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.