x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Top Obama aide apologises for father's remarks

Barack Obama's chief of staff apologised to an Arab-American group for comments disparaging Arabs made by his father.

The US president-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel apologised to an Arab-American group yesterday for comments disparaging Arabs made by his father. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee sent a letter to Emanuel calling on him to distance himself from remarks made by the elder Emanuel in an interview with an Israeli newspaper following his son's appointment last week.

In the interview, Benjamin Emanuel was reported, amongst other things, as saying that his son will influence the president to be pro-Israel. While some political analysts have said Rahm Emanuel, a veteran Democratic congressman, should not be held responsible for the actions of his father, there was also a sense that an apology was unavoidable.

"Today, Rep 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," a statement from his office said. The committee, in a statement on its website, said Mr Emanuel told Ms Oakar it was unacceptable to make such remarks against any ethnic or religious group.

"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," the group quoted him as saying. Ms Oakar welcomed the apology, saying: "We cannot allow Arabs and Muslims to be portrayed in these unacceptable terms." Some commentators in the Middle East have raised concern about the appointment of Mr Emanuel, who has a pro-Israel record, suggesting he could use his position to influence Mr Obama's policies in the region.

But political analysts and Mr Emanuel himself this week dismissed such suggestions. The congressman said Mr Obama did not need his influence to "orientate his policy toward Israel." The chief of staff position serves as one of the closest advisers to the president and typically can decide who gains access to the president, while also developing administration policies. *Reuters