on apologies

So he did it. Rahm Israel Emanuel bowed to public pressure–or Barack Obama forced him to submit to that pressure. Either way he apologized to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). I posted a link to this ADC demand yesterday encouraging people to help build the pressure to force Emanuel to come clean on whether he shares his father’s racist remarks or not.

“Today, Representative Emanuel called Mary Rose Oakar, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, apologized on behalf of his family and offered to meet with representatives of the Arab-American community at an appropriate time in the future,” said Nick Papas, a spokesman for the congressman.

In the phone call, Congressman Emanuel said, “From the fullness of my heart, I personally apologize on behalf of my family and me. These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family.” During the phone call, Emanuel added, it is unacceptable to make remarks such as these against any ethnic or religious group.

ADC President Mary Rose Oakar said, “We cannot allow Arabs and Muslims to be portrayed in these unacceptable terms. I welcome Rahm’s apology and his pledge to meet with our Community. I also thank our members and friends who responded who expressed concern about this matter. ”

While I’m pleased to see Emanuel submit to the ADC and to Arab Americans and apologize for his father’s racism, it is not enough. I believe in forgiveness. I do. I think it is important. Thus, I think that apologies are important. But when it comes from a politician, especially with ties to Israeli terrorist organizations, I’m skeptical. Words are powerful, but actions are even more powerful. And this apology did not go far enough, nor did ADC’s demand. There should have also been a clear demand for Emanuel’s repudiation of his father’s participation in the Israeli terrorist Irgun militia as well as his own volunteer work in the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF). But those apologies were not requested, nor were they delivered.

Political apologies need to come with some evidence and substance that there are attempts being made to repair the damage of the past. This is why the U.S. Congress’ apology for slavery earlier this year was equally vapid. There were no reparations made in the form of financial payments for all the suffering the U.S. forced upon African Americans and Africans for four hundred years–suffering that continues today in the form of the prison industrial complex. Without real structural changes that repair this damage, slavery will continue to haunt the U.S. in its present forms as will its corollary, racism.

So too with Emanuel. Without clearly stating that he repudiates Irgun and the ITF and delinking himself from those terrorist entities and the suffering inflicted upon Palestinians as a result these are just words. Mark my words: we will soon see Emanuel in this new role as White House Chief of Staff advising Obama on continuing the suffering of Palestinians.

But while we’re on the subject of apologies, I think it is John McCain and Barack Obama who should be making public apologies for fanning the flames of racism against Arabs and Muslims over the past few months. Bill Quigley points to McCain as the one who should begin this process:

John McCain spent months fanning the fear-filled fires of folks scared of terrorists, socialists, and anti-Americanism in his campaign for President. On election night he made a fine concession speech and walked away — but the fires are still burning. John McCain apparently thought it was OK to turn fears on high for as long as possible to help his quest for the presidency. But he cannot now just expect the flames to turn off. He owes America an apology for running a terribly fear-mongering, knowingly false and divisive campaign….

Congressman Lewis warned them in October. “As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.”

Senator McCain was “offended,” seriously offended by Rep Lewis’ comments. “Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign.”

Maybe this is all just a coincidence since the election. Coincidence? I think not. John McCain owes this country a real and full apology for fanning the fires of fear. And he also owes John Lewis an apology.

While I concur that we need some formal apologies for participating in fanning the flames of racism from McCain–as well as Obama for his silence and complicity in this process–we also need some tangible actions that will demonstrate this behavior is entirely inappropriate and unacceptable and will not happen again in four years.

6 thoughts on “on apologies

  1. “This is why the U.S. Congress’ apology for slavery earlier this year was equally vapid.”

    I think your argument about apologies needing to be combined with deeds is a compelling one.

    You should know, however, that the apology for slavery issued by the House of Representatives in July did discuss reparations. Specifically, the resolution expressed a “commitment to rectify the lingering consequences” of slavery and discrimination.

    That apology was in the form of a resolution expressing the sentiment of the House. Any reparations would have to take the form of a bill passed by both houses of Congress, and indeed a reparations bill is currently pending before the House.

