When I spoke with my students about the election this week one woman asked me, why did the Americans emphasize Barak Hussein Obama’s middle name so much–in an attempt to scare Americans into thinking he’s Muslim–when his first name is a Jewish one? Indeed. Those of us familiar with the work of Ehud Barak (it’s transliterated from the Hebrew in either case hence the different spellings) in carrying out his lethal siege in Gaza of late know all too well where this name comes from:
After the Israeli army carried its recent offensive against the Gaza Strip, killing seven Palestinians in one day, several resistance groups retaliated by firing a barrage of homemade shells against the Western Negev, Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak vowed further military offensives against the Gaza Strip.
And perhaps both Bara(c)ks are in good company. Clearly Obama made a decision to side with hardliners like the one in the Zionist state who terrorizes Palestinians every day and who promises more of the same. But I hadn’t known the origin of the name and found Juan Cole offering a useful definition of it as well as an interesting commentary on presidential names as derived from Semitic languages more generally:
Barack is a Semitic word meaning “to bless” as a verb or “blessing” as a noun. In its Hebrew form, barak, it is found all through the Bible. It first occurs in Genesis 1:22: “And God blessed (ḇāreḵə ) them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.”
Or, perhaps we can ask the question: why is it that while the media loved to harp on Obama’s middle name throughout the campaign in order to foment Islamophobia that they are largely excluding Rahm Israel Emanuel’s middle name when discussing his new position as White House Chief of Staff? Curious. No, not really.
But Emanuel continues to be a dangerous pick and as Ali Abunimah mentioned in the article I posted earlier today, he signals a more hardlined approach than George Bush especially when it comes to Palestine. Someone commented on Facebook and on my post that he didn’t serve in the army because he didn’t participate in combat. Here is what the Telegraph has to say about his “service” in the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF):
He took a break from politics during the 1991 Gulf War, volunteering as a mechanic on an army base in Israel. It was on his return that he joined the presidential primary campaign of Bill Clinton, then the Governor of Arkansas. It was to prove the move that launched his national political career.
From my point of view the fact that he 1) volunteered to serve the ITF and 2) that he did indeed serve them demonstrates where his commitments lie. Whatever daily war crimes were carried out during that time period he is complicit in. He facilitated the ITF in carrying out whatever missions they carried out in his work as a mechanic. That work likely enabled more tanks and jeeps to invade, kidnap, and murder Palestinians every day. Who do you think repaired the vehicle that came into Nablus today to kidnap a Palestinian?:
Eighteen-year-old Suhieb Al-Kharaz told Ma’an about the abduction of the man, who is his uncle.
“Undercover Israeli forces who were riding in a civilian vehicle loaded with furniture had stopped in front of a grocery which belongs to the Al-Kharaz family and arrested my uncle Mohammad Ziad Makawi Al-Kharaz, who is 42 years old, and withdrew shortly after without shooting.”
Moreover, would Obama appoint, say, a Pakistani American to such a position if that person had served in the Pakistani army?
Emanuel’s father, member of the Jewish Irgun terrorist organization, had this promise to make this morning in response to his son’s acceptance of the appointment:
“Obviously, he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” Dr. Emanuel said in the interview. He said that his son visits Tel Aviv most summers.
Moreover, for those myopic Americans who care only about domestic issues, Emanuel will not bode well for things like the economy, something many Americans reported as the driving factor in their choice of Obama in the voting booth:
Unfortunately, Emanuel is a militant advocate for free-trade policies; he was a point man in the White House in the fight to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement and similar deals that have been passionately opposed by the very labor, environmental and farm groups that were essential players in electing Obama. When he ran for Congress in 2002, major unions supported his Democratic primary opponent, former Illinois State Representative Nancy Kaszak.
Picking Emanuel would reassure Wall Street, but it won’t give much comfort to Main Street.
I don’t know enough about David Axelrod, Obama’s choice for his Senior Adviser, but if the rule of thumb that was applied to Obama throughout the campaign (i.e., guilt by association) is any indication it does not bode well:
Despite their very, uh, different personalities, Obama and Emanuel have one big thing in common: David Axelrod. Emanuel is one of Axelrod’s closest friends; Axelrod even signed the ketubah at Emanuel’s wedding.
And, like with Emanuel, it seems there are questions about Axelrod related to the economy:
There is more on Axelrod in this Alternet piece, though nothing clearly linking his beliefs or practices to the Zionist state. Yet anyway. That remains to be seen.
All of this has been tremendously disappointing and depressing to say the least. But listening to dear Nora’s always fabulous reporting on her Flashpoints show yesterday lifted my spirits tremendously because she played a song by a hip hop group that I had not yet heard of–the Welfare Poets–and the song she played is incredible. Here is the video of their song that she played, “Let it Be Known,” which features one of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s sermons at the end. I must say every time I hear him preach it makes me want to join his church. He is brilliant, inspiring, gifted.
By today there was also some good dialogue and discussion about what a President Obama will mean for the U.S. and for the rest of the world. On The Real News there is a good discussion with Bill Fletcher, Ralph Nader, and Tom Morris that has some useful strategies for organizers to keep them from falling in the trap of merely looking at Obama as a messianic figure. (Thanks Rania for sending me that!) And the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation today sent out an email asking people to do exactly what grassroots organizers must do right now–what Bill Fletcher says we should do right now: organize! For those who live in the U.S. here is what they are doing and a link to how you can get involved:
Tuesday’s election of Barack Obama as president showed how far we’ve come in this country since the days of Jim Crow, but we still have a long way to go to win ethnic equality in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. That’s why our first-ever national speaking tour, Separate Is Never Equal: Stories of Apartheid from South Africa and Palestine will focus on ending Israel’s racist hafradah (separation) policies.
Even though Tuesday’s election was a clear mandate against Bush’s failed foreign policies of militarism and imperialism, we don’t expect to win our fight for human rights and the application of international law on inauguration day.
At the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, we understand that politicians are often the last ones to get it. Policy change is always preceded by popular education and grassroots organizing. That’s why, together with Diana Buttu, a former legal advisor and spokesperson for the Palestinian negotiating team, and Rev. Eddie Makue, the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, we will take our message that apartheid was wrong for South Africans and is wrong for Palestinians directly to the American people starting Monday.
Just Foreign Policy is also mobilizing asking people to sign on to a letter asking Obama to create a just policy. You can sign the letter and also add your own issue to it to make it more personal–and more likely to be read by clicking on this link.
For those who want an idea of what you might add to that letter or how you might want to start organizing you should check out some of the analysis on Democracy Now! this morning. There was an excellent roundtable featuring Tariq Ali, Ali Abunimah, John Pilger, Mahmood Mamdani, Laura Carlsen, and Raed Jarrar. You can watch the episode below or read the transcript at this link. (Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a Youtube clip yet of John Pilger, but you can also watch the entire episode at Democracy Now!’s website).
Hopefully people feel motivated to ACT after watching, listening, reading here. I’ll post one more reminder from Abunimah that reiterates so many others today:
And I think that progressive people across this country, you know, instead of basking in the euphoria, need to pick themselves up today and start demanding that the Obama administration immediately end the siege of Gaza. It’s totally indefensible. It is a crime unprecedented in modern history that 1.5 million people are confined to a ghetto, starved, cut off from the world, threatened. This is indefensible, and there’s no excuse for it to continue even for a single day under a new administration. And we should be setting the standard very high, not accepting slight hints that in a few years’ time an Obama administration might accept a Palestinian state or might talk about one. The days for that are over. The situation is urgent, and we really need to see radical change. It’s not going to come from Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk; it’s only going to come from a groundswell demanding that the promises of change be kept.