Sunday, November 16, 2008

Al - Obama aide in 'anti-Arab' row & Agencies

November 14, 2008

Rahm Emanuel, US president-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, has apologised to an Arab-American group for comments made by his father that disparaged Arabs.

Benjamin Emanuel was reported as telling an Israeli newspaper about his son last week: "Obviously, he will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he?

"What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee had sent a letter to Emanuel calling on him to distance himself from his father's remarks.

Rahm Emanuel, also an Illinois congressman, called the group's president, Mary Rose Oakar, on Thursday to apologise on behalf of his family.

"These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family," the group quoted him as saying.

Pro-Israel 'fears'

The committee, in a statement on its website, said Emanuel told Oakar it was unacceptable to make such remarks against any ethnic or religious group.

Oakar welcomed the apology, saying: "We cannot allow Arabs and Muslims to be portrayed in these unacceptable terms."

Some analysts in the Middle East have raised concerns about the appointment of Emanuel, who has a record of strongly supporting Israel, suggesting he could use his position to influence Obama's policies in the region.

Emanuel dismissed the suggestions earlier this week, saying Obama did not need his influence to "orientate his policy toward Israel".

Benjamin Emanuel is a Jerusalem-born doctor who was active in the Irgun - an underground Zionist organisation that fought the British in Palestine prior to the founding of Israel in 1947.

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