A radio feature on WNYC by Fi2W’s Yael Even Or
By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
Two of President-elect Obama’s early picks for his transition team and White House staff have stirred sharp debate among immigrant and ethnic groups in the US and overseas. One was the designation of Chicago Congressman Rahm Emanuel as the incoming White House chief of staff. The other, the selection of Indian American economist Sonal Shah, head of Global Development Initiatives at Google.org and a former Treasury Department and National Security Council official, to Obama’s transition team.
The choice of Emanuel caused some initial discomfort among two groups: pro-immigration advocates and pro-Palestinian groups. Demonstrating the fine line the president-elect has to walk in choosing a cabinet, Emanuel’s designation was greeted with optimism by Polish Americans, who make up a significant proportion of the population in Emanuel’s congressional district in Chicago.
Senator Barack Obama can’t seem to shake his “Jewish” problem.
He is perceived by many American Jews and a large part of the pro-Israel non-Jewish community as biased in favor of Palestinians, Iran, Syria, and Hamas. Despite his repeated statements concerning the security of Israel, Obama still has work to do in terms of persuading Israel and its supporters that as President he will not be another Jimmy Carter who believes that Israel is an “apartheid state” that terrorizes and bullies its neighbors.
Obama’s recent trip to the Middle East was in part intended to assuage these fears, but it was just another step down a long road of attempting to appeal to the Jewish community in the United States. Obama has not gained much ground in these efforts because his outreach has been haphazard and marked by missteps that make Obama look like he’s playing politics when he talks about his support of Israel.