US President-elect Joe Biden announced Monday that he had appointed Palestinian-American Reema Dodin to serve as White House deputy legislative affairs director in the incoming administration.
Dodin will be the most senior Palestinian-American woman ever to serve in the executive branch. She will work alongside fellow deputy Shuwanza Goff, who will be the first Black woman to hold the position.
A longtime staffer for Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, Dodin has served as his deputy chief of staff, floor director, floor counsel, research director and aide to his Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law.
Halie Soifer, a former Hill aide who now serves as executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, referred to Dodin as “a fixture of the Senate, who knows what’s happening in the Senate before most senators do.”
In 2017, Dodin co-authored “Inside Congress: A Guide for Navigating the Politics of the House and Senate Floors in 2017.”
Excited that my Floor Director, Reema Dodin, will be joining President-elect Biden's Leg Affairs team. She is smart, trusted, & has the respect of members on both sides of the aisle. Reema is just what our new President needs to help him in the Senate. https://t.co/MTvm7M7jxd
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) November 24, 2020
Her parents are Jordanian-Palestinian, but her family traces its roots back to the southern West Bank town of Dura.
Dodin was an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, where she was involved in Palestinian activism.
According to a 2002 article in the Lodi News-Sentinel, Dodin spoke at a campus event, lamenting the difficult conditions for Palestinians during the Second Intifada.
“She described a place where Palestinians are not given fair rights, a place where water is so scarce that the Israeli government will cut off the supply to coerce the Palestinian population,” the News-Sentinel reported.
The paper quoted Dodin as having claimed “Palestinian suicide bombings were the last resort of a desperate people.”
The story was picked up by several right-wing outlets on Tuesday, leading a Biden transition official to issue a statement saying, “Reema is the first to tell you she has grown from her youth in her approach to pushing for change, but her core values of fighting to expand opportunity to building a stronger middle class remain her driving force.”
Former Jewish Telegraphic Agency editor Daniel Treiman tweeted a defense of Dodin on Wednesday, revealing that he and Dodin had worked to start a Jewish-Arab campus dialogue group at Berkeley and that Dodin attended a meeting despite pushback from other Arab students.
“The Reema whom I knew was not someone with hateful or extreme views of someone who would have justified suicide bombings. Bottom line: It seems unfair to attack someone in this manner based on pretty thin evidence of their purported views as a college student 18 years ago,” he said.