Rahm Emanuel: myths & legends

November 15, 2008 at 1:54 pm | Posted in Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel | 2 Comments

Whilst yesterday’s post was little more than an extended snark with the childish subtext of “I know something you don’t”, I think it’s important to explain the more serious reason that drove me to write it. In most Washington circles, being (wrongly) identified as an alumnus of the Israeli army is a mark of distinction, rather than the shame with which it’s regarded by some on the European left. Indeed, the fact that Rahm Emanuel hasn’t gone to great lengths to correct the record demonstrates that some of the myths surrounding ‘Rahmbo’ have lent him a useful currency in his political dealings.

But myths are rarely spread by a politician’s closest allies, and in this instance, one of the men responsible for giving it currency was a particularly disreputable source.

Back in 2002, Emanuel was campaigning for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District. Since only one Republican has served this district in the past 100 years, the primary invariably determines who will sit in the House of Representatives. This, coupled with the arm-wrestling nature of Illinois politics, tends makes primaries fractious affairs, full of mudslinging, attack & innuendo.

Emanuel’s main competitor was former Illinois State Rep. Nancy Kaszak, and during the primary she received a key endorsement from Edward Moskal, who, as President of the Polish American Congress had considerable influence among the state’s Polish immigrant population. Here’s what he said about Rahm Emanuel:

“As many in our community perhaps don’t know, he is a citizen of another country and served in their armed forces for two years,” Moskal said in the speech. “It is a reasonable guess that he . . . didn’t throw spitballs at the Palestinians, but the country from which Poles came struggled for democracy was the country certain elements to which he gave his allegiance defiles the Polish homeland and continues to hurl insults at the Polish people. Sadly, there are those among us who will accept 30 pieces of silver to betray Polonia.”

We’ve already determined that the Israeli army thing is a lie, but on top of all the other anti-semitic innuendo, Moskal voiced another odious untruth: that this Jew isn’t even an American citizen. As a matter of fact, Emanuel held dual citizenship until he turned 18, when he decided to reliquish his Israeli citizenship in favour of the US. Moskal’s comments caused outrage in Illinois and played no small part in seeing Emanuel elected to Congress. This isn’t, by the way, the sole example of his bigotry, and whilst I don’t know if this embittered old anti-semite was the source of the myth, he certainly did more than most to help it become a widely-accepted ‘truth’.

It’s completely wrong to infer from this alone that Pilger is anti-semitic, and my respect for his past achievements as a journalist are such that I won’t go as far as Sunny does in accusing him of race-baiting – though I do find the ‘glossy Uncle Tom‘ comment completely unacceptable. But when a longtime critic of successive Israeli governments uses the background of his Chief of Staff to argue that President-elect Obama will be a vessel for Zionist special interests, he really shouldn’t be using the same lies you’ll find on Stormfront.

In an age where technology renders even the most basic facts as contentious, and where people in the public sphere will happily mangle truth to further their own malign agendas, it is the duty of those who are paid to persuade, inform and enlighten to have some basic fidelity to that which is true. Either out of laziness, convenience or plain old idiocy, Pilger failed that test in his latest column, and that’s why he deserved my derision.

Update: Same goes for Andrew Murray too, although I suppose we might’ve expected it from him.



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  1. Good article, and well done in researching Emanuel.

    On the other hand, the man was a millionaire investment banker. I can’t say our expectations should exactly be high, whether or not he was a dual citizen, whether or not he served with the Israeli Army by helping with work on base and so on.

  2. Thankyou sir.

    My own personal politics prevents me from saying anything too complimentary about those involved in the Clinton era; I think his presidencywas marked by a strange brew of arrogance, cowardice & dishonesty, and his political legacy was an obsessive centrism that cost Democrats dearly once he left office.

    But they were, by and large, competent, and if Obama’s going to avoid making the kind of mistakes Clinton made in his first months, he needs people with institutional memory of federal government. Alas, the only Democrats who have that memory (and are below the retirement age) are from the Clinton administration, and so it makes sense that they’re put to use.

    Frankly, I don’t have any expectations of Rahm Emanuel or anyone else he appoints; their job is to enact their President’s agenda, and that means the ultimate responsibility is Obama’s. If the new Secretary of State turns out to be needlessly belligerent, or the EPA doesn’t do enough on green issues, or Congress doesn’t pass universal healthcare, the fault will lie with him. That’s why my policy, for now, is to wait until he’s inaugurated and then make my judgements on what decisions his administration makes.

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