Biden team stands by Palestinian-American staffer after pro-Israel backlash

Biden team stands by Palestinian-American staffer after pro-Israel backlash
2 min read
27 November, 2020
Reema Dodin is a 'well-respected and trusted leader', the Biden-Harris transition team said.
Dodin's 18-year-old comments about suicide bombers led to attacks on her [YouTube]
Joe Biden's transition team has said that it continues to support the appointment of a Palestinian-American to a senior position after critics accused her of anti-Semitism.

Arab-American organisations had hailed the appointment of Reema Dodin, formerly a Senate staffer, as deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and the first Palestinian-American to serve in the White House.

But right-wing media and pro-Israel organisations attacked her, unearthing comments she made during the second Intifada.

While a student at the University of California, Berkley, Dodin gave a speech at a church about the Palestinian experience and why the Intifada, or uprising, against the Israeli occupation was occurring at the time.

During the speech, Dodin explained that suicide bombings - a controversial tactic used by Palestinian militant groups during the second Intifada - were the "last resort of a desperate people".

Zioness, which describes itself as an "unabashedly progressive and unapologetically Zionist" coalition of Jewish activists, claimed Dodin had "justified" suicide bombers in her speech.

"When our federal government gives her a platform, it signals that antisemitism is not a deal breaker. All Americans should call this out," Zioness said in a tweet.

While Zioness later retracted the statement, saying the activist coalition "understood that people grow", the tweet attracted a backlash against Dodin's appointment.

Responding to a request for comment by Haaretz, the Biden-Harris transition team said that Dodin was a "well-respected and trusted leader in the US Senate" after "harnessing her activism into action".

"Reema is the first to tell you she has grown from her youth in her approach to pushing for change," a spokesperson for the team said.

Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, also defended Dodin against the "baseless smear" of anti-Semitism.

She "is a tireless public servant who will work to restore the soul of our nation in the Biden White House. Reema did not justify suicide bombers and I know that she's committed to combating hatred in all of its forms, including anti-Semitism", Soifer said in a tweet.

Dodin's family hails from Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank.

The Dodin clan was banished from the area in the 1950's over the family's opposition to Jordanian rule, but later returned in 1966. 

The family was again forced to flee their home after Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, although they were later permitted to return to the area where Dodin's grandfather, Mustafa, became the regional head of the Arab Village Leagues.

Dodin's parents immigrated to northern California after getting married in the 1970s.

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