  2. Thanks for the comment, James. I realize that the apology in Congress expressed some language related to–or rather alluding to–reparations. But clearly that has not been forthcoming, and unfortunately I wonder if we can expect it to. I would have rather the two be tied together and that people would have worked for that and fought for that. But I imagine without Cynthia McKinney in Congress it is hard to get such radical ideas pushed through with any substance or consequence. But I hope that one day this will be realized. And I hope that one day is soon.

  3. I sympathize with your skepticism, Marcy. But I’m not sure Congress has done quite as poor a job as you describe. At least, I hope I’m right about that.

    The language didn’t merely allude to reparations, for instance. It expressed the commitment of the U.S. House of Representatives to fix the living consequences of slavery. I think that’s a fairly clear statement of intention, even if the word “reparations” wasn’t used (in part, no doubt, because it’s politically sensitive, and in part because that word suggests to many people a particular way to rectify the legacy of the past).

    Meanwhile, in terms of whether reparations have been “clearly … forthcoming,” there is currently legislation before the House to explore reparations. This bill is sponsored by the chair of the relevant committee, and he has already held the first hearing on the bill. That may not be a final answer, but it seems like substantial progress to me.

    I agree with you that it have been helpful to tie the apology and the practical actions together. Even more, I would have preferred steps to educate Americans on the reasons for an apology, before issuing one. I think that would have given an apology greater meaning, and we know from painful experience that if our citizens aren’t educated on this issue first, most Americans view an apology for slavery as appalling and inappropriate.

    As for Cynthia McKinney, she has certainly been a strong voice for change. I think, however, that John Conyers has been doing an excellent job at pushing the reparations issue, and he’s been at it for longer, and more consistently, than McKinney has.

  4. Hello marcy,

    here some facts

    Most peoples dont know Lehman Brothers transferred $400bn to Israel the day before collapsed.Lehman boss Michael Fuld was brought for concealing the whole but he utterly denied his involvement in this case.Its another coup to seize peoples money.

    The media doesn’t talk about Seth Bekenstein either: the Israeli/American involved in the pedophile snuff ring run from Israel that were caught by Italian police, and who subsequently jumped bail (of $500,000) and fled to Israel where he is a free man now.

    Selling snuff films of children as young as 2 years old being raped, tortured and then murdered, absconding on miniscule bail (compared to the enormity of the crime) and roaming around Israel –

    How’s that for getting away with murder ? – but actually this is quite common with members of the Chosen: one rule for them and a different one for us.

    For example, US embassy bombing in Yemen in September unvelied lot evidence once the inteliigence agencies found the Israeli Mossad was behind the attack.

    American peoples will never learn since they used their head to know what is true. Overall stock crisis, credit crunch, bank crash everything is manufactures because zionists think its time to fulfill the biblical prophecy.

    They want to make Jerusalem the center of global worship & to welcome their upcoming messiah the ‘Antichrist’.

    These Americans are so dumb they catch the Israelis SEVERAL times in the act of doing false flags, yes, REDHANDED: King David Hotel bombing by the Irgun (Rahm Emanuel’s relative was an Irgun terrorist), the Lavon Affair …

    AND the attack on the USS Liberty, and they still don’t see the Israelis as anything but their allies … and I am talking about the ordinary Americans, not about the politicians.

    There is no hope for such ignorant people as the Americans, or for anyone who emulates them for that matter, and down the hatch they will go. You cannot have such idiocy en masse and not pay for it.

    It’s not as if the Israelis are such masterful criminals at all – they have left GIANT clues everywhere – it’s that the Americans are so slow-witted they cannot see what is happening right IN FRONT OF THEIR FACES.

    And even when it’s spelled out for them, they will refuse to see it. As I have said, you are wasting your breath trying to inform Americans.

    They will suddenly turn vicious on you and YOU become the target, the criminal, and end up attacked, if you try and tell them the truth.

    It doesn’t matter what facts you give them, what evidence, they don’t want to hear it. It goes in one ear and out the other.

    For a few moments, some of them might consider your POV but a short while later, they will revert to their original programming.

    http://eldib.wordpress.com/2008/11/11/israel-less-vulnerable-to-economic-crisis-than-us-and-europe-brazil-doesn%e2%80%99t-recognise-unilateral-sanctions-on-iran%e2%80%99/

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