Israel, was all over the country during the Democratic primaries assuring Jewish audiences that they could trust Obama to look out for Israel.

You may recall Wexler as that fire breathing liberal who led the battle in DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting where Candidate Clinton failed in her effort to take 185 Florida delegates she had “won” in the Florida primary.

In a nationally televised committee meeting, Wexler said his own state had violated the party’s rules–“The Florida primary vote was not a ‘normal’ primary and cannot be treated as one”–so Clinton’s claim on the 185 delegates could not stand.

In the committee meeting, Wexler prevailed over Harold Ickes, Clinton’s delegate guru, who had tried to steal delegates from Jimmy Carter on behalf of Ted Kennedy at the 1980 Democratic Convention.. Ickes lost that one too.

Wexler is a formidable political figure. He is taking over as director of the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation (CMEPEC), which was founded in 1989 by the very wealthy Zionist, Slim Fast Foods Chairman S. Daniel Abraham.

If CMEPEC is playing nice with J Street, this would be good news for the J Street branch of the Pro-Israel Washington community.

J Street has built a moderate reputation as an alternative lobby group against AIPAC. Wexler was an early recipient of J Street funds, back when it was not easy for members of Congress to take J Street money instead of remaining loyal to AIPAC.

On the scale of moderation, J Street is well to the left of AIPAC. Except, I am not encouraged when I see hard line pro-Zionists like Dennis Ross, US Special Middle East Coordinator; Uri Savir, former Chief Israeli negotiator for the Palestinian and Syrian tracks; Dore Gold, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, and few “safe” Palestinians on the current CMEPEC board .

The Americans on that list may be “moderates” but they still bleed Zionist red. And, by now we have learned just how little influence moderates have over the likes of Bibi Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman.

Wexler has his enemies in the pro-Israel DC community.  The right wing, pro-Israel blog, The Force of Reason, attacked Wexler’s move to the CMEPEC in less than temperate language, under the headline: Rep. Wexler (D-emented) Resigns to Be J Street Shill.

JTA [Jewish Telegraphic Agency] reports that [Wexler] resigned from Congress to head the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, which is a J Street front. Not only is he endorsed by J Street, but he’s working for them now, too. . .

The Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation engineered the second Intifada by being one of the primary backers of Oslo, back in their heyday.

The Center’s former head, Stephen Cohen, was the sincere genius who made Assad and Arafat out to be peacemakers, rather than the Islamonazi savages they always were.

Wow, and it gets worse. So you have to admire Wexler for taking the side of the good guys on the DC Israel team. But even that news should not be welcome in Ramallah.

The moderates in Washington have Obama’s ear.  Rahm talks to them.  But what looks like moderation to the pro-Israel Washington doesn’t look very moderate to a people who have lived under an increasingly harsh military occupation since 1967.

Adam Horowitz, who writes on the pro-Palestinian Jewish blog, Mondoweiss, explains, under this headline:

Hope in Obama is ‘evaporating’ in the Middle East as the peace process goes nowhere.

Seems like everyone is losing faith in Obama nowadays, and the Middle East is no different. While Israelis never seemed to like him much, the rest of the region is beginning to grow weary, starting with Palestinians.

The AP is reporting on a leaked memo from Fatah’s Office of Mobilization and Organization that says, “All hopes placed in the new U.S. administration and President Obama have evaporated,” because the White House, “couldn’t withstand the pressure of the Zionist lobby.”

Although some think this might only be Abbas trying to rehab his nationalist bona fides, it would be hard to disagree with the gist of the memo.

The “nationalist bona fides”, of course, refers to the Palestinian president’s mistake in listening to the US and Israel and pulling back the Goldstone Report from the UN Human Rights Commission agenda. Abbas has since reversed that mistake. He asked that the Report be put back on the agenda. But the damage has been done.

Mark Lynch reports for Foreign Policy on the change of mood toward the peace process in the country of Jordan:

When I was last in Jordan about six months ago, I found a great deal of optimism over the appointment of George Mitchell and the high profile Obama gave to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. But now those hopes seem to have largely evaporated.

