This is an edited version of J. Zel Lurie’s latest column in the Jewish Journal of South Florida:
… Obama’s first action as President-elect was to appoint as chief of his White House staff, Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago Congressman [with paternal Israeli roots].
The chief strategist of Obama’s campaign, David Axelrod, is Rahm Emanuel’s [Chicago] chum [the former is a Jew who grew up in Manhattan]. He was given the honor of witnessing Emanuel’s marriage ketuba [marriage contract].
The President-elect has repeatedly proclaimed his support for Israel and he promises to protect its security. All of these facts mean nothing to the anti-Obama Jewish bloggers. They are right and we, the 78 percent of American Jews who voted for Obama, are wrong, and we will soon find out how wrong we were.
One of them goes under the name of Agbenjamin. He or she has been sending out at least one, and some days two, anti-Obama scribbles. When he runs out of vitriol he quotes Arlene Kushner, an American residing in Jerusalem, who is more violent than he is.
On November 10 Benjamin wrote: “They still don’t know the damage they’ve done. Both fuel and electricity will skyrocket in the weeks following the coronation in January. And this will come in the midst of one of the worst winters in decades.”
Predicting the weather two months from now is easy for an anti-Obama blogger. The facts are that oil prices have tumbled in anticipation of Obama fulfilling his campaign promise of concentrating on massive development of solar and wind power. Benjamin predicts a large price increase because, he says, Obama will ban drilling. He will not. We will still need oil, Obama says.
… CNN claimed that over 70 percent of Americans in Israel voted for McCain. This figure came from a straw poll organized by a recent immigrant who polled his Orthodox friends. The Economist, a British weekly that the secular Jews read, took a poll of its readers that resulted in 72 percent for Obama.
The Arabs greeted Obama’s election with caution. The Damascus blog in Syria wrote: “Dare we hope that the eight-year nightmare is over?”
The Egyptian Chronicle editorialized: “The Egyptian people are glad that Obama won despite his bias towards Israel and his vice-president is a Zionist. Still they are happy because they can’t stand the Republicans any more. Good for the Americans.”
The Jewish anti-Obamists have been joined in the attack by anti-Israel polemicists who have labeled Rahn Emanuel the son of a Jewish terrorist. Dr. Bernard Emanuel [a pediatrician] was born in Jerusalem. He emigrated to Chicago after the state was born. But prior to the state he had joined the Irgun. He says that he was a simple soldier and that he never met Menachem Begin.
The underground Irgun fought the British government of Palestine by blowing up bridges and government installations. Their crowning achievement was to blow up the West wing of the King David Hotel which was occupied by the British Government. Many more Jewish workers were killed than their British bosses.
As the first director of Americans for the Haganah in 1947, I was in the business of combating these Jewish terrorists. After Israel was born in 1948, the terrorists became good citizens and leaders of the people. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister and candidate for Prime Minister Tsipi Livni are both children of leading Irgunists.
Dr. Bernard Emanuel came to Chicago, married Martha Shulevitz and fathered three boys two years apart. Rahm was the middle son. He was the mediator when the eldest and the youngest fought, says his mother.
Bernard taught his boys Hebrew and sent them to summer camp in Israel. When the boys were teenagers he and Martha, who had always wanted a girl, adopted the infant daughter of a patient. The baby had been brain damaged at birth.
Rahm entered politics as a fund-raiser for Mayor Daley of Chicago. He was President Clinton’s chief fund-raiser for six years. He left the white House two years before the end of Clinton’s second term to become director of a finance company that arranged mergers and acquisitions.
His income for the two and a half years that he was in business was over $16 million, according to his disclosure to Congress. He ran for Congress four times beginning in 2002, garnering over 70 percent of the vote in every election.
Obama gave him another difficult choice when he asked him to be the White House chief of staff. He has to give up his seat in Congress, where he has become a leader in the Democratic caucus.His wife, Amy, and their three children, who are attending the same Jewish day school that he went to, will lose their close friends in Chicago and will have to establish new roots in Washington.
Rahm Emanuel has maintained contact with Bill Clinton. He talks to Bill about once a month. Eight years ago, towards the end of his second term, Bill Clinton proposed an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, which still remains on the table. It is a two state solution, which, more or less evenly divides Jerusalem.
After eight years of lackadaisical incompetence, it will be good to have a team of knowledgeable people discussing how Israel should handle the settlers in the West Bank and bring to fruition two viable states living side by side in peace and tranquility.