The launch of Israeli-Palestinian talks which they had expected by June continue to drift in limbo, while Obama’s failure to deliver on the settlement freeze has — just as so many predicted — eroded his credibility. How could the Americans have allowed Netanyahu to not only defy U.S. demands on settlements but to not even pay any significant price?

Again and again, from all sectors of Jordanian political society, I heard the same refrain: Obama’s heart is in the right place and we want him to succeed, but he’s just not getting it done.

Rahm Emanuel is Obama’s point man on bringing hope to the Palestinians. So far “he’s just not getting it done”.  Is there any wonder why the Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab states (and in the US) are losing faith in Obama?

Pro-Israel Jewish factions in Washington are fighting among themselves over whether AIPAC or J Street is Israel’s best friend in the US.

But where, o where, are the supporters of justice for the Palestinians? This much we know. They are not among the 50 most important people in Washington.

Unless, that is, Mister Number One himself, Rahm Emanuel, recognizes that it is in the best interests of the American people, Israelis and the Palestinian people, to stand up to the right wing rulers of Israel and say: “Enough, already.”

Picture above of Rahm Emanuel and David Alexrod is an AP Photo by Gerald Herbert.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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14 Responses to Why Are Palestinians Losing Faith in Obama? Ask Rahm Emanuel

  1. Cotton Fite says:

    I would echo your cry, “…where, o where, are the supporters of justice for the Palestinians?” and agree, not much in evidence. I do think, though, that if anyone could wangle concessions out of Israel, it’s our boy Rahm.

    Cotton Fite

  2. Bill Gepford says:

    As an observer and a sometimes social activist concerning the Middle East, I am overwhelmed by the number of times the Palestinians have allowed themselves to be betrayed and somehow still believe that there is any one left in Washington that bleeds with and for them. I, frankly, was shocked when Emanuel was appointed to his present position. That said to me we can forget about an honest, moral effort at peacemaking between the Israeli government and the Palestinians.

    Who is kidding who, and, frankly, where do we go from here?

  3. I knew not to drink from Obama’s Kool-Aid of so called change as soon as he chose Biden, as his VP, who in 2008, stated on Shalom TV, “There is this inextricable tie between culture, religion, ethnicity that most people do not understand…You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist, I am a Zionist.”

    Christian Zionism is a contradiction in terms as well as fuel for the hopelessness and tensions between Muslims, Christians and Jews in the Holy Land.

    A blind spot in the Obama Administration-and in Christian Zionists- is the fact that the Palestinian people, every day and in every aspect of their lives are living under an oppressive military occupation and Jesus was born, lived and died under occupation too!

  4. I still have hope. Because President Obama is facing down ridiculous harangues from the right on health care and the economy, he has to prove himself in those battles before he can delve into the Israeli/Palestinian debacle. That doesn’t mean he has forgotten the challenge. Like the old saying “charity– (let’s make it ‘clarity’, begins at home.”) Once our domestic issues are in the can, then, we can hope that our leader will take on what’s wrong outside America (and the voices of empire inside). By waiting, he’ll be able to slough off the nip-picking right and the AIPAC folks, who I’d love to hear have a conversation with Mr.
    Emanuel, name like an angel; voice like the devil.

    Sometimes you have to wait for the moment to slam in a winner. Furthermore, have you forgotten Mr. Bush? Do you want another guy like that back in three and half years? Besides what happens in Palestine isn’t just up to Obama or Rahm Emanuel. If those of us who care about Palestinians and Israelis and Christians and Muslims (the whole gang, one and all) just sit around complaining and don’t get out there at the grassroots level, we really have ourselves to blame if justice goes down the wrong tube.

    Come on, folks, it’s up to you and me to make our President and his chief of staff measure up. Let’s stop whining and start winning. By the way, for the first time ever, a decider at Iowa Public Radio called me after I complained about his stations lack of coverage of a Sabeel Conference. That, folks, is a first out here in the boonies. Could it be that people are looking further for the truth about Israel/Palestine or, at least, getting the idea that maybe, just maybe, there really are two sides to this story. Now’s the time for us to take charge and make change happen. Anyone with me?

  5. Doris Houser says:

    I agree with Betsy. Timing is everything. One fact often escapes those of us advocating peace with justice in the Holy Land, and that is that most of the U.S. public has little knowledge of the situation or simply do not care.

    The one fact that would jolt many citizens in this time of economic turmoil in our country is to know that $30 billion in aid is given to Israel per year with no strings attached!!

    If the U.S. government would just cut this aid simply because we can not afford it, and also indicate they Israel has to get out of the settlements and have a building freeze, or we will furthur cut their aid, perhaps the behavior of the Israeli govenment would change. It is at least worth a try!

  6. Are you connected to:

    “Everywhere except in America, the Palestinian narrative is well known.”-Rashid Khaladi, Nov. 2008, in occupied east Jerusalem during Sabeel’s 7th International Conference: THE NAKBA: MEMORY, REALITY AND BEYOND.


  7. Greta says:

    Why no mention of Rahm’s service in the IDF, the Israeli military. He joined (although he said he was in a civilian unit even though there is no such thing) during the first Iraq war. Americans who go and join another military for another country are either arrested and, in some cases, in danger of having their citizenship taken away. Why the pass for Rahm? You think he’s charming? So is a snake

  8. Nick says:

    Excellent Article. Thank You.

  9. Greta, I agree and when I first heard that Rahm Emanual was Obama’s choice, I was more than a little upset. But, then, I remembered the line about “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” and I calmed down. I still trust Obama. Put the guys who made the financial mess in charge of cleaning it up; put a Zionist in charge of making Israel behave. Think: Israel’s Prime Minister is an American citizen. How’s that for complicity? Problems abound, but maybe, just maybe, our leader is a lot tougher than any of us imagine. Keeping your enemies close always sounded sort of dangerous to me. It takes a giant!

  10. Monir D. says:

    I had mixed feelings when I found out who was appointed as the white house chief of staff, and who else was named to advise the new president.
    My first feeling that that Obama is a great genius. My second feeling is that he is merely being used as a front man! I am sadly admitting, that my feelings are veering sharply to the second reality of where our president, and our country is headed.

    Mr Wall’s article is more than informative, he is dead center on the day light hijacking/blackmailing of our politicians and our foreign policy. I do not know when Americans, real red blooded Americans (not the double nationality, and one loyalty) will wake up and regain the control of where this country is heading.

  11. Thank you Monir!

    I think it was Senator Fulbright who first exposed the covert activities of AIPAC that operates “within a murky nexus regulated by four important but seldom enforced US laws.”

    In 2002, Harvard economist Thomas Stauffer estimated the total cost of the prolonged conflict in the Middle East at $3 trillion and he lays a good deal of the blame for this at the doorstep of AIPAC.

  12. leeanne says:

    President Obama and Rahm Emanuel are not to blame for all the ills in the middle east, but if it makes you feel better go right ahead. Frankly you sound jealous.

    They are doing the best they can under some horrible circumstances.

    The “Rahm served in the IDF” stuff is bs. He served in a civilian volunteer unit for a couple weeks when Iraq was lobbing bombs at Israel during the Gulf War.

    He’s not a Zionist, either, but many Israeli’s seem to think he’s a self-hating Jew, so I guess it all balances out in the end.

  13. Last Friday, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced H.Res.867, calling on the Obama Administration to “oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration” of the Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, known as the Goldstone Report. Currently, 43 Representatives have signed on to the resolution as co-sponsors.

    If passed, this dangerous resolution would instruct the Obama Administration to continue its attempts to shield Israel from accountability for the war crimes it committed, as documented by the Goldstone Report, before, during, and after its assault on the Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009. The resolution also undermines the Obama Administration’s rhetorical support for the universality of human rights and its stated commitment to holding human rights violators accountable. In addition, it contains numerous inaccuracies about and misleading characterizations of the Goldstone Report.

  14. Yvonne Turner says:

    I have lived in the West Bank for 5 months and know first hand how difficult and humiliating life can be. I think we should send ALL of Congress to the Middles East to see what it is really like. Israel is an occupying nation and we are paying for it. We allow Israel to do what it wants likea spoiled child. When are we going to wake up? I give a lot of talks to inform people of the reality of life in Palestine and often people remark that they had no idea. We need our media to tell the truth. How about CNN telling the truth about Palestine?